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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:

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