current affairs human rights

Still don’t believe the falling crime figures?

There are many things going wrong in modern Britain, but not everything. Crime figures are falling, showing that Britain is becoming a more peaceful place. Despite this being a well established trend, the majority of us don’t believe it and continue to think that society is becoming more dangerous. 17% of us expect to be victims of crime in any given year, while just 4% of us actually are. Perhaps it is because, as the graphs below show, Britain is still more dangerous than at other times in recent history. It’s just not as bad as we seem to think.

This matters, as believing that we are unsafe has consequences – like not allowing our children to play outside, for example. We live in fear unnecessarily, and yet most people are still reluctant to accept the decline. “Police figures are massaged”, they say, “you can do anything with statistics”, etc.

There are other sources besides the official ones however, and these can verify the trend. The Institute for Economics and Peace just published the first UK Peace Index, which ranks every borough in the country for violence. (Broadland in Norfolk is the most peaceful, Lewisham in London the least peaceful borough). Overall, violence has fallen by 11% in a decade. The institute admits that it was initially suspicious of its findings, and it cross-checked them against hospital admissions, police reports and the British Crime Survey, as well as other European countries. It is a fact: despite the recession, Britain is becoming more peaceful.

So that’s something to celebrate, and to explore in more detail. There are still parts of the country that are more violent, so there are lessons to learn from the more peaceful areas and underlying causes to address. We don’t want to be complacent about the violence that remains, and we want that trend to continue its way down. But perhaps the first step is to recognise the trend in the first place.

UK-crime-1911-2011

4 comments

    1. Why is crime falling? Nobody knows for sure, and it goes against the conventional wisdom that theft and petty crime rise in times of recession.

      There are some theories. One is that there has been a change in youth culture. Young people are drinking less, and drug-taking among young people has fallen too. That has led to falls in vandalism and anti-social behaviour. But then you have to ask what’s behind that change, and again, we’re not sure. One theory is the rise of smartphones which have given young people something to do, and the democratizing technologies that have made it possible to express themselves.

      There’s also been a major fall in car crime (down 75% since the 90s), with improvements in car security in newer models. Stealing things from cars was seen as a ‘gateway’ crime that got young people started. Stereos and satnavs are now built in and can’t be stolen, and that whole area of crime has dropped away.

      Among the more random theories, but scientifically credible, is the idea that lead poisoning may be behind the high crime of the 80s and 90s. Monbiot explores the theory here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/07/violent-crime-lead-poisoning-british-export

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