A fourteen per cent rise in Hillingdon's crime statistics is largely attributable to higher levels of recording, the borough's police commander has claimed.
Official Metropolitan Police data shows that over the last financial year, the total number of notifiable offences recorded in the borough shot up at double the rate of any other in London – from 19,268 to 21,975.
He said: “Yes, the increase was significant. Yes, it was the worst in the Met. [But] there are a number of factors, which I understand, that have caused that. And already this year we are seeing that reduce, so that's a positive.”
Mr Downing, who took over as the borough's police commander a year ago, said much of the annual increase was driven by a sharp rise in the number of violent crimes recorded.
The number of recorded crimes categorised as 'violence against the person' increased by 38% over the 12 months to March 31, from 5,035 in 2013/14 to 6,927 in 2014/15.
Mr Downing said his force recorded a higher proportion of violence allegations as crimes than any other London borough, accounting for a significant part of the overall rise.
He added: “Am I concerned about the significant increase in crime?
"Of course I am. Do I understand why it's happened? Yes I do.”
Mr Downing said his officers had been ordered to improve their recording of crime following the publication of two reports last year.
The first was an internal review circulated after Hayes handyman Paul Thrower was murdered in February 2014. Mr Downing said this debrief had identified police recording as an issue.
The second was an HMIC report published in May last year, which found evidence of “significant under-recording” of crime by police forces throughout the UK.
Mr Downing said: “As a direct response, the level of recording went up, as it should. When someone makes an allegation of crime we are duty-bound to record that. That is now occurring.”
Mr Downing also pointed to certain crime categories for which the number of recorded offences had dropped, such as robbery and burglary.
He said it was difficult to assess the effectiveness of police initiatives for reducing crime while the level of recording was continuing to improve, as causality was hard to determine.
He added: “At some point we will hit that peak on that recording, so then when we put in reduction initiatives and prevention initiatives, we'll actually understand then, is what we're doing effective?”