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As I’ve been known to point out

Petty disputes are being recorded as crime in a “completely mad way” that is scaring the public, a police chief has said.

Sir David Thompson, chief constable of the West Midlands, told The Times that verbal spats between neighbours were being registered as criminal incidents in official data submitted to the government.

Police-recorded crime in England and Wales hit a new high last week with a total of 6.5 million offences in the 12 months to June 2022, up from the previous all-time high of 6.3 million in the year to March.

But Sir David said this increase was “almost totally” down to how crime is being recorded after the Home Office decreed that all complaints from the public must be included in official statistics.

What you measure and how you measure it matters. Further, if you don;t know whay is being measured, and how, you can;t draw useful conclusions nor design reasonable policies.

Unfortunately, near all the data received by he centre – to become the feedstock of all that government planning – suffers from this problem. It’s shite, therefore so is the planning. Even before we get into the usual stuff about politics, the idiots who rise to the top in politics and all that. Even if we had sensible people becoming ministers and top bureaucrats the information in would still be shite. Therefore planning isn’t going to work.

10 thoughts on “As I’ve been known to point out”

  1. This is why we have the Crime Survey of England & Wales (formerly the British Crime Survey, before the Scots buggered off). You get a consistent metric year over year, by asking the same questions. The results show crime has fallen more than 50% since the start of the millennium.

  2. @AndrewM: ah, which is why we have daily stabbings, cops abducting and murdering women, and drive bys with automatic weapons ..?

    I don’t remember any of those being so prevalent before…

  3. I don’t understand all the crap about The Chews being our perpetual enemies; it’s obvs the Home Office that is our perpetual enemy.

    In that regard Palmerston was wrong when he said “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

  4. it’s obvs the Home Office that is our perpetual enemy.

    Why just the Home Office? The Treasury is undoubtedly our enemy too.

    In fact, I’m struggling to think of any government ministry that works for the benefit of the British population: the Health department inflicts the NHS upon us; the Education department prevents the education of our children to any useful standard; the Business department is 100% against any business that isn’t a foreign multinational behemoth; the Transport department concentrates on making sure we have no personal transport; etc.

    Perhaps Defence could present a credible case? But to convince me then they’d have to defend us against the rest of the government.

  5. @JuliaM

    The crime survey is the best way to check changes in the level of things like burglary and theft, where if you ask a decent sized sample of people then you’re likely to find a representative proportion of people who suffered it. It isn’t very good for murder (obviously) and other comparatively rare but seriously violent offences. However for those the police statistics are more reliable since they don’t have the issue of under/over-reporting (people not bothering to report thefts they know police won’t investigate vs extra reports of minor disputes as if they were crimes).

    Homicide rate in particular is a pretty robust statistic to use for international comparisons since counting dead bodies is relatively uncontentious. If you’re using it to compare long term trends then it’s worth being aware the modern rate has been suppressed to some extent by improvements in major trauma care over the last few decades, partly due to reorganisation of urban trauma care into specialist centres and partly, or so I’m told, due to new techniques learned by military medics in the Afghan War. As a result a greater proportion of stabbing (and less important for UK, shooting) victims survive who would twenty years ago have died. This means you can’t treat homicide rate as an exact proxy for UK serious violent crime over time. And raw data on stabbings is somewhat underreported since victims who are gang members often won’t report it. So those stats aren’t perfect but they aren’t a terrible guide to the worst crimes. For the kind of low-level crime you’re more likely to fall victim to, crime surveys are better.

  6. Perhaps Defence could present a credible case

    They’re doing a great job defending us from white supremacery and climate change, when they’re not being used to annoy nuclear superpowers who can hit us back harder than we can possibly imagine.

  7. I’ll add it’s quite tricky to get a sense of how common homicide is – it happens sufficiently rarely that most of us don’t know dozens of murdered people (even if you know two or three murder victims that’s not enough to gauge how the rate has changed over time) but sufficiently often news media don’t report most murders (if national news media decided murder was the only story in town, they could fill every minute or column inch of the news with gruesome stories even in a relatively quiet year). So stories we see tend to be those reported at a local level or those killings which they expect to have particular public resonance or shock value, neither being very representative. When so much criminal violence is gang-on-gang and takes place in a media vacuum – not the kind of crime the media expect the wider public to give two hoots about – then the news reports miss out on the main area that drives homicide rates.

    Scroll down to Fig 1 in the Trends section and it seems that homicide rates are trending down at the moment, and broadly similar to levels in the late 70s/early 80s.

  8. It’s easy to see why neighbour disputes get recorded more than theft.
    Not nice being robbed, but 1. you’re insured 2. the perp is anonymous
    Neighbour dispute 1. no insurance 2. he still lives next door.

  9. @philip

    Insurance is often a reason to report something, if only to get a crime number to quote to the insured rather than any expectation something will be done about it!

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