The claim that violence is escalating in Britain is based
on misinterpretation of the figures. BBC news, for example,
incorrectly claimed that UK violent crime is "spiralling"
(BBC1 Ten O'Clock News, 14/3/05). When you allow for
the following changes in police recording practices, violent
crime is shown to be falling (as acknowledged by the Association
of Chief Police Officers, quoted by BBC1's Panorama,
behaviours (eg minor scuffles) have been reclassified as crime,
with the effect of doubling recorded violent crime.
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 eg 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) both indicate that, allowing
for these recording changes, violent crime has fallen since
STOP PRESS: The BBC recently upheld our complaint on
misleading crime coverage. More
details here >
(Sources: Guardian, 22/4/05, Panorama
BBC1, 17/4/05, Home Office, Association of Chief Police Officers,
British Crime Survey).
Newspapers often misreport statistical exceptions, such as
the recent increase in imitation firearm use, as evidence
that overall violent crime is "spiralling". (Few
mentioned that, according to the police and the BCS, crime
involving real firearms was falling).
Since 1995 the British Crime Survey (BCS) has shown
consistent falls in crime, including violent crime. Police
figures reinforce/confirm BCS findings when investigated in
detail (eg allowances made for recording changes such as those
listed above). The two sets of figures are published together
by the Home
Office. Neither support the media claims that violent
crime is "spiralling".
of all violent crimes result in no injury (according to police
71% of mugging
(robbery and snatch theft) incidents result in no injury.
of violent incidents has fallen by 36% since 1995.
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: 390
Number of serious injuries
caused by firearms in 2003: 442
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 period 2003/2004.
(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)