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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Knife and violent crime statistics for 2013 under the spotlight

IT IS CLAIMED the total number of crimes in the UK has fallen - and knife crime is said to have fallen about 15 per cent.

Total annual crime statistics for England and Wales show an 8% drop in police figures to 3.7 million and a 5% reduction in official crime survey data to 8.9 million crimes (allegedly the more reliable statistic according to civil servants, based on surveying 40k people about their experience of crime).

Sounds good? Well, politically, this has been hailed as good news (not least because it is claimed this is the lowest level since the crime survey began in 1981)... but - as this blog has highlighted regularly - a clearer understanding of the figures seems to still be required. And it would be helpful to get to the bottom of any hocus-pocus, jiggery-pokery going on by those compiling and publicising the data.

I have frequently cited the relative poor state of British crime reporting over the years since this anti-knife crime blog was started and confidence remains low when observing congratulatory, political back-thumping reports of such a large dip in crime this year, 2013, when in fact some infamous spin is apparently going on, making the truth difficult to discern.

Why, more precisely, is that? Because the published figures for many years seem to have been inconsistent. I don't fully understand why - maybe it's how they are communicated (by spin from government comms) or how they have been reported by the Press. Also, ways of reporting by the government have changed.

It is hardly surprising Whitehall is always keen to try to indicate crime is falling, or near to falling, whatever the truth actually is. This is not a cynical view but, in fact, a real observation... it is obvious as a general trend year after year (which, to be honest, I'd not noticed or looked out for in the past, not thinking our political masters would be that devious).

If anyone checks my 'knife crime statistics research' or in the right column (tag cloud) of this blog, it seems clear something odd has been going on with the crime figures year after year... at least the way figures are trotted out for public consumption. Spin is evident and journalists should more rigorously check and question data they get given. Under too great a pressure to deliver too much instant copy to 24-hour news deadlines (under-resourced newsrooms too), it is likely unscrupulous government comms people deliberately make it difficult for journos to see the (crime data) wood from the (crime data) trees.

However, one truth looks crystal clear... yet again no-one is directly accountable for knife crimes... many thousands of them. That is awful - no-one directly accountable for thousands of knife crimes. No-one we can go to and say: "How have you planned and delivered actions to reduce knife crime?" and observe a clear, well articulated, reasoned strategy clearly explained.

This should be unacceptable to those elected to solve these problems at about £70k a year per MP (that's a minimum salary, I think, nowadays). And what about the civil servants and police officers similarly charged... sheesh, I don't know what the answer is, but something is still way wrong.

The government and police cannot rightly claim they are positively affecting crime with data that is inconsistent (or what is better described as 'all over the place') year after year. It seems an undeniable truth that they may barely be believed - which is not a good place to be, law and order-wise.

Evidence I have accumulated via this blog is sufficient to starkly show the easy way the Media can be fooled to print what a propagandist, buck-shifting government (and police forces) can conspire to do, however they or civil servants dress it up.

When these annual crime statistics were published last year, I spent a great deal of time locating official figures for knife / sharp instrument crimes. That figure, published at the time, was 22,151 (this was a police figure - ONS figures weren't available at that time, according to my research). You can see the crime research last year that I did on this blog.

Now, the figure is hugely higher (not lower) at 26,336 (and this was presented as a drop from 31,147 in 2012). Next year, I wonder if we'll get (surprise, surprise) a drop again (closer to the 22,151) when due to, say, poorer social and economic conditions due to recessionary times, the figure has in fact been rising.

Any decent tax-paying, law-abiding citizen would be very concerned to see government and statisticians 'stuffing the pipeline' in this way... conveniently, the data is confusing at a time when it's 'opportune' for governments and careerist politicians to hide behind such confusion to disguise little progress - and then, worse, present data as good news.

Really, what goes on with this data? A more sceptical and studied consideration of the statistics seems required. Where are the government and police getting their figures from? Perhaps an independent audit is called for.

A note of caution too: it is concerning to observe pick pocketing and street thefts from individuals has gone up. One can't help thinking that the criminals who commit these crimes are a hair's breadth away from reaching for that pen knife - or other dagger - in their pocket and deciding to break the law and terrify, injure, traumatise - or kill - innocent victims.

So, while there are pats on the back about an alleged reduction in knife and some other crimes, it is important to appreciate the problems are not solved... they aren't by a long way... 3.7m or 8.9m crimes across the nation is not a figure to be proud of, neither is 26,336 knife crimes.  The anti-knife crime campaigning must continue - such a level of knife attacks are too high for comfort from anyone's reasonable assessment of the UK crime environment.

It looks like a central repository for crime data is now easily visible and transparent to the public. If this stays, and governments don't change the goalposts for political or electoral convenience, we might be able to clearly monitor crime statistics, see how they move and have our rulers / governors be accountable for how they are focusing on reducing what still are horrendous figures of crime in this country.

And I go back to my reasonable point that there should be a target to reduce knife and violent crime - and all those working on that project be aligned and communicate progress on a monthly or quarterly basis to the nation at large. With such an approach, we may see the start of a focal point for the bereaved and injured to feel involved with, and to affect improvement in a safer society. As ever, we live in hope.

Knife crime reports and data sources for this blog post, referenced July 2013:

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Knife crime stats April 2013 - and who's now fixing the problem?

WHERE is clear progress being made by the authorities reducing knife crime injuries and murders? There still seems little consistently visible progress and evidential data to benchmark and measure progress tackling this and other violent crimes.

Where is the co-ordinated national platform to solve this problem - with clear goals? Where on earth is it?

Seems to me politicians, the police and civil service are not being held accountable enough on providing transparent visibility to the general populace - and the electorate - on this aspect of crime reduction. What do they get paid for, I often wonder?

The media seem to have gone off the boil on it too; they too aren't perhaps clearly focused on the issue at present - because of the many distractions and problems of life out there I expect. But distraction on this issue costs lives, so who can step up to provide better focus?

Looking at various figures on the web, the best data work is being done by The Guardian online news service it seems but even that appears to not be reporting use of knives in recent months.

As far as I can tell, these are the latest knife crime statistics: Police recorded 22,151 knife offences last year (2012) in England and Wales, including grievous bodily harm, attempted murder, woundings and robbery. But official data isn't published yet I understood - at least it's not on the ONS national statistics site here: UK-crime-stats

And I can't see comparable national crime data for year ending 2011 (or further back), which seems odd as well as not at all transparent. These important figures should be clear... crystal clear.

You can track more detail on this blog about analysis of knife crime statistics over the past few years - and meantime, here's a reasonable current chart from The Guardian showing connected knife / sharp weapon killings data:

This is a matter of great public concern where knives / sharp instrument are by far the greatest cause of injury and death in the UK, yet concerted, co-ordinated targeting is not happening around this most grave of issues.

All I can see from highly-paid politicians and their parties is what comes across as PR spin (that sticks in the throat at times) to indicate they are trying to do 'something'. Well, to my mind, that isn't good enough - it's not focused, it's not precise and there is no accountability. It's just too easy to have it move to the back of minds, back of the queue, and for paid public servants to be 'too busy' elsewhere... (learning to be more honest doing expense forms perhaps, or placing a Thatcher funeral ahead of saving lives?). Depends on your sense of priorities perhaps (or self-importance?).

Anyway, I don't mean to gripe or snipe; it's simply very frustrating to see national control of this issue has dwindled not improved since I last took a closer look at knife crime statistics.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Youth street crime due to exclusion from society

WHATEVER someone's politics, I tend to take a closer look where they pick up on the themes represented by this anti-knife crime blog.

Here, Unite's General Secretary Len McCluskey picked out my thoughts that the country's riots in 2011 were caused by young people's exclusion from society and employment, similar to this blog's findings that many young people have little to aspire to, thus sometimes taking to the streets - and, tragically, to knife or other violent crime.

Here's an excerpt of his talk if you don't have time to watch the whole thing:

The 21st Century is not ringing out the death knell of the labour movement; it is sending out a call to arms. The apparently endless economic crisis which began in 2008 is seeing to that.
In 1992 Margaret Thatcher claimed, after the election of another Conservative Government, ‘It is a great night. It is the end of Socialism.’
A few years later Tony Blair declared ‘that the Class war is over’. No doubt from the boardroom of JP Morgan or wherever he is now, it may look that way.
John Prescott claimed “We’re all middle class now!”
But don’t worry, of course, the entire evolutionary human history of socialism and class was not eradicated by New Labour.
Would anyone – two and a half years into this Bullingdon Club Coalition – have the pomposity to claim that class has ceased to be an issue in politics today?
Of course this is not political reality; it is a tactic; it is political posturing.
It is used as false evidence that we have nothing left to fight for. It is part of the rhetoric fed to us that says we should not challenge the decisions taken by our elites.
We are taught to believe that democracy is the cornerstone of a modern civilised society; but our Lords and Masters want to define democracy, limiting us to an ‘X’ on a Ballot Paper every 5 years.
This is not my definition of democracy.
They tell us strike action, civil disobedience, direct action and protest are all somehow unpatriotic.
Our history tells us they are not.
That is because our rulers are deeply afraid of Ralph Miliband’s assertion that politics is about conflict.
They believe that, for example, those without hope, without jobs, now looking at cuts in their meagre welfare, that families being shunted out of London because of housing benefit changes should simply out up with it.
Wait for the next general election – that’s if they are registered to vote.
Well I note that some council leaders from our major cities have warned that people might respond with anger and civil disorder.
I would not be surprised. The one thing worse than suffering is suffering alone and in silence.
We have seen remarkable local protests in recent years: from 20,000 defending a hospital in Eastbourne; 15,000 on the streets in Lewisham to 350 people protesting against a library closure.
Look at the 2011 riots in England they exposed the growing ‘disconnect’ in a broken society.
But it was not without reason.
Young people spoke of their frustration at not being able to find employment.
They were excluded from society in the first instance, so what was there to lose?
Those events showed that at a certain level of inequality, the whole concept of “society” starts to be drained of meaning.
The labour movement, protest and working-class politics will continue far beyond the 21st century.
Be assured, protest against inequality is alive and well – look at the work done by UKuncut to challenge outrageous tax avoidance by Vodafone and other giant corporations.
Their message is – if you want to trade in Britain and benefit from our infrastructure and skilled workforce, then pay your taxes.
Last year protests focused on Starbucks.
Initially, of course, protestors faced hostility, vilification and attacks by the media.
But the truth is these tactics work.
When the right-wing media realised that these protestors were on to something, their attention then focused on Starbucks and what followed has been a remarkable public boycott of the company.
It takes courage to risk unpopularity and vilification. But the truth does prevail.
The labour movement’s message must be one of ‘hope’.
It must talk more about its victories and the positive future that it aspires to.
Britain is broken. But it is the system that is broken, not the people.
Trade unions and the labour movement must continue to give hope for a better way of doing things.
They must work to ‘educate – agitate – organise’.
I am proud to associate Unite with these initiatives, and to hope to form a longer-lasting alliance between organised labour and radical protest, even if it comes from outside our traditional movement.
And, as I have made clear before in relation to the trade union laws, while I do not ever advocate violence, nor do I preach worship of the law at all costs.
So my message to capitalism – if you can send a message to a system – is this: Mend your ways or risk mounting social breakdown and disorder.