Friday, January 23, 2009

 

Crime Stats and Worrying Trends

Crime Statistics are a curious political phenomenon. Police try hard to manipulate them, as do governments of both stripes. I remeber Tories in the 1980s claiming there was no link between economic hard times and rising crime when figures of serious crimes were more than doubling 1979-1990. Finally a government minister(a Conservative) in the early 1990s admitted there was a link- something criminologists had known for years. The commonsense argument that people streal to acquire necessary things in hard times, happens to be correct commonsense.

It is also the case that while crime reduces as the economy improves, categories of crime like pasrsonal assault, increase as people more freqwuentrly become the worse for drink. It seems now it's Labour's turn to squirm a bit as figures show an upturn as the recession gets into its stride.

While official stats depend upon police recordings, the British Crime Survey, based on responses from 40,000 people, is still reckoned to be the most reliable guide to what is happening on the streets. According to the BCS, we had a fall in overall crime by 3% according to the quaterly figures; since 1995 the decrease has been close to 50%. Problem is, the public do not believe the stats, as an article in The Economist reported recently. This stated that:

Despite the reassuring findings of the BCS, two-thirds of its respondents say they think crime is rising.

This alone is a problem in that fear of crime encourages more of the same in that streets become deserted and left to the mercy of law-breakers. The latest figures also show pulic fears extend beyond serious crime:

The British Crime Survey shows that the risk of becoming a victim of crime remains at a historically low level, yet it also shows increasing concern about people being drunk or rowdy in public places and about rubbish on the streets.

This reflects my own views on litter: I think litter-strewn streets evoke a sense of decay and decline which makes further careless acts more likely. Quite possibly most voters think this general anti-social climate, thus encouraged, is as much of a problem as serious crime itself. A party which picks this up and runs with it, I truly believe, could win loads of votes at the next election.

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