Monday, May 26, 2008

Can we talk about lies and exaggerations again for a sec

Crime. Little gets people going more that talking about the state of our streets vis a vis the ability of little old ladies on zimmer frames to walk around drunk at 2 a.m. with hundred dollar bills sticking out of their pockets without getting mugged. That and the over-use of apostrophe's.
My mum is forever crowing about how unsafe the streets of Ottawa have become over the last few years.
Statistically violent crime is at its lowest point in my lifetime. That's 40 long, unproductive years folks.
There's a crime wave going on in the UK. Everyone has a knife. Every minute of every day someone is attacked with a knife.
Or so the Daily Mail and it's ilk will lead you to believe.

Knife crime 'not increasing' | UK news |
The fatal stabbing of a man yesterday in one of London's busiest shopping streets in broad daylight has again thrown up headlines about knife crime in Britain.
Incidents such as these have fuelled the public perception that knife
crime is out of control, yet this is not borne out by the statistics.

Statistics. Facts. The last refuge of scoundrels.
Knife crime 'not increasing' | UK news |
According to the British Crime Survey, knife-enabled crime (any crime involving a knife) over the past decade has remained stable at around 6-7% of all crime, comprising 30% of all homicides.

In fact, the most recent crime survey by the Metropolitan police showed that knife crime has actually dropped by 15.7% over the past two years, from 12,122 to 10,220 incidents.

Don't get me wrong. The quoted stat of a knife-related injury every 52 minutes is still pretty serious and needs something done about. I don't really know if it's out of control or not, but it leaves a lot of room for improvement.
For comparison's sake, in 2006, Canada's homicide rate worked out to 1.85 per 100,000 of population, Scotland 1.83, England and Wales 1.41, Northern Ireland 1.32, Japan 0.64, and the US (not a good basis for comparison) 5.69. Source.
I always feel safe in Japan, and Canada, but London makes me a bit edgy depending on where you go. Yet, England despite it's problems is still pretty safe. A further yet comes when you think of how sensationalist the British Media (If it bleeds, it leads so find something that bleeds.) is. This despite the assault on the MP or the death of that Harry Potter actor.
I realize that I've conflated homicide with knife crime here. I don't think it's that big a problem, considering that all stats indicate that knife crime is lower than you think, and so is homicide. The general trend in violent crime has been somewhat downward since the 1970s.
This doesn't mean that things are all hunky-dory. We can always get violence down further, but not eliminate it. Tackling the root causes, things like opportunity, social exclusion, isolation, poverty, education, will do more than a thousand Daily Mail articles or that stupid samurai sword ban.

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