Crime Figures

June 2, 2009

195 words
23 July 2008
The Times
Times2 2
(c) 2008 Times Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved

There is a traditional response to the release of the British Crime Survey. Reporters choose a crime type that has risen, ignore those that haven’t, and write a front page. Last year it was violent crime: that its 5 per cent rise was not statistically significant merely added to the story (“Boffins say crime victims not significant”). Over 12 years of apparently falling crime, 12 sets of front pages have used the same data to explain why Britain is a leafy version of Mad Max. This year there was a snag: no crimes have risen. Papers needed to discredit the data. Popular arguments include claiming that crimes are under-reported, or have been redefined to massage figures. But the BCS is not recorded crime, it is a survey of 47,000 people which has asked the same questions for 25 years. Many people are perversely offended by the idea that Britain is getting better, but what we feel is irrelevant in a population of 60 million. That is the point of statistics.


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