Thursday, July 17, 2008

Damned Lies and Crime Statistics

Last night on Sky we covered the British Crime Survey, in which crime is reported to be falling all over the country, and in virtually every category bar drugs and gun crime. I made the point that most people watching would find the statistics hard to believe as their perception was rather different. I argued that the stats were flawed as crimes committed by under 16s were not included (especially important regarding knife crime) and that many crimes nowadays go unreported. This exchange prompted an email to me this morning from a viewer called Martin
Saw you on Sky doing the paper review. I totally agree with you about the feelings people have about crime and in particular the British Crime Survey.

You make a good point about statistics. However, I do wish people like yourself would make more of the issue as to why crime ‘appears to be falling’. You did state that in many cases people don’t bother to report it, BUT there are other factors.

1. Car crime. Sod all to do with the Police, but car manufacturers now make it harder to break into or steal a modern car. So if car crime is falling it’s NOT thanks to the Government, but the car manufacturers.
2. Burglary. As you pointed out many people might not bother to report minor burglary (I myself never reported a bike being stolen from my well fenced back garden) but again, most people now have better home security. I have two alarms, triple locks on downstairs windows and security lights front and rear. My next door neighbours have been burgled twice in the past. They to now have a house that looks like Fort Knox. So again, this is nothing to do with the Police or the Government.

The same goes for the nonsense that speed cameras are the sole cause of falling road deaths. This story was peddled by Labour after the Tory Council plan to scrap speed cameras. Again no one bothered to point out that there are many other factors that affect apparent falling road death rates.

1. The fact that the speed camera signs remind people of the speed limit (something that can be done by simply providing more signs)
2. Improved road layouts as a result of several crashes
3. Improved street lighting
4. Improved pedestrian segregation (barriers and bridges)
5. Improved car design, such as crumple zones, airbags and soft fronts on new cars.
6. Interactive road signs (ones that warn you of your speed or of ice etc.)

I hope the next time you’re on a TV show please challenge these twisted views of politicians (of all sides) as you are an oasis of reason in a desert of stupidity.
Well thank you, Martin. Anyone got any other feedback on the British Crime Survey, which purports to show that recorded crime has fallen by 30% since Labour came to power in 1997? No, don't laugh. It isn't clever, and it's not funny.

68 comments:

JessTheDog said...

Most police forces have replaced 999 with a non-emergency contact number. Try getting through to a force switchboard even if you can remember the number. I believe the reporting of crimes has fallen drastically, even allowing for the fiddling of the statistics. I think that the crime mapping will also reveal a different story - what is on the police IT systems is likely to tell a very different story from the British Crime Survey, which has no credibility.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Crime is falling and the prison population is at an all time high. These two facts are not unrelated.

Most criminals commit at least ten crimes for every one detected. Locking them up works wonders.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as an ex-statistician I think you're getting confused over two very different sources of statistics.

The figures published today are recorded crime statistics: ie the number of crimes reported to the police. Clearly if people are less inclined to report crimes to the police then they will be incomplete and/or indicate a decline in the crime level.

The British Crime Survey is a (very extensive) survey of members of the public which asks people about their experiences of crime. Some people feel this to be a more accurate reflection of the "true" levels of crime ... although only those aged 16+ are surveyed.

Anonymous said...

You've got to grudgingly admire lies like this from McLabour!!!.

McLabour OUT!!!.

jsfl said...

Iain,

It is also worth pointing out that since May 2007? The police only respond to acts of 'obtaining monies by deception' and other minor offences on the Internet if they are reported by the company owning the web-site where the fraud or other offence occurred.

It has happened to me on eBay a handful of times (99% of sellers are honest) but to my knowledge none of these have been reported to the police. In each case all were solely UK transactions and I have lost money and eBay has done sweet FA. As a result I am out of pocket but luckily only by a small amount. I've heard stories of others not quite so lucky (eBay only cover you if you use their Paypal facilities).

In such circumstances - especially where the company involved faces no financial loss you have no recourse - phone the police and they are not interested (I've tried). Not only do these petty crimes not get recorded, they are totally ignored.

Similarly - a while back the BBC did a similar article about internet based Bank frauds of a similar ilk and the Banks basically said they would contact the police if they felt it was necessary.

Obviously such companies are not going to make a fuss if it is likely to damage their reputation.

It seems to me by doing this the Government are encouraging a new generation of petty thieves and given the current economic climate I can only suspect that things will get worse.

To this is a dereliction of duty by the government in allowing private companies to decide what is and what is not a crime.

So much for the statistics!

Incidentally, did I hear somewhere that they were also going to ignore other sorts of crime in future such as shoplifting?

Hugh said...

Part of that is true, but most of those alternative reasons for fewer accidents are also thanks to local and national government: road layouts, better signage etc. Also you can't seriously believe that a '30' speed sign is just as effective as a 30 speed sign beside a speed camera.

I'm just saying you undermine your argument by taking away almost all credit from the government.

Lord Elvis of Paisley said...

This is my current favourite. It's a miss, but the BBC are portraying it as a hit. Perhaps you could do a piece on BBC bias...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/7511136.stm

bobthedog said...

If the British Crime Survey is so extensive, how come:

1. I have never been interviewed.
2. None of my family have been interviewed.
3. None of my friends have been interviewed.
4. Nobody I work with has never been interviewed.

I have never heard of anybody being asked about crime in this country.

They obviously ask all the questions on a remote island in the north of Scotland!

I for one dont believe crime is falling as is being reported by this bunch of criminals that purport to be a Government.

Certainly doesnt appear to be improving anywhere in UK!

Anonymous said...

Lower crime rates......

1) Lower cost of (portable) consumer electronics. Why buy a dodgy DVD player from a guy down the pub when they cost under £50 in the shops.

2) Lower price of drugs. The majority of petty burglary is caused by people fuelling a drug habit. If the price of drugs falls the addict has to steal less.

3) Better car and house security. I can't remember the last time I heard of anyone who had their car stereo stolen, whereas it was a regular occurrence in the 90s.

Paul Pinfield said...

I neither know or care where the BCS get their data from. I do not believe the statistics.

My business was broken into last November with £17,000 of damage caused and £7,000 of Apple Macs stolen. The perps were caught on video and arrested. Yet, incredibly, no-one was prosecuted.

Add to that two people in my (posh) neighbourhood receiving death threats from named perps - again no prosecutions.

No wonder crime is falling...

Paul said...

Iain - don't think you have reflected properly what the BCS is. The BCS accounts for people's perceptions of crime, including those that were not reported or not picked up as Police Recorded Crime. In other words, precisely the kind of anecdotal evidence that you offer in this post, the kind that isn't picked up as PRC.

The most interesting finding for me is that the readers of tabloid newspapers have less confidence in the Criminal Justice System than readers of the broadsheets. Tabloid readers also had measurably higher fear of crime. Tabloid readers felt that crime had increased 'a lot' in the last few years. Given the marked decline in standards of journalism (eg Robert Murat), it is frankly impossible for journalistic profession to criticise with any authority the reporting standards of the BCS, which is infinitely better researched and scientifically stronger and more beneficial in the fight against crime than the content of our daily papers who continue to twist the knife into the police service and public confidence in it.

The most amusing thing for me is the Green Paper that came out later today. This morning, the statistics demonstrated as convincingly that it can be that policing in the UK is increasingly effective. This afternoon, the Home Secretary announced a Green Paper that argued that policing isn't working and should be entirely changed!

Toby said...

Actually the figures show crime falling since their peak in 1995, but don't let silly things like facts get in the way of your prejudice, eh?

Aardvark said...

bobthedog said...
"If the British Crime Survey is so extensive, how come:

1. I have never been interviewed.
2. None of my family have been interviewed.
3. None of my friends have been interviewed.
4. Nobody I work with has never been interviewed."

The sample size is 50,000. So in any one year you have roughly a 1 in 1,000 chance of being interviewed.

Anonymous said...

JessTheDog said...
"Most police forces have replaced 999 with a non-emergency contact number. Try getting through to a force switchboard even if you can remember the number. I believe the reporting of crimes has fallen drastically ..."

Irrelevant, since the British Crime Survey is not directly concerned with reporting of crime but people's experience of crime.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

I'll sleep a lot better tonight, knowing that the crime figures are down, thanks to NuLiebour. Gord Bless Yer!

The loaded shotgun will remain at my bedside for the foreseeable future - just in case the figures have been "massaged".

Anonymous said...

so iain how would you measure crime?

javelin said...

Changes to rules for counting crimes

http://uk.sitestat.com/homeoffice/rds/s?rds.countchanges24_4_08doc&ns_type=pdf&ns_url=[http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs08/countchanges24_4_08.doc

It's full of confidence building stuff ... Basically LOTS of classifcations have been broken down into other classifications - possibly so that various verions of crime can be cherry picked.

"Classification 8A Other Wounding replaced by Classification 8F, 8G and 8K." - has been broken down to the following ...

8F Inflicting Grievous Bodily Harm without Intent

8G Actual Bodily Harm and other Injury

8K Poisoning or Female Genital Mutilation"


Also what they are counting has changed ... so - for example how the police count offences is interesting - here they say it's one offence regardless of whether it a single person with a weapon of a group of people with lots of weapons - as long as the weapon hasn't been used. So by this count as Hitler marched up the Polish border he only had one weapon.

"Violence Against the Person, Classification and Counting Rules:

10C Possession of Other Weapons

"The general rule for 10C states that “Provided that the weapon has not been used during the commission of another notifiable offence: one crime for each offender or group of offenders irrespective of the number or types of weapon."


Plus the police now have the right to deem a crime or not a crime. So they can choose whether they can be arsed to include the crim in the stats or not.

"As agreed (Nov/Dec 2007) the wording of example 7 has been clarified to show the offence described should be no crimed if the police decide that the no crime criteria is met."

They do go the other way though !! with the VERY common crime of smashing cars in a compound where the compound owner fefuses to pay

"New wording and example has also been included to clarify that damage to several vehicles in a secure compound should be counted as one crime per separately owned vehicle where the owner of the compound refuses to pay for the damage (rather than one crime in total) (Nov/Dec 2007). "

Anonymous said...

BBC have been crowing these bogus figures, but they scored an own goal on Radio Four's PM.
Eddie Mair interviewed Tory MP David Davies and Labour Peer Lord McPherson, an ex-cop. They both asserted that the crime figures were meaningless. The way of looking at the figures has changed several times over the last decade, so comparisons couldn't be fairly made.
A and E depts treat lots of stab wounds, which are not declared as such, for fear of reprisals.
Under 16 attacks are not recorded.
As others have pointed out, crime figures have fallen throughout the western world due to many reasons - better security for property and cars, etc.

But nobody has mentioned the proverbial "elephant in the room", which is drunken and threatening behaviour by young people in the streets, particularly at weekends.
This is the depressing reality for people who feel trapped in their homes.
Has 24 hour drinking led to a civilised cafe society? Don't make me laugh.

Daily Referendum said...

Labour - tough on crime - tough on manipulating the figures of crime.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't there something on You and Yours last(?) year about the police no longer investigating credit card crime. If you report a dodgy transaction on your credit card bill you are told to ring your bank or card issuer. The crime is not recorded so did not happen. The programme spoke to some police officers who dealt with that type of crime and they were not happy because they don't see the whole picture which can make investigations more difficult.

Cath said...

IAIN Please remove Scottish f--- features from the opening page of your blog or the crime rate will be rising very sharply in this part of Surrey.

Oliver Mantell said...

Personal experience of crime is unlikely (except in places with an exceptionally high crime rate) to offer a very meaningful guide to the level crime's really at. From my personal experience, burglary only happened in 1992 and 2004 (or there abouts). Does that mean those were the two years when 100% of all burglaries took place? If I get burgled before 2016, does that mean the crime rate is going up?

This isn't one of those situations when the 'look around you, it's all going to the dogs' arguments can work.

Anonymous said...

most knife crime is committed by 16 years and under juveniles. IT IS NOT RECORDED!!!!

Most people do not report crimes because the police do not investigate them -even burglaries!

Who can believe any statistic pushed out by this immoral,incompetent bunch of useless people YOU would never employ!

Lies Lies Lies then damned statistics.

By the way the safest way to drive is at 80miles per hour in rush hour down Oxford Street. Because there is absolutely no statistic of an accident occuring due to those circumstances.

Crunkfish said...

Is it not completely obvious to everyone how ridiculous it is to argue against these statistics by saying "most people don't perceive it that way".

If these 'people' don't perceive it that way because, personally, they're frequent victims of crimes which they then don't report - well, they only have themselves to blame really.

However, if these 'people' are basing their perception on anything other than direct, first-hand experience then it begs the question what are they basing this belief on?

Judging from my own personal experience (which is all any of us reliably can do) I'd say that while crime I personally witnessed seemed to peak a few years back when I was in my late teens, it has steadily decreased within the last five years to a level of roughly zero incidences per year. That's roughly a 100% to the time there was one incident. However, this is expected to dramatically rise this weekend as I intend to spend a nice, highly relaxing evening, casually bumping up the crime-rate at the bottom of my garden. Admittedly, information regarding this is unlikely to make it to the British Crime Survey.

Anyway, my point is that I don't seem to see as many hot young girls down town anymore. I remember that years back in the middle of summer there would be eye-candy a-plenty showing off in their teeny mini-skirts and clinging strappy tops. Now, I just seem to see chavvy mingers all around the place. Maybe someone should do a survey about that. I mean, what's changed over the years?

Keith said...

Iain - tell it ain't so, but what you and many commentators seem to object to here is not so much the methodology as the fact that the statistics show crime falling. Would you have made the same points had the same BCS shown crime to be rising (and indeed did you make them when this was the case)? I make no party-political point here (I consider myself something of an old-school Tory for what it's worth) but there is a truly depressing trend in Britain to see bad statistics as proof that things are bad and good statistics as proof that statistics just can't be trusted.

Whether it's crime, health, education or the taste of Bramleys, there's nothing that annoys us Brits more than being told that things aren't as bad as we like to think they are. It would be funny if it weren't almost a pathology where we really do seem to hate ourselves and be totally unable to think anything good about the country - indeed, we get truly and deeply offended if anything comes a long that casts us in a good light (witness the reaction to these stats, or stats showing better exam results, etc, etc). Come on people, show some pride in your country. We're one of the best places on the planet. No, make that the best.

Ross said...

I've said it before but the British Crime Survey, whilst not meaningless, is only a very limited indicator of crime levels for the following reasons:

- It doesn't all forms of crime.

- It doesn't all forms of victim.

- It is not a truly random sample because a large proportion of people decline to participate in it.

- People's recall of what crime they have suffered over the course of a year is actually quite poor.

- There are practices by the BCS team that are bizarre, such as not counting people who suffer repeat victimisation.

Martin said...

"...Also you can't seriously believe that a '30' speed sign is just as effective as a 30 speed sign beside a speed camera..."

What does a speed camera achieve? If you're caught by one, it's too late.

What you want to do is change behaviour not punish people (isn't that the modern idea?)

If an interactive sign warns you BEFORE you enter the speed reduction zone and you slow down is that not better than being caught by a speed camera after you've gone past?

After all if hundreds of car drivers do it, sooner or later someone will get run over.

The object is to simply have cars and other vehicles travel through an area at a safe speed is it not?

I got a speeding ticket some 7 years ago. I was caught doing 40 in a 30 limit. It was a hidden Police officer in the bushes with a speed gun. Problem was the road I was on was part 30mph and part 40mph. I thought I was in the 40 mph bit.

Fact was the action of the officer did nothing to stop me (and probably many others) exceeding the limit on that day.

Better signage would have. This is the point that is being missed by the speed camera freaks.

Even a stern telling off from an officer would have more effect as someone could wait 2 weeks to find out they've been caught. What is the point of that?

Why not provide the interactive signs BEFORE the speed cameras?


On the crime thing (it was me who wrote to Iain) the likes of the BBC should really drill down into the stats.

Suppose violent crime in an area is falling. That's good news is it not? Well what if that's because when it gets dark no one wants to go outside alone? So there are fewer victims. The figures might show a drop but that has NOTHING to do with better policing or Government policies.

This is where I'm getting fed up of the BBC and the rest of the media spouting these figures without any detailed analysis. The BBC happily spends hours analysing Tory spending plans.

Harry Hook said...

Add to this the fact that many immigrant communities deal with their own problems without bothering the Fuzz... and that larger numbers of people are consulting with "Fixers"... Marlon Brando meets the Kray Twins... who usually hold a knee capping surgery in a local pub.

The BCS could be accurate, especially as I don't know of anyone who has recently contacted the police over a crime incident.

refugee from the south east said...

This is great news, crime down another 10%. So at this rate in 10 years time, there won’t be any more crime!!! and the police can stay off the streets with a clear conscience.

Its all a bit like our yearly improvement in A-level results, now over 90% of students get an A-grade. If this rate continues soon they will get an A-grade for spelling their names correctly.

Mois, cynical?? (“tractor production figures” my friends, or more simply lies)

Anonymous said...

In 2003 I noticed an unexplained transaction on my debit card statement. To get the money back from my bank I had to report this to the police and get a crime number and give that crime number to the bank. Whereas in Sept 2007 when I noticed an unexplained transaction on my credit card statement I was not asked to report this to the police snd get a crime number. In fact as has been pointed out I would not be allowed to report this to the police myself since they would no longer issue a crime number for this. So what was a recorded crime in 2003 in 2007 is no longer a recorded crime (unless the bank chooses to report it).

Vienna Woods said...

In 1968 the government raised the age of criminal responsibility from 10 years to 14 years. That was a mistake! Yet, although it has remained so, it would appear that it is worth it to ignore all crime committed by those under the age of 16 for the purposes of this manipulated survey. My son has served it the Met for more than 20 years and he, together with all of his colleagues, believe that this "survey" (for that is what it is!) is a complete farce. The under 16 crime has increased enormously during the last 5 years and tackling it with one hand tied behind their back, has not made the situation any better. Most under 16's are "cautioned", not prosecuted, which is why most go on to commit further offences. To exclude these figures removes at least 20% of crimes at a stroke. The other factor in all of this are the Home Office requirements for reporting crime which have changed so many times during the last few years, that nobody within the "working" police service have a grasp of the meaningless myriad of paper that flutters down from above and only serves to frustrate officers who are trying to bring criminals of any age before the courts.

Gerard Charmley said...

Working as I do for a large insurer, I would note that on the subject of house burglaries the stuff people have is now less worth stealing. Once upon a time, stealing a person's video recorder and television would get you money. Now you're lucky of you can shift the things, let alone realise anything for them. One of the side-effects of the fall in the price a domestic electronics is that they are no longer worhy stealing, hence fewer burglaries.

Bert Rustle said...

On the general point of the manipulation of crime statistics by Police Officers at the behest of politicians, Inspector Gadget has numerous posts. Most recently: Violent Crime Alert - Inspector Who? ... Police Officers are being asked to start arresting “violent crime” offenders for the offence ABOVE that which they believe has been committed. This means that if we think we are faced with an Actual Bodily Harm offence, we arrest for Grievous Bodily Harm.

The Charge can always be dropped to ABH later. It’s the arrest statistic which matters.

Why have we been asked to do this?

Because 2008/09 will be a “baseline year” for violent crime statistics. If we can show an over large number of serious violent crimes in 2008/09, then we can be successful in reducing serious violent crimes in 2010/11 when we go back to arresting for the correct offence in the first place.

I call it TARDIS policing.

This particular strategy is designed to outwit the Government’s annoying new appetite to start looking at quality in detected crime, instead of simply quantity. ...

Anonymous said...

Ross said...
"I've said it before but the British Crime Survey, whilst not meaningless, is only a very limited indicator of crime levels for the following reasons:
...."

The reasons you list are all true but (as long as the survey methodology remains) they do not invalidate the findings of British Crime Survey, the main purpose of which is to establish TRENDS.

Vienna Woods said...

Let's face it,this Labour Government are a bunch of cowards led by a coward! They just don't understand the meaning of the word `Truth´, manipulating every statistic and every piece of legislation they put forward. They never face anything honestly, or admit when they get things wrong. Gordon Brown is the worst of all, stating downright lies at PMQs'and making devious, underhanded moves in order that he will not personally face the music.

We now learn that Brown has sneakily arranged the ratification of the EU Treaty, behind the backs of parliament and the people, timed just right as parliament begins its Summer recess. What a scheister this man is!

AnyoneButBrown said...

I guess the prison population is at an all time high, the government (falsely) claims to have massively increased the number of prison places to 80,000 and we are now building "titan" jails; all to cope with this amazing fall in crime. Not
Anyone who believes the highly politicised BCS where the recording methodology is specifically designed to reduce crime reporting needs to see their doctor

Unsworth said...

Whether crime has actually fallen or not is irrelevant. The job of the Government is to ensure that people go about their daily lives without the fear of crime.

The public perception is that Government figures are bogus, ergo the public perception is that crime has not fallen.

By its own measures the Government has failed.

This is not a nation at ease with itself. I sense a mood of growing rage and determination. Brown and his appointees will never be able to reverse that mood.

Alex Swanson said...

What I noticed is the casual reference on the BBC website to homicides going up. So - as Iain points out - has gun crime.

So what I want to know is: if violent crime is really falling, why have two of the most serious categories gone up?

Maybe I'm cynical, but I can't help noticing that these two particular categories are the most definitive and obvious (you can't really cover up or re-categorise someone who's been shot dead) and hence harder to massage lower.

Bert Rustle said...

Another Form Of Relief

... [young offender] then went on to say that his most recent conviction was for street robbery. He had been found guilty and sentenced to 6 months; he had served 3 months and his comment was:

“Three months! That is good for robbery, man” He then explained that he had 32 previous convictions and had been to prison only twice. If this individual has 32 previous convictions, clearly he has been arrested and/or dealt with by police officers 32 times successfully i.e. a conviction was obtained. ...

In light of this, yet again, Inspector Gadget asks anyone who cares to comment:

“How exactly is this kind of repeat offending by violent, disturbed and feral youths (who have been dealt with time and time again by us) still the responsibility of the police?”

“What exactly are we NOT doing as police officers in this case?”

“What accountability is there for the Courts?” ...


Does anyone care to comment?

Anonymous said...

AnyoneButBrown said...
"I guess the prison population is at an all time high, the government (falsely) claims to have massively increased the number of prison places to 80,000 "

What is the true number of prison places then?

Why on earth would the government make a false claim about the numbers?

Richard Nabavi said...

To me the amazing thing is that no one seems to ask the key question. Which is: Why is crime (however you measure it) much higher than in other comparable European countries?

Allan Scullion said...

Iain,

I covered this in August 2005

To quote my own article:

The BCS may be a useful long term trend indicator but at the end of the day 40000 people represents about 0.07% of the population. It does not account for crimes against businesses, crimes against under 16 year olds, crimes where there is ‘no direct victim’ (ie: drug dealing - morally dubious that one if you ask me) and finally (and this is a belter), crimes that have involved deaths (like homicide)… because, to directly quote the Home Office - ‘as the victims cannot be interviewed’

In summary, the Home Office conveniently ignores drug dealing, vandalism, crimes against children, shop lifting and murder when it presents its authoratitive crime figures.

Anonymous said...

No Iain, you are right, it is not funny and it is not clever, but it is errrm.... true.

You are less likely now to be a victim of crime whatever your mates in the Shadow Home Office Team (do you have any left there now) and Davey Dave say, than at any other time since records began.

You should not believe everything you read in the papers or on partisan blog sites you know.

Anonymous said...

Over the past 25 years the British Crime Survey has interviewed people about crime. It has asked about both their perceptions of crime and their experience of crime (reported and unreported). Currently only over 16s are interviewed.

This implies that the flaws you point out need some clarification and perhaps rethinking/rewording. Specifically:
1) Crimes committed by under 16s are not automatically excluded from the survey. It is crimes against under 16s which are excluded.
2) We have a measure of crime not dependent on reported crime.
3) The survey enables us to empirically address your claim about the relationship between perceptions of crime and experience of crime.

Anonymous said...

Keith said...

"Come on people, show some pride in your country. We're one of the best places on the planet. No, make that the best."

You really must have been committing some smoking crime.


Martin said...

"Suppose violent crime in an area is falling. ... Well what if that's because when it gets dark no one wants to go outside alone? So there are fewer victims."

Precisely the current situation in the ****hole that England has become.

The Coppersblog Team said...

I've not seen this mentioned - apologies if I have missed it - but for some reason the BCS only asks people who live in privately-owned properties about their experience of crime. (I suspect, though am not sure, that this is historical - that is, it started out this way and has to continue to allow past BCS to be compared with subsequent surveys.)
However, the effect of this is that you survey people who are more likely to live in low crime areas than high crime (accepting that plenty of people also own homes in high crime areas, this must nevertheless have some effect).
In some respects, you could argue that this doesn't matter - on the like-for-like principle, you are asking the same kind of people the same question each time you conduct a BCS.
However, I suggest that people who live in rented accommodation, council or otherwise, tend to be:
a) younger - and therefore more likely to be involved, as victims or perpetrators, in all sorts of crime, particularly the crime du jour, 'knife crime'.
b) located in higher crime areas
c) located in areas which have been more adversely affected than areas of private housing by the collapse in social order which has happened in the last 30-odd years - funnily enough, about the time the BCS has been running - and which are therefore more prone to increases in crime.
I don't know any front line police officer who thinks that crime is down, or believes any of the figures.

ranter said...

The previous comments have summed up pretty accurately why crime stats, recorded, reported or via the BCS have long been regarded as completely and utterly worthless. Only a mendacious and morally bankrupt politician like Tony McNumpty could crow triumphantly about it. Reported/Recorded crime stats have long been fiddled, the criteria constantly changed by the police and successive governments over time, so nothing has a base point. If anyone thinks that crime is falling then they are on medication or belong to ACPO or the Labour Party, The discussion with Lord McKenzie and David Davies on 'PM' was illuminating because it was only when the MP and Special Constable David Davies made his excellent points that 'Former Top Cop' Lord Mckenzie admitted the stats were pants, he had previously said that the H.O ahould send the message of reassurance out loudly.
Anyway Ian, when you get home you will have a glossy 8 page newspaper waiting for you, 'Policing Kent - Our plans for 2008 - 11', an unbelivable waste of money stating the bleedin' obvious and packed full of photos of happy smiley people. Drivel!

trevorsden said...

2 police attacked by 30 youths in Croyden. One in hospital - with bite wounds.

All for telling a girl to pick up her litter.

What chance do the rest of us have? What use would these new CSOs be?

Will the Home Secretary resign?

bobthedog said...

Lets face facts:

Everything is up under Labour,

Taxes are up
Immigration is up
Emigration is up
Borrowing is up
House prices are up
Personal debt is up
Knife Crime is up
Gun crime is up
Business failures is up
Bankruptcies will be going up.

Why should we believe that crime is down - oh yes forgot that they now exclude a lot of it from reporting!

Chris Paul said...

So weak Iain. Are you in any way qualified to pontificate about statistics? Or to present anecdote as king? This way lies disproportionate misery and fear of crime.

The downward movement of crime actually reported, recorded, experienced is immense and deserves to be recognised. As does government agency in achieving this great fall. 48% down.

ferret said...

Allan Scullion - of course murder is excluded from the BCS. It is a survey asking people if they have been the victim of various crimes. Its designed to give accurate figures for these crime which will not always be reported and recorded by the police. Clearly the dead cannot answer surveys, and in any case there are already extremely accurate records for murders, as they are almost always reported.

Its interesting, and dissappointing, Iain, that you are more willing to listen to sensationalist press reporting of crime than you are to look at a serious and well respected study of people's actual experiences. The likes of the Daily Mail and others thrieve off spreading a sense of fear amongst their readership – they couldn't care much whether what they report accurately reflects reality. But presumably intelligent people such as yourself and the Shadow Cabinet should at least try to refrain from spreading alarm over a fictional 'broken society' for short term political gain – it does not reflect well on the Conservative Party at all.

There are undoubtably crime hotspots and particular problems (such as knife crime in London) – there always have been. And they must be tackled. But it equally concerning that large numbers of people are made to be fearful of crime by sensationalist media reporting, to the extent that it can often damage their lives. People believe that crime is rising. And yet fewer of them have ever been victims of crime. The media is the cause of the disjunction between the two.

Interestingly, the Daily Mail barely reported the fall in crime yesterday. Instead (as it does today) it filled its pages with the usual parade of stabbings etc. The message: BE AFRAID. Fear sells. Truth doesn't. Sad.

Anonymous said...

The Coppersblog Team said...
"... the BCS only asks people who live in privately-owned properties about their experience of crime. ..

However, the effect of this is that you survey people who are more likely to live in low crime areas ....

However, I suggest that people who live in rented accommodation, council or otherwise, tend to be ...."



The BCS survey covers PRIVATE RESIDENCES. This includes rented accommodation (council houses, etc)as well as owner-occupied properties. It just means that people living in business premises or institutions are excluded.

Allan Scullion said...

@Ferret:

Allan Scullion - of course murder is excluded from the BCS. It is a survey asking people if they have been the victim of various crimes. Its designed to give accurate figures for these crime which will not always be reported and recorded by the police. Clearly the dead cannot answer surveys, and in any case there are already extremely accurate records for murders, as they are almost always reported.

Oh come on! The government use the BCS as a publicity tool to show overall crime trends.

The fact is, it is flawed.

Graffiti, crimes against children (including knife crime), crimes against business, drug crime and murder could all soar dramatically and this survey would tell us that crime is falling.

Noble though its aims may be, the BCS is far too narrow in its scope to be taken seriously. Couple that with a government famous for spinmongering then the whole thing is a joke.

Anonymous said...

ferret said...
"Allan Scullion - of course murder is excluded from the BCS. It is a survey asking people if they have been the victim of various crimes."

No "of course" about it. People surveyed are asked what crimes they or ANYONE IN THEIR HOUSEHOLD have experienced.

Anonymous said...

Well thank you, Martin. Anyone got any other feedback on the British Crime Survey, which purports to show that recorded crime has fallen by 30% since Labour came to power in 1997? No, don't laugh. It isn't clever, and it's not funny.

According to the BCS there was a 14% fall in crime between 1995 and 1997. I suppose that WAS clever and funny.

Richard Nabavi said...

If you actually look at the figures for the most serious violent offences (page 64 of 'Crime in England and Wales 2007/8'), you find that violent crime has increased since 1997, but has fallen since the peak of 2001-2004. For example:

Homicide:
1997/8 748
1998/9 750
2003/4 904
2007/8 784
(There was a peak in 2002/3 but this was skewed by recording of the Harold Shipman murders which actually took place much earlier).

Serious wounding or other act endangering life:
1997/8 12,833
1998/9 13,960
2003/4 19,528
2007/8 15,094

I think these figures are the ones to focus on, both because they are the most serious crimes, and because they are the least likely to be affected by extraneous factors such as reporting rates.

So whilst it is true that crime has fallen in the last three or four years, serious crime is still substantially higher than even 10 years ago. And it is massively higher than 20 or 30 years ago, which is perhaps what people are thinking of when they say crime is worse than it used to be and the streets are no longer safe. They are right.

Unsworth said...

@ Chris Paul

"The downward movement of crime actually reported, recorded, experienced...."

Garbage. That position is pathetic.

'Reported' is not the same as 'Recorded' which is not the same as 'Experienced'. How do you quantify 'Experienced' if it is not 'Reported' and/or not 'Recorded'?

To attribute any decrease in crime solely to government agency is also garbage.

But in your slavish world that is probably what happens.

Astro-Turf Lawnmower said...

Crime figures are falling for these reasons:

1. Statistical manipulation such as certain crimes e.g. credit card fraud not being counted, and people not bothering to report crime

2. Individual responses to increased crime levels e.g. purchasing car alarms, better house locks etc

3. Higher prison population preventing more criminals from commiting crimes while they are inside

4. Labour's geat anti-crime initiatives, the policing methods they have imposed from Whitehall etc

Actually, I made that last one up.

Dick the Prick said...

Mantra of the analysts is "all crimes are incidents, but not all incidents are crimes". Have a good weekend peeps.

Penfold said...

As the boys in blue now make it very hard to report crime by either not turning up or classifying as misdemeanour, many people don't bother to report crime as being a futile effort.
Just like the figures produced by the ONS, the BCS is becoming a bit of a joke. But, then hey, this is Britain, governed by spin and deception, so put on your rose tinted glasses, as everything is absolutely bloody, sic, fine.

Lee Griffin said...

The crime statistics include "perception of crime" survey results. so to claim that peoples perception of crime doesn't tally up is to essentially say everyone on a large survey of perceptions has lied.

It's a shame under 16's aren't surveyed, but then when it comes to knife crime, in particular knife crime murders, then the police recorded statistics are more than adequate for showing trends.

Statistics are never perfect, never will be, but to claim that they don't say something they clearly do is a little absent minded. That said I do totally agree that nothing proves that it is this government or the police that have been the cause of any drops.

Clive Bates said...

Dear Iain

A couple of things to consider...

1. People place far greater weight on violent crimes - assault, robbery, wounding etc. for the obvious reason that they are more harmful and distressing than shop-lifting, possession of drugs, vandalism etc. The headline crime figures weight all crimes equally, but they are not equal in gravity. Though violent crime as measured by the BCS has fallen, most of this fall has been domestic violence. 'Stranger violence' - the thing that people fear most - has not really fallen at all. A good policy would be to publish a 'harm-weighted' crime index... The Home Office has studies that attempt to weight different crimes according to their harm (see Research Paper 217 for eye-popping differences in valuation of different crimes) - and that would be a good starting point. Certainly far better than weighting all crimes equally.

2. One should be careful of perceptions - more people (65% and rising) believe crime in the country as a whole is increasing than in their locality (39% and falling)... The perception of crime in a locality arises from experience, but perceptions about the whole country are 'mediated'... told through news coverage, political rhetoric, high profile cases, scares etc.

3. Crimes that actually happen arise when threat/intent, vulnerability and victim behaviour configure to create an opportunity with adequate risk and return (however defined) for the criminal. The threat/intent may be rising, but people can respond by hardening their property, buying a knife, staying indoors in terror, avoiding town-centres after 8pm etc. So the crime figures are a poor proxy for threat - and it is the threat that people are feeling when they feel that crime is rising.

Anonymous said...

Unsworth said...
<@ Chris Paul

"The downward movement of crime actually reported, recorded, experienced...."

Garbage. That position is pathetic.

'Reported' is not the same as 'Recorded' which is not the same as 'Experienced'. How do you quantify 'Experienced' if it is not 'Reported' and/or not 'Recorded'?>

Simple. The BCS quantifies crimes EXPERIENCED.

Dave H. said...

Several commenters have noted that the BCS has nothing to do with reported crime but
in any case the shortcomings of the survey were pointed out by a research team over a year ago:

“Violent crime is 82 per cent higher at 4.4 million offences compared with 2.4 million in the BCS, the survey claims, including a 156 per cent rise in "acquaintance violence" from 817,000 incidents to 2.1 million.

Domestic violence is 140 per cent higher, up from 357,000 incidents a year to 857,000, the authors said, while there are nearly three million common assaults a year rather than the 1.5 million estimated by the BCS, a rise of 98 per cent.

Burglary is 20 per cent higher than currently estimated, at 877,000 a year, and vandalism is 24 per cent higher, the report calculated.

Robbery is 7 per cent up on the official estimates, or an extra 22,000 crimes bringing the yearly total to 333,000.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/government-figures-missing-two-million-violent-crimes-454637.html

Rohan said...

The BCS is widely recognised to be flawed. For example, it contains no info on crimes committed by or against those 16 years or younger. The demographic that seems to be most involved in knife crime.

tdansmithtributeband said...

Do the crime stats include the large chunk of my pension that got nicked a few years back? Or the increased chunk of my earnings grabbed by hmrc since 1997. The regular council tax muggings?
Thought not.

Unsworth said...

@ Anonymous 4:27 PM

And the definition of crimes 'Experienced'? How is there a record of crimes 'Experienced' when records and/or reports are limited, partial or non-existent?

By definition 'Experienced' is therefore an unknown proportion of total crime. Could be 10%, could be 90%. Who knows?

Anonymous said...

Unsworth said...
"And the definition of crimes 'Experienced'? How is there a record of crimes 'Experienced' when records and/or reports are limited, partial or non-existent?
By definition 'Experienced' is therefore an unknown proportion of total crime."


You misunderstand the basis of the BCS. It is not concerned directly with 'recorded' or 'reported' crime.

About 50,000 households are randomly selected each year and one of the adults in each household is interviewed to establish whether any member of the household has been a victim of crime in the past year. If they have been then details of the crime(s) are entered by the interviewer on a questionnaire.

The interviewee is asked if the crime has been reported to and/or recorded by the police but the main objective of the survey is to establish the actual EXPERIENCE of crime, not the degree of involvement of the police.