From Monday’s Times

September 9, 2007

 An article I wrote on crime stats….


Q1: Is crime rising in Britain?
Q2: Is crime rising in your local area?

The answer to the first seems obvious: that Britain is going to hell
in a handcart seems a truism of modern life. Infact, with hoodies on
the prowl and ASBOs becoming the Top Trumps cards of today’s youth, it
is probably one of the few beliefs that unites our fractured society.
But what about the second?

For the past 25 years the British Crime Survey has tried to record
crime in Britain. Rather than rely on government figures that leave
out unreported crimes, it asks people directly about their experiences
over the past year. It also asks them about their perception of crime

Last year, it says, two thirds of us thought that crime was rising
nationally. So far, so predictable. But despite this, fewer than half
thought it was rising locally. It seems a significant proportion of us
consider ourselves anomalies: personally safer, but not representative
of the country as a whole. Which assessment is right?

Well it turns out that people are actually spookily accurate when
assessing crime in their personal life. The figures show that in the
past quarter century Britons were most scared of becoming a victim of
crime in the mid-1990s. 12 years on, that fear has dropped by more
than a third. And actual crime? Well it has done precisely the same

Which just leaves us pondering why we get it so wrong nationally. The
British Crime Survey may be able to help here as well. According to
their data, one of the most significant indicators of belief in huge
national crime rises is – who would have thought? – whether or not you
read a tabloid newspaper.


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