Monday, April 18, 2005

The Shocking Truth About Crime

Last night's Panorama did a surprisingly good job of revealing the truth about crime in Britain. The truth is elusive because there are two principal measures: the British Crime Survey and crimes recorded by the police. When they differ, politicians quote whichever is most favourable to their argument at the time.

The bad news is that we have a higher level of crime per capita than most of our European neighbours and higher than America. However, perhaps that's not surprising given that we are more densely populated and more urbanised than most of those other countries.
The good news is that crime overall has been falling - quite sharply in the case of burglary, theft and car crime.

The fall in crime has little to do with the police or Government. Crime always falls in times of economic prosperity and low unemployment.
People's houses have become more secure and with consumer products like videos now so cheap it's simply not worth nicking them because you can't get a high price for them on the black market. Cars have also become more secure with the latest models that use computer chip security virtually impossible to steal.
So why do 'recorded crime' figures show an increase in some categories? It's partly because of changes to the recording procedures since Labour came to power.
All reports of a crime are counted, even if there's no evidence of a crime and the person has invented the story.
Low level, victimless crimes like being falling-down-drunk in the street weren't recorded but are now.
Crimes are now counted per victim. So if a bunch of yobs attack six other yobs, that's now six crimes where it used to be counted as one.
There may have been a slight rise in violent crime, although the police deny this, claiming it's accounted for by these changes in reporting methods.

The reporting of crime that does most to stoke up fear of crime is reporting of crime by the media. Nothing is ever placed in context. So we have a whole generation of children confined to their homes and driven to school despite the fact that the number of children murdered by strangers has hardly varied in the past 30 years. In a survey, some people put this figure as high as 300. In fact it's about 5 or 6 per year.

The real figures on crime are bad news for the Conservatives' scare-mongering election campaign. Or they would be if people were aware of them. But they're not going to believe Labour if they tell them because they don't believe any politicians and, with a few exceptions, the media aren't going to tell them. And if they did know the facts, how many people choose to base their lives and decisions on proven truths rather than irrational beliefs?
"I'm sorry, I don't believe that", people say when confronted with an uncomfortable but incontrovertible truth. I think a Pope once said something similar to Galileo.


At 3:07 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

95% of all accidents are caused by statistics.

I keep having this argument with my mum. She is continually repeating the propaganda from her morning rag (I won't dignify it with the term newspaper, that would imply it contained something approximating news) about how the world has gone to rack and ruin and how it wasn't like this in her day, how she could play in the streets with no fear of being abducted and everyone could leave their houses unlocked. I point out to her that she grew up in a village with about 10 people in it, but this doesn't stick. I have shown her the murder statistics for London for 100 years ago to demonstrate that things were every bit as bad, if not worse, then than they are now, but the response is just "well yes, but that's London." As you say, people are only prepared to hear what they want to hear.

At 9:09 PM, Anonymous Graham said...

What was it someone famous once said"there are lies,damned lies and statistics".
I'm 48 and there is a considerable rise in crime ,yob behavior and just down right nastyness nowadays and yes it isn't how it used to be it's bloody worse.I know from experience,how many crimes now are not reported,people say whats the point

At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many crimes were recorded when Tony sent our yobs to attack Iraqi yobs?

At 7:48 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Alan, the study of social history should be compulsory, especially the Victorian period, as it would correct many misconceptions. But you'd know that, given what you write about.

Graham, if you dismiss all statistics as lies and generalise from personal experience you're unlikely to arrive at the truth. I've been the victim of both violent crime and burglary in my life but I don't draw any general conclusions from individual incidents.

Anon, apparently there was a sharp drop in crime in garrison towns when our army yobs were sent to Iraq.


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