The media continues to exaggerate crime.
BBC news, For example, claimed UK violent crime is "spiralling"
(BBC1, 14/3/05). But when you allow for the following changes
in police recording practices, violent crime turns out to
Certain "yobbish" behaviours (eg minor scuffles)
have been reclassified as crime, with the effect of doubling
recorded violent crime.
A violent crime with many victims is no longer recorded
as a single crime. An incident with 5 victims is now recorded
as 5 crimes.
A higher proportion of violent crime is recorded.
The proportion of common assaults (without injury) recorded
rose from around 50% to 68% between 2002 and 2003.
The two main sources of crime figures the police and
the British Crime Survey (BCS) both indicate
that, allowing for these recording changes, violent crime
has fallen since 1998.
(Sources: Guardian, 22/4/05, Panorama BBC1, 17/4/05, Home
Office, Association of Chief Police Officers, British Crime
Scaremongering tricks of politicians/media
It's unsurprising that many people are confused/frightened.
Tabloid newspapers misreport statistical exceptions, such
as the recent increase in imitation weapon use, as evidence
that overall violent crime is "spiralling". (They
don't mention that, according to the police and the BCS, crime
involving real weapons is falling).
The BCS reports violent crime falling by 10% in 2004, and
overall crime falling by 11%. Of course, this is unacceptable
to those who believe crime is rising. As a result, the BCS
is labelled as "unreliable" by the professional
In contrast with the scaremongers, criminologists regard
the BCS as one of the most reliable crime surveys in the world
(due partly to its large sample of 40,000 people). The BCS
shows higher crime levels than recorded police figures, since
it takes into account unreported/unrecorded crime. For this
reason, the BCS was once favoured by scaremongering politicians/media.
Since 1995, however, the BCS has shown consistent falls in
crime, including violent crime. The politicians/media who
once favoured the BCS now favour the police figures instead
(since, given a superficial reading, they show more crime
But even the police figures reinforce/confirm BCS findings
when investigated in more detail (eg allowances made for recording
changes). The two sets of figures are published together by
Office. Neither support the media claims that violent
crime or overall crime is "spiralling".
Surprising Crime Figures
Around half of all violent crimes result in no
injury whatsoever (according to both police figures and BCS).
71% of mugging (robbery and snatch theft) incidents
result in no injury.
The number of violent incidents has fallen by 36%
Property crime (burglary, theft, etc) has fallen
46% since 1995.
The average household is burgled only once every
Number of deaths caused by firearms
in 2004: 70
Number of deaths caused by firearms in 2003: 77
Number of serious injuries caused by firearms in 2004:
Number of serious injuries caused by firearms in 2003:
According to the BCS, "there was
an increase of less than one per cent in firearm offences,
and a fall of around two per cent in homicides" in the
Note that in a recent BBC news report (BBC1, 14/3/05), violent
gun crime was reported as "spiralling".
The BCS showed a steady rise in crime from 1981 to 1995,
then a fall in every year since. Police recorded crime figures
rose in the 1980s, peaked in 1992, then fell until 1998-1999,
when police recording practices began to be changed (see above),
creating artificial increases upto the present.
(Note: crime figures quoted are for England and Wales).
More information on police recorded crime figures and
the British Crime Survey:
(Latest BCS report 1MB)