On and off for over a year now, The Slog has been interviewing local leaders, ordinary policemen, barristers, social workers and crime victims, while drilling down into UK crime statistics. This very brief resume represents the output of that process.
I can’t bring to mind any set of figures quite so meaningless, bent, massaged and misleading as UK crime statistics. Target setting, promotion ambitions, time starvation, and a sense of utter hopelessness together mean that any system based on police reporting of crime is doomed to fail as an even vague measurement of what’s actually happening on the ground.
Way back in the 1950s, Soviet Five Year Plan reports were a standing joke in the USSR. The classic gag was of the conversation between a collective farmer and a commissar. The commissar asks where the new tractor is, and the farmer points to a rusty old wreck with saplings growing through it in the next door field. That’s not a new tractor, says the commissar. That’s funny, says the farmer, your report says it is.
President Obama’s economic stats over the last fifteen months have the same hollow ring of unreality to them. The Labor survey’s little fantasy-funtime is to assume all those not claiming benefits any more have found work. Everyone knows they have either (a) run out of their welfare entitlement (b) died (c) turned to working for cash or (d) given up and decided to max out their credit cards and/or steal somebody else’s. We are at one and the same time asked to believe (in the stats released yesterday) that 180,000 new jobs have been created and there are now 578,000 more people in the labour force – but Americans without work for 27 weeks or longer has increased to 5 million. So, um, what are the 400,000 new entrants doing for work, parking cars? Why is retraining so poor that the LTU figure remains stubbornly high?
But the UK’s crime statistics outclass any of the foregoing for sheer useless contradictions.
Back in July of this year, The Times asserted as follows:
‘Crime is expected to rise by 3% as budget cuts are predicted to lead to smaller numbers of police.’
Then a couple of weeks ago, this same shining example of Newscorp insight stated:
‘In spite of fears that the economic downturn and a 10,000 cut in police numbers would increase crime, the latest figures show a 6% drop in the year to the end of June. The figures include a 14% fall to 545 in the number of homicides.’
After a rise in crime during the last years of John Major’s return to basics and serial Cabinet shagging, recorded crime then fell once New Labour’s dawn of things getting better arrived. The only problem with that analysis is that Labour was actually cutting police budgets and numbers during that time. After 2001, they upped the police numbers, and recorded crime carried on falling. Now the Conservatives have cut officer numbers by nearly 10,000, and recorded crime is still falling. How can this be? Well…
The key word here is ‘recorded’.
Variously over the years since around 1996, crime has been seen to ‘fall’ for one or more of the following reasons:
1. Senior ranks fiddled the figures (to date there are seven recorded cases of this, and I’d imagine it’s the tip of a very large iceberg)
2. Middle-ranking and beat coppers don’t report the crime they observe because that would depress the solved-crime rates, and reflect badly on them
3. Citizens have deserted the reporting of crime in vast numbers, rightly convinced as they are that the police will do nothing. Junior officers now try to avoid even giving a crime number to those naifs who still report losses to them, and thus each of these becomes an unstatistic
4. Minor fraud, minor assault, casual robbery and other such bread-and-butter crime is called something else (“knock for knock”, whatever that means) because the police know the CPS has no money to prosecute…and thus don’t waste their time on it
5. More serious fraud goes undetected because police expertise about it in the digital age is laughably archaic. (ID fraud and theft alone explains the drop in violent street and domestic entry crime: with easy money to be made cloning credit cards, mugging and burglary are only rarely worth the risk)
6. Youth offence laws are so restrictive now – and turn-up rates at Juveline Court so poor – nuisance offenders are simply ignored, and those citizens whose lives are ruined by them quietly advised to move away
7. Crime has shifted dramatically upmarket into banking, corporate, media, stock market, taxation affairs and even political life. And these perpetrators are, as we know, exempt from trial, conviction or incarceration. Unsurprisingly therefore, the police make close to zero effort in this area…especially as they’re being bribed in one way or another to do just that for much of the time.
Yet Rupert’s second-favourite organ was at it again the other day with this sweeping stuff:
‘Improved security in cars and houses along with better policing has cut crime by more than half since the mid-1990s, and the chances of becoming a victim of crime are at their lowest since the early 1980s.’
That is absolute bollocks from start to finish. For sure, crime has become less invasive and violent….thanks to digital technology. We therefore feel less physically threatened by it, but any functioning brain should be able fairly quickly to reach the following bottom-line conclusion: contemporary crime is far more socially corrosive than it was forty years ago, because it is becoming sort of ok to indulge in it…and the falling likelihood of detection and retribution mean that in 2012, crime really does pay bigtime.
Those who believe the ‘official’ statistics are on ground so shaky it would be near the top end of the Richter scale. For put simply, to give credence to the Home Office and ONS numbers, you have to believe that there is a 0% correlation between police numbers and crime levels. Ergo, abolish the police.
It really is that silly. If you believe the current trends suggested by UK crime figures, then by 2029 there will be no crime in Britain.
The Conservative Party’s answer to the problem of a stats-bending, promotion-hungry, pc arse-licking, couldn’t care a toss police force is….elected police commissioners. More politicians – and a continuation of the process of turning the Thin Blue Line into the Big Fat Gestapo – has sweet diddly-squat to do with the rising level of endemic lawlessness in our country. It is on a par with Tessa Jowell’s 24/7 piss-artistry charter as the solution to binge-drinking.
I have just completed my voting form by writing ‘detection of crooks not jobs for the boys’ on it. Let us all, each and every one of us, apply our own forms of wit to this charade.