More than once in recent years, I've written a piece around this time about crime levels and how they are falling - and have been so for a number of years. Only in January this year, I wrote about the Lib Dem spokesmoron David Laws falsely claiming that violent crime was up, back in 2004, I had some words for Andrew Mitchell - apparently the ninth most powerful person in the West Midlands, which speaks more for the paucity of power in Birmingham than anything else. 2005 saw the police have a go at the lying Tories trying to instill fear in the electorate and also David Cameron spouting more falsehoods during the same campaign.
Simply put, we're safer now than we have been in almost three decades. Crime is down by around 10% - the figures are much the same for the British Crime Survey and police reported crime. Violent crime is down 12%, vehicle related offences down 11%, vandalism down 10%, burglary and personal theft are holding stable.
The Tories wheeled out David Davies on BBC Radio 4's PM programme - no, not the rookie MP for Haltemprice, but his homonymous colleague for Monmouth who also happens to be a Special Constable. Well, he's certainly special. He showed his knowledge of the British Crime Survey by claiming that it is 'little more than an opinion poll.' He then proceeded to give us his opinion that violent crime was on the up.
Rather than trusting to a single, unreliable witness, the BCS focusses on people's experience of crime, not their opinion of it and it now asks around 40,000 people about it (rather more than the typical 1000 or so you see on a political poll). There are imperfections - it doesn't tackle crime against young people at the moment, but that will be rectified in future surveys. It is regarded as the most accurate barometer of actual experience of crime, as it suggests that around half of crime isn't reported - that's also why it doesn't cover some of the most serious crimes, as murder has a particularly high reporting rate and also the victim doesn't tend to be around to report their experience. Sexual offences are also deemed too sensitive for questions in even a confidential survey.
Time for another graphic, showing changes in crime over the past few years. Crime has been pretty much halved in the past decade, with some categories down even more - burglary is down by almost two thirds. Hardly the crime wave that David Cameron warned of back in 2005, more of a receding tide.
Even if you look at the reported crime figures, all crime was down 9%, violence against the person was down 8%, the most serious violence against the person was down 12%, sexual offences down 7%, robbery down 16%, burglary down by 4%, offences against vehicles down 14% and criminal damage down 13%. Robbery is an interesting one - this is an urban offence centred on three metropolitan areas - the Met, West Midlands and Manchester. Drug offences have risen by 18% and this has a very high clear-up rate - 95% of offences are followed by arrest and action - but this is due to the fact that the offences only really come to light when someone is arrested. Effectively, the offence is often almost a consequence of being searched or arrested, not the cause.
One area that the BCS does explore is the perception of crime and here, we see a similar curiosity to that which affects the NHS. If you ask people about crime in their area, they will usually say that it is on the decrease, but will also reckon that crime is worsening nationally. Views of the NHS are similar - individual experiences are good, but people believe that this is the exception, rather than the rule. Interestingly,
Readers of national ‘tabloids’ were nearly twice as likely as those who read national ‘broadsheets’ to think the crime rate nationally had increased ‘a lot’ (44% and 24% respectively).
It isn't just the politicians that want to scare us - the tabloids know that there are sales in them there lies.