The murder rate has fallen to its lowest level in 20 years but police admit that the main reason may be the skills of paramedics and advances in medicine rather than a decline in violent attacks.

Murder is used as an indicative measure for overall crime. Because it\’s one of the very few that are completely definable. You\’ve got a body dead here by violent means. So we can use this as a proxy for other crime which can be more neulous in its definition.

However, if the number of attempted murders is static (and I don\’t know whether they are) but murder itself is falling as a result of better medical treatment then perhaps the fall in the headline rate of murder is not indicative of a fall in general levels of crime or of violent crime against the person.

A similar point is made about battlefield deaths. Military health care is so much better than it was that the ratios of dead to wounded have changed dramatically over the past few decades.

11 thoughts on “Interesting”

  1. Incidentally Timbo , I see you are never off , so to speak , no X-box break ? No seasonal hot toddies , have you no inexplicable instructions to decipher .

    Hope you paused to pull a cracker at some point

  2. Medical technology has undoubtedly played a part in reducing the murder rate but even so the murder rate had been on an upward trajectory (with a few blips) until the start of the recession.

    The fall is probably due to people going out drinking less frequently at the moment.

  3. Brian, follower of Deornoth

    Don’t worry, Ross, the government will solve the problem of rising numbers of attempted murders by redefining them out of existence.

    A ‘Grievous Bodily Harm Gone Wrong’, anybody?

    Unless the victim is one of the privileged groups, of course.

  4. @Ross, no it hadn’t: the murder rate started to trend downwards in the mid-1990s.

    @Brian, this has already been done, for very sensible reasons. GBH with intent carries the same maximum life sentence as attempted murder, but doesn’t require the prosecution to prove intent to kill (merely intent to seriously harm) – so attempted murder charges are rarely brought.

  5. The other thing is the population. Some of the more excitable right-wing newspapers and blogs suggest our population is millions (I think one said 10m or more) higher than official figures show, which means the ‘murder rate’ would in fact be much lower.

  6. That’s the highest yet and in the Independent. So if that’s true (if…) then all the ‘rates’ quoted on anything need to be reduced by more than one-sixth.

  7. “Because it’s one of the very few that are completely definable. You’ve got a body dead here by violent means.”

    It ain’t necessarily so. Killing someone violently doesn’t always end up as murder.

    As noted above, it can end up as GBH. It can also end up as manslaughter- even for quite blatant and deliberate violence. It’s easier to get a conviction when there’s less to prove in terms of mens rea.

    It’s also worth noting that the link between killings and convictions isn’t straightforward. One killing can result in no convictions; or one person can be killed by multiple assailants and the killing can result in several convictions.

    All the above need to be taken into account if you want to derive a proxy for overall crime rates.

    It may make more sense to base comparisons on coroners’ findings of unlawful killing. Except that usually there has to be a body- and sometimes murder victims just disappear and no inquest follows.

    Finally, if you’re looking for a trend, there are two other distortions to be aware of.
    1) Harold Shipman killed 218-250 people over a number of years, but they all tend to appear in the statistics in one year, when the murders were recognised as such.
    2) The London Tube bombings- 52 victims, quite a big blip in the overall figures, but hopefully a one-off and not part of a trend.

  8. The population figure is interesting. Derived from food intake. The number based on sewage production is (from memory) 10 million more than the official figure. Can’t find the link alas.

  9. I’m not convinced that improved medical treatment makes much difference to the murder rate. In the case of spouse murdering spouse, for example, the victim may never benefit from treatment. In the case of street thug attacking a rival with intent to kill, s/he is more likely to use a deadlier weapon to ensure that the job gets done.

    In war, the survival rate of western soldiers has improved. But at the same time, the nature of their injuries has changed. Just as medical treatment has adapted, so has the technology of killing.

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