The two main sources of crime statistics in Britain are the
British Crime Survey (BCS) and police recorded crime
figures. Neither show crime spiralling, or even rising.
Both BCS and police figures show that crime rose steadily
in the 1980s, then peaked in the early 1990s, then fell steadily
until 1998/1999. After that, the BCS has shown continued
falls in crime each year, while police recorded figures
have shown some rises, due mainly to changes in recording
procedures beginning in 1998, which have created artificial
increases upto the present.
The media fallacy is to take an element of police recorded
figures, then misreport as follows:
FALLACY 1 Report
an "increase" in a specific area of crime, but fail
to report that the "increase" has been created artificially
by changes to police recording procedures.
FALLACY 2 Report
a statistical anomaly/exception as if it is representative
of overall trends, and fail to indicate relative insignificance
of the anomaly/exception.
Example: Incidents such as minor drunken scuffles
outside pubs have been reclassified as "violent crime",
artificially increasing the total of police-recorded
violent crime. This "increase" in a specific crime
is then falsely presented by some tabloid newspapers as representative
of a general trend in violent crime.
In 2001, the media reported an increase in street crime
(eg robbery and assault), domestic violence and racial attacks.
Of the 589,000 cases of assault, 557,000 were "less
serious attacks such as harassment and common assault",
largely due to drunken youths outside clubs and pubs. The
21% increase in robberies was, to a large extent, due to theft
of mobile phones from teenagers by other teenagers (described
by the Daily Mail as a "playground plague").
The recorded increases in domestic and racial violence were
partly due to "changes in police recording practices
and the increased willingness of victims of domestic violence
and racial attacks to report the offences" (quotes
taken from The Guardian 17/1/2001).
More on violent crime / changes to
recording procedures >
Crime seems to be falling
The British Crime Survey (BCS) has reported a continual
fall in overall crime since 1995. It claims that:
fallen by 25% in the last five years
The risk of
becoming a victim of crime is at an historic low
been a 39% fall in burglary since 1997
household is burgled only once every 50 years
a 31% fall in vehicle-related thefts since 1997
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
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
(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)