The inclusion of cybercrime and online fraud incidents means that the headline crime rate figures have more than doubled in the past 12 months. The announcement has led to the reopening of the debate over whether crime figures have really dropped, with the Office of National Statistics, the group responsible for recording and publishing these figures, saying that it proves that crimes have changed rather than dropped over recent years.
Headline crime rate figures have continually dropped since they hit a peak of 19m offences in 1995. Last year, the reported crime figures released by the ONS showed just 6.1m crimes, but critics argued that it did not paint the full picture. The ONS officially offered figures of cybercrime and online fraud, but only alongside headline figures, which meant that they weren’t used when calculating the total figures.
Defending Computer Fraud Cases
A total of more than 11.6m offences made up this year’s figure, which is more than double that of the 6.1m that were reported last year. This included approximately 5.1m online fraud incidents, as well as 2.5m cybercrime incidents, and the ONS also said that it did not include cybercrime cases of people’s computers and digital devices being infected with malware and other viruses, but that they were open to include them in the future because they are considered illegal acts.
There was an increase in the number of rapes and sexual offences that were reported, and the ONS said that this could be attributed to the changing attitude towards sexual assault and rape victims. Rather than referring to allegations of rape, officers now discuss reports of rape, which experts hope will encourage victims and witnesses to be more inclined to come forward and report these incidents. An additional 10,000 rapes and 20,000 sexual assault incidents were reported during the period compared to the year before.
The Home Office has said that they do not believe that the new cybercrime figures should be included, because they are made up from a smaller sample and should be treated as early estimates, and not as official figures.