Thursday, January 17, 2008

Facts About Crime

26 teenagers murdered on London's streets last year

The dignified but heart rending statement by Gary Newlove's widow should shame us all. Because we're the ones who are responsible for her husband's brutal murder outside their own home. It's us who've allowed our rulers to water down the criminal justice system so much that teenage gangs think it's perfectly OK to roam around vandalising cars at will and terrorising whole neighbourhoods.

On the day when the Met Police announced their latest tractor production stats claiming crime has fallen to yet another all-time low, let's remind ourselves of some of the facts we've discovered on BOM:

1. Violent crime has soared

Since 1980 recorded crime stats show the following:

  • Serious wounding offences have QUADRUPLED
  • Robbery offences have increased SEVENFOLD (from 15,000 pa to 100,000 pa)
  • Rape offences have increased ELEVENFOLD

2. UK crime is much higher than elsewhere in Europe

The European Crime and Safety Survey, a joint venture between the United Nations, the European Commission and the Gallup polling organisation, questioned 40,000 people across Europe and concluded:

"Britain has one of the worst crime rates in Europe. It is the most burgled country in Europe, has the highest level of assaults and above average rates of car theft, robbery and pickpocketing. Only Ireland has a worse record."

3. The police are grotesquely inefficient

Like the rest of the public sector, the police have become highly bureaucratised and inward looking. According to a recent study, only one in 58 officers is actually out on patrol at any one time. Or around four per town of 90,000 people. So despite now having a record number of police- 143,000 in England and Wales- at any one time, only 2,400 are out patrolling to keep us safe.

Last summer the Commons Home Affairs Committee concluded that despite a 40% real terms increase in police budgets since 1997, there has been little success in tackling serious crime: "in the case of both vehicle crime and burglary, improvements in security—far more than any government action—have probably been a significant contributor to overall falls... between 2002–03 and 2005–06 violent crime as measured by the police recorded crime statistics showed a 21% increase..."

4. Not enough prison places

Wishful thinking has lead to a shortage of places, the outrage of early release schemes, and liberal judges taking the p**s. One of the animals who killed Newlove had a history of violence, but was out on bail and in breach of his bail conditions. We simply don't want to have scum like that walking among us. Yet doubling the number of prison places would cost us only £3bn pa- less than cost of those useless Regional Development quangos.

And remember, the Home Office's own officials forecast the need for more places than they've built. But they were over-ruled by Labour's Home Secretaries- Straw and Bonkitt. This blog has the facts, and here's the killer chart comparing the actual prison population (ie prison capacity) with successive HO forecasts:

5. Deterrence and incarceration work

The US is the lab experiment on this. Just like ours, their criminal system went soft in the sixties. But unlike ours, it switched back again in the eighties and nineties. Some argue the subsequent stunning reduction in US crime rates is a coincidence, down to some third factor not captured in the headline stats (see this blog and the excellent book Freakonomics). The Major and I are simple minded enough to think charts like these are telling us something:


Our criminal justice system is dysfunctional, and does not represent what most of us believe.

Most of us believe we need zero tolerance policing implemented by real police officers patrolling the streets. Most of us believe we need to lock up bad guys, not leave them free to rampage around our streets. Most of us believe we have no idea how to reform these people, and would support "three strikes and you're out".

So we're not sitting here simply wringing our hands. We have a plan of action. But as we've noted many times before, we have virtually no control over our tweedledum and tweedledee Westminster politicos.

Whereas US voters directly elect their President and their Governors (ie the CEOs), we can only elect a first-past-the-post MP. Worse, our vote only actually counts if we live in one of those 100 key marginals. Plus of course, we still haven't got those directly elected sheriffs.

Now, what can we do about that?


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