Sunday, July 20, 2008

Lies, damned lies and crime statistics

The problem with crime statistics, or just about any statistics is that they can be used to prove just about anything.

In the aftermath of the Arab oil embargo of 1973, the United States introduced a federal 55mph speed limit to save fuel. Following a drop in fatalities during the first year the law was introduced, the speed limit was made permanent in 1974. With hindsight, the drop in fatalities may have had more to do with the fact that fewer car journeys were made due to the very high cost of fuel. And it wasn't long till the fatalities started going up again. I don't mean to get into a debate about road safety, but it's a good illustration of how facts on the ground often relate little to the actual statistics.

Back to the subject of crime. The government says that overall crime (with the exception of violent crime) is falling and the liberal media keep telling us that fear of crime is just a lot of hysteria whipped up by the Daily Mail. Our course their arguments have little to do with personal experience, and everything to do with their political agenda: Namely that violent youth crime is a figment of our imagination and that feral youths are not criminals, but victims of social deprivation. Try telling that to the family of a stabbing victim or the residents of a sink estate living in constant fear of the thugs terrorising their neighbourhood. You can fool some people some of the time, but can't fool all the people all the time.