Thursday, July 17, 2008

Listen Up You Idiots - Crime Is Down

It's down, I tell you

Today we have those Home Office annual Crime Stats. And the Big News is that CRIME IS DOWN.

As the BBC has been headlining all day, police recorded crime is down 9% over the year. And that's without even needing to fall back on the murky British Crime Survey opinion poll (see previous blogs),


Except... in that case, why do we all think crime is going up?

Prog Con spokesman Mark Easton says it's because crime sells papers, and because for some extraordinary reason we've become less trusting of government stats. In other words, we're too stupid to understand the real facts. Eddie Mair adds that government needs a marketing campaign to make it simple for us. Which is terribly sweet of him.

So what's really going on?

Well, for one thing, a single year's stats aren't the complete picture. Over the decade since that tough on crime supremo took over, police recorded crime is up 7% (1997-98 to 2007-08). And when you probe beneath the totals, crimes of violence turn out to be up much MUCH more. As the chart above shows, the increase in really bad stuff is nearly 70%.

What's that? Ah yes, of course - we're not allowed to make that comparison because during the last ten years, the Home Office changed its counting rules for recorded crime not once, but twice. Twice. Is it any wonder nobody trusts the stats?

Well, you know what? We're making the comparison anyway. And we're saying to the Home Office and the BBC, the reason we don't believe you is that the official stats are about as reliable as a one-careful-owner Renault Megane from Arthur Daley. We'd rather believe the evidence of our own eyes - such as the letter I have in front of me right now from our local police warning us of a spate of violent break-ins, and advising us to phone 999 at the slightest sign of a sledgehammer coming through the frontdoor.

Sleep well. And if you're concerned by anything you've seen on tonight's programme, remember, the chances of being mugged, or knifed, or raped, or having your frontdoor stoved in by a masked desperado are very small indeed.

Well, they're probably quite small.

Well, OK, we actually have no idea at all.

PS So what is "less serious wounding", as shown in the chart? The Home Office Report says it "includes, amongst other offences, wounding or inflicting grievous bodily harm (section 20 of the Offences against the Person Act 1861 and assault occasioning actual bodily harm (section 47 of the same Act). This means that non-intentional GBH is included as well as all assaults involving minor injury (as from 1 April 2002). Figures for offences involving knives (used in section 3.10) include section 20 offences only." Any the wiser? That makes two of us, although I'm not sure I'd call non-intentional GBH "less serious" if it was me on the receiving end.

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