The media continues to exaggerate
crime. BBC news, For example, claimed UK violent
crime is "spiralling" (BBC1, 14/3/05).
But when you allow for the following changes
in police recording practices, violent crime
turns out to be falling:
Certain "yobbish" behaviours
(eg minor scuffles) have been reclassified as
crime, with the effect of doubling recorded
A violent crime with many victims is
no longer recorded as a single crime. An incident
with 5 victims is now recorded as 5 crimes.
A higher proportion of violent crime
is recorded. The proportion of common
assaults (without injury) recorded rose from
around 50% to 68% between 2002 and 2003.
The two main sources of crime figures
the police and the British Crime Survey
(BCS) both indicate that, allowing for
these recording changes, violent crime has fallen
(Sources: Guardian, 22/4/05, Panorama BBC1,
17/4/05, Home Office, Association of Chief Police
Officers, British Crime Survey).
Scaremongering tricks of politicians/media
It's unsurprising that many people are confused/frightened.
Tabloid newspapers misreport statistical exceptions,
such as the recent increase in imitation weapon
use, as evidence that overall violent crime
is "spiralling". (They don't mention
that, according to the police and the BCS, crime
involving real weapons is falling).
The BCS reports violent crime falling by 10%
in 2004, and overall crime falling by 11%. Of
course, this is unacceptable to those who believe
crime is rising. As a result, the BCS is labelled
as "unreliable" by the professional
In contrast with the scaremongers, criminologists
regard the BCS as one of the most reliable crime
surveys in the world (due partly to its large
sample of 40,000 people). The BCS shows higher
crime levels than recorded police figures, since
it takes into account unreported/unrecorded
crime. For this reason, the BCS was once favoured
by scaremongering politicians/media.
Since 1995, however, the BCS has shown consistent
falls in crime, including violent crime. The
politicians/media who once favoured the BCS
now favour the police figures instead (since,
given a superficial reading, they show more
But even the police figures reinforce/confirm
BCS findings when investigated in more detail
(eg allowances made for recording changes).
The two sets of figures are published together
by the Home
Office. Neither support the media claims
that violent crime or overall crime is "spiralling".
Surprising Crime Figures
Around half of all violent crimes
result in no injury whatsoever (according to
both police figures and BCS).
71% of mugging (robbery and snatch
theft) incidents result in no injury.
The number of violent incidents has
fallen by 36% since 1995.
Property crime (burglary, theft,
etc) has fallen 46% since 1995.
The average household is burgled
only once every 50 years.
Number of deaths caused by firearms
in 2004: 70
Number of deaths caused by firearms in
Number of serious injuries caused by
firearms in 2004: 390
Number of serious injuries caused by
firearms in 2003: 442
According to the BCS, "there was an increase
of less than one per cent in firearm offences,
and a fall of around two per cent in homicides"
in the period 2003/2004.
Note that in a recent BBC news report (BBC1,
14/3/05), violent gun crime was reported as
The BCS showed a steady rise in crime from
1981 to 1995, then a fall in every year since.
Police recorded crime figures rose in the 1980s,
peaked in 1992, then fell until 1998-1999, when
police recording practices began to be changed
(see above), creating artificial increases upto
(Note: crime figures quoted are for England
More information on police recorded crime
figures and the British Crime Survey:
(Latest BCS report 1MB)