What’s happening here is that the British Crime Survey is suddenly being discounted by Tory politicians because it’s showing falling crime levels (and, indeed, has been since the mid-1990s), whereas the police statistics record increases in violent crimes (but falls in most other categories). They’ve latched onto the one category and set of stats that are of use to them. David Davis, the shadow home secretary, will no doubt have criminologists everywhere in stitches—or in shock—with this assertion: “The most reliable measure of crime is that which is reported to the police”.
As Howard goes on to explain,
when it comes to trends there should be little doubt that the BCS will be more reliable than the ‘official’ police figures. Unless it’s inconvenient for you as an opposition politician in the early stages of the run-up to a general election.
This article has some more rationalizations from Joyce Lee Malcolm as to why the inconvenient BCS figures can’t be trusted:
The government now seems to be insisting that the police actually record a higher level of the crimes reported to them, but don’t seem willing to explain what proportion or how it is being done. As a result, as crime rates go up dramatically in police statistics, especially for violent crime, the government keeps saying they are not really going up, it is just that the police are using a different method of recording crime. But for some crime, such as murder, the police could not easily have been under-reporting in the past, although they do track murders to pull them from the totals if the final judgment is anything less than a court finding of murder. At this point the government has used the “new method of calculating crime” excuse so repeatedly and without explanation that I am inclined not to trust their assurances that crime is going down or remaining steady. Murder, for instance, is at the highest level since statistics were kept.
If you look in the crime report you will find explanations of the changes in the police statistics. Explanations that Malcolm pretends do not exist.
I think the international crime victimization study released in 2002 is more reliable and offers a comparison of how England and Wales are doing compared to other industrial countries. Sadly, England has many times the violent crime of most European countries. But their methods of fighting crime by disarming and prosecuting victims is so counter-productive that the results do not surprise me. Unfortunately it is in the government’s interest to demonstrate that its crime-fighting initiative is successful, which makes its assertions doubtful.
My comments on each of Malcolm’s four sentences:
- Malcolm does not give any reason at all why the ICVS study should be more reliable. The BCS has a sample size twenty times as large as the ICVS and no reputable statistician would consider the ICVS to be more reliable.
- The ICVS does show that England has more violent crime than most European countries, but Malcolm has greatly exaggerated the difference. The study shows that English rate of contact crime (3.6%) is not “many times” that of most European countries (average 2.2%).
- As explained here, Malcolm’s claim that England prosecutes victims is concocted by selective quoting from cases and doctoring quotes from law texts.
- Malcolm is a noted pro-gun advocate, so it is in her interest to demonstrate that English gun control has increased crime, which makes her assertions doubtful.