Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Guff on crime

It’s a pleasant treat to find myself in complete agreement with Mr David Cameron. He says that “we must fight back against the attitude that treats rising crime as inevitable”.

Hear, hear! And allow me to join his campaign by pointing out: “The risk of becoming a victim of crime fell from 40 per cent of the population in 1995 to 23 per cent in 2005/06 in England and Wales, the lowest recorded level since the [British Crime Survey] began.” If he means what he says, then I look forward to seeing that quote on Tory posters.

He’s published a brochure on crime called ‘It’s time to fight back’, although disappointingly this particular fight isn’t going to be of the “bare-knuckle” variety. But we can be assured that fighting crime is very nearly as important to him as fighting Gordon Brown’s poll lead, so that’s something.

Anyway, in this brochure Cameron says that “fatal violence is a risk that can strike anyone at any time”. And technically, that’s true. It’s been technically true at every point in history in every society in the world. What is that risk?

In 2005/06 [table 1.01], there were 746 recorded homicides in England and Wales (including the 7/7 bombings), or 14 per million population. So your risk of being a victim of fatal violence was 0.0014%. In 1997 there were 11.8 homicides per million, a risk of 0.0012%.

If a rise of 0.0002 percentage points across nine years is the sort of surge to terrify you then you really shouldn’t be going out of doors (or reading the Daily Mail). And it’s not a story of consistent rises: the 2005/06 homicide rate is the lowest figure in seven years.

So yes, I strongly agree that we must fight despair about the inevitability of rising crime. I think that not burbling on about a “broken society” and “anarchy in the UK” would be a good way to do that.

(If you like number-crunching, I recommend this thorough and excellent analysis by Unity of the gun crime headlines. It turns out that the main rise has been due to incidents in which imitation firearms were used, and the main rise in gun violence has been in the category of “slight” injury not needing hospitalisation – the definition of which seems to include cases of no physical harm at all.)


Old Sailor said...

At the risk of bringing the "Stupid" element down upon my (and your) heads - And I do not disagree with Unity's comments.

Could the decrease in mortality following a violent assult be due to the improvments in clinical care in the NHS. All paid for by a careing Government ?

Or is this a little to simplistic to the knee-jerk Trots ?

Tom Freeman said...

Hmm... if violent assaults are becoming less fatal, maybe that just reflects the obesity crisis. If Britain's youngsters are becoming too unfit to kick people's heads in properly, this is just what we'd expect to see!

Matt M said...

Obese people are more likely to survive being shot - as there's more to slow the bullet down before it reaches a vital organ.

Tom Freeman said...

Excellent point - clearly it works both ways.