The Metropolitan police will undertake the exhaustive task of investigating itself again after MPs were told of routine 'fixing' of statistics to meet crime targets.
Last month's Public Administration Select Committee heard that crimes were under-reported, downgraded or 'no-crimed' in order to make it appear that crime is falling or being resolved more quickly. London's target of a 20% crime reduction was set by the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime (though it was recently claimed on Channel 4 News that the 20% figure was the result of a slip-up by the mayor and should have been 11% — a claim denied by City Hall).
Targets are pretty much never a good way to measure performance, mainly because human nature dictates that people will manipulate everything within their power to meet them.
Last week, the Met (again) issued a target for traffic officers to issue 10 tickets per month to cyclists:
"All, can you please cascade this onto your troops. Officers have four months to do 40 cycle tickets. Ten per month, 2.5 a week. Most officers are nearing or have even achieved their other targets. This will give them a renewed focus for a while."
It's fair to say that went down like a lead pigeon. Also: unnecessary. Linger at any reasonably large junction in rush hour and slapping a few tickets on motorists and cyclists alike wouldn't require any creative interpretation of traffic laws at all.
Parking wardens are at it too — in September, wardens for Camden and Ealing claimed to have falsified evidence to meet targets set for issuing tickets. Dodgy parking tickets aren't a new complaint either, though councils have consistently denied they set targets.
In fact, we're starting to wonder if setting a target amounts to the kiss of death. In October, MayorWatch pointed out that TfL was celebrating slightly prematurely over Wave & Pay after usage figures fell below targets while questioning the link to TfL's uncharacteristic leniency for fare-dodgers owning W&P cards. Meanwhile, the cable car's passenger numbers are hilariously short of the original predictions — if anyone can find a way to manipulate those figures we congratulate them — and the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme has also fallen below expectations. Green Party AM Darren Johnson appears to pre-empt any mayoral attempt at passing the latter off as weather-related.
It's not all transport-related either — London Assembly figures recently showed that half of A&E departments in hospitals failed to reach their targets to treat 95% of patients within four hours. In the housing arena, it was reported last month that nearly half of all developments are failing to meet targets for affordable homes. The Olympic jobs legacy has also failed to meet targets. So what do we do if we can't meet a target? Why, remove it!
With crime reduction targets set by MOPAC, it's unlikely that the Met will be able to follow Essex police's example and remove all its targets too. Which gives senior officers the uncomfortable choice between missing their targets and upsetting both the mayor and the London Assembly, or failing the capital's crime victims.
Photo by Terry Willard in the Londonist Flickr pool.