Police have said plans reportedly being considered by Priti Patel for league tables to measure the success of forces in cutting serious crime would be "damaging".
According to The Times, police forces across England and Wales could soon be compared using figures for crimes such as murder, serious violence and online crime.
Ministers are reportedly keen to see the result of the government's pledge to hire 20,000 police officers across the country.
Home Office bosses are said to believe league tables will spur on 'competitive' police chiefs and could lead to greater accountability from local crime commissioners.
But senior officers have today warned that league tables risk a return to the type of 'target culture' which once led forces - most notably Scotland Yard - to divert some of their focus away from crimes such as child abuse.
The plan would see the Home Office compare the performance of individual police forces against a national benchmark.
These would be in the key areas of homicide, serious violence, drug supply, neighbourhood violence and cyber crime.
The benchmarks, which would be reviewed by the National Policing Board roughly every three months, would be based on traditional data, such as recorded crime.
Other measures, such as the number of police referrals into drug treatment program and hospital admissions for youth stabbings could also be included, reports the Times.
National chair of the Police Federation of England and Wales, John Apter, said: "Scrutiny and accountability are already a large part of policing, so these proposals for league tables would risk a return to a very damaging and target-driven culture.
"We are already amongst the most scrutinised professionals in the world."
He said the return of targets in policing would mean forces would end up focusing on some areas at the exclusion of others.
"This is not good for the public and certainly no good for the victims of crime," he said. "If, despite these warnings this is pursued it will fail, and it will be damaging."
It is not planned for the data to be published nationally. But elected local police and crime commissioners – whose seats will be up for election in May – will be required to inform the public how their area's force is performing.
A Home Office spokeswoman told the newspaper: “The public expects the government to work with the police to cut crime and keep them safe.”
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