A wide-ranging police study has concluded that the surge in immigrants from eastern Europe to Britain has not fuelled a rise in crime, the Guardian has learned.
The findings will be presented to the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, tomorrow when she meets chief constables to discuss the issue. Several of them had complained that they needed more money to deal with increases in migrant populations in their areas. However, the study prepared for the Association of Chief Police Officers challenges claims that up to 1 million people from EU accession countries have caused a rise in criminality.
The report finds that, despite newspaper headlines linking new migrants to crime, offending rates among mainly Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian communities are in line with the rate of offending in the general population.
A senior source with close knowledge of the report said: “Any rise has been broadly proportionate to the number of people from those communities coming into this country. People are saying crime is rising because of this influx. Given 1 million people have come in, that doesn’t make sense as crime is significantly down.”
The fall in the annual crime rate in England and Wales is accelerating, with a drop of 9% recorded by police in the year to September 2007, according to Home Office figures published earlier this year.
The report by Grahame Maxwell, chief constable of North Yorkshire, and Peter Fahy, who leads the Cheshire force, says that “resentment and misunderstanding” about why new migrants are coming to Britain has stoked tensions. It calls for businesses benefiting from the new workers to do a better job of explaining the economic benefit of migrant workers.
The report says: “While overall this country has accommodated this huge influx with little rise in community tension, in some areas sheer numbers, resentment and misunderstanding, have created problems.” It adds that the immigration from eastern Europe has been different to previous arrivals, because it happened much more quickly. The report says that new migrants may be more likely to commit certain types of offences. Polish people are linked to drink-driving, and problems have arisen in central London with some Romanian children being used by adults to commit petty robberies.
There are also problems with people trafficking and exploitation, but while these may be more likely in some migrant communities, other types of offences are less likely to occur.
The reports calls for new agreements with east European countries to share intelligence and information on less serious crimes, such as domestic violence and serial theft.
It also calls for immigration authorities, schools and the health service to share information with police about new nationalities in their areas.
The report is primarily based on intelligence gathered by detectives about crime patterns in different areas of England and Wales. Police recording codes only contains the category “white Europeans” covering people originating from France to the Urals. The report says more analysis is needed.
The source with close knowledge of the report said: “Given the number coming into the country, the problems have been very few in terms of criminality, increases in crime or community tensions.
“Most are coming here to earn money, most are professionals with qualifications, and they work then go home.”
The report says areas that have faced most demands include Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire because of the demand for agricultural workers, as well as Slough. Cambridgeshire’s chief constable, Julie Spence, has warned of increased demands on her force and Kent’s chief constable, Mike Fuller, also reportedly wrote to ministers saying that the government’s failure to give his force more money was not taking account of the extra demands on his officers.