"Violence is spiralling"


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, 17/4/05):

• Certain "yobbish" behaviours (eg minor scuffles) have been reclassified as crime, with the effect of doubling recorded violent crime.

• A violent 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 1998.

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).

Media scaremongering

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".

Violence statistics

• Around half of all violent crimes result in no injury (according to police and BCS).

• 71% of mugging (robbery and snatch theft) incidents result in no injury.

• The number 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:
http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs04/hosb1004.pdf (Latest BCS report – 1MB)