We Could Do Better On Crime Statistics


This is a link to a thoughtful criticism of Canadian crime statistics – worth a read for ideas on what might be wrong with ours and statistics generally.

Crime has been coming down across most of the EU, Britain, the USA and Canada for a decade.  Citizens generally don’t believe this to be the case.  Yet some of the crime that is down would be hard to dispute – homicide volume is the classic.  It’s hard to think cops around the world have become adept at hiding the bodies.

My own street has been almost completely peaceful since the removal of a dire couple of druggies who have caused trouble in spades wherever they have lived and continue to do so where they are now.  Prison makes no difference, except in the time they are off the street.  In the US people like them spend more time in jail.  Removing them from our society and their children might reduce our crime a great deal and prevent the ‘generational effect’.  Decent statistics (partly as argued in the Canadian article) would give us a clear idea.  The guess is that about 100,000 of these bastard homes exist.  If the significance of each is as strong as the one once next to us and getting rid of them as significant, then incarceration would make a massive difference, unless others would just emerge in the wake.  This could be tested too.

One reason given for the drop in US crime has been legalised abortion – the likely criminals getting an early death sentence.  Crude as this seems we should pursue a structuralist analysis of our offenders.

Across the world, the purpose of police statistics seems to be to tell the public crime is falling.  It’s pretty obvious from education to banking that false-accounting is rife, as is image management.

Police are presumably better organised and using better technology than ever before – this may be building a genuine deterrent effect or set of them.  My feeling is  crime is actually shifting, just as my former neighbours moved and into new categories.  Insurance rates against crime are not falling.  The statisticians don’t deal us a full deck.


Sad ‘News’ On Police Numbers – But Be Wary



We have news today of substantial reductions in police numbers.  I believe our police are inefficient and often fail the people they should be protecting, but I don’t welcome any of this cutting – much as predicted by thinblueline long ago.  In the weird way economics works we can’t ‘afford’ any of the public sector cuts.  The cuts can be found in a link above on ‘austerity’ and the research the claim that a 10% reduction will lead to a 3% increase in crime in the other link.  What was actually said in that research follows:

3. The weight of evidence is strengthened by the fact that the extant studies use a
variety of methods. However the causal claims made by many of them are
somewhat doubtful, and care should be taken when interpreting the results.
4. Most of these recent studies converge on two key findings:
a. Higher levels of police are linked to lower levels of property crime.
Evidence for an association between police numbers and violent crime is
b. A summary of existing studies would put the elasticity of property crime
in relation to police numbers at approximately -0.3 – that is, a 10 per cent
increase in officers will lead to a reduction in crime of around 3 per cent
(and vice versa). ‘Conclusion’ at this stage is a misnomer. Despite the apparent consistency of recent research it is too early to say, for all the reasons given above, that there is a direct causal link between higher numbers of police and lower crime. Considerably more work would need to be done before such a claim could be made. In particular, more work is needed on the difference in the (potential) effect of specific, large-scale changes in deployment patterns due to terrorist attacks and other shocks, and that of general numbers of police or arrest rates averaged across a large number of areas. A related task is to locate the boundary between marginal changes in numbers – which go unnoticed – and gross changes – which can have a marked impact on crime. What seems fair to say, however,is that there is relatively strong evidence for the potential of an effect of police numbers on crime, particularly with regard to property and other acquisitive forms of offending.

In plainer words, we don’t know the links between police numbers and crime.

Many people have become fed-up with our public services generally and we hear a great deal about how much better they would be in the hands of the much more efficient private sector.  This is that private sector that sends jobs abroad, ‘pays’ a few people fortunes and turns out to have been involved in all kinds of excess and inefficiency the tax payer has had to fund and hasn’t finished funding.

We need more police not less and there is a labour force with nothing else to do waiting to do the job.  “Economics” means we can’t go down this route.  Police inefficiency is due to factors across the CJS and our society generally – yet the ‘only means’ to fix this is to sack a load of people – most trying their best.

The idea of a link between police numbers and crime is silly.  Roughly speaking, British Leyland might have needed 60 workers to produce one car and a modern plant 6 – yet the new plant has all kinds on innovation and investment.  Copperfield has made this point in comparing his jobs here and in Canada.  There are clearly likely to be many links between police numbers, investment, system improvements and social conditions and crime.

Factories wiped out people and yet increased production – but this was nearly always because of new machines and improved business processes.  Whilst I believe we need radical economic solutions to much wider problems, police staff could have been offered other solutions, such as wage cuts and salary caps to cope with the cuts.

The real issues of crime and policing it remain unaddressed.  In terms of increases in crime, the collapse of world economics is likely to be a bigger factor than any redundancies in police staff.  It is doubtful that police really prevent crime as many anti-social crime incidents merely repeat because the intervention of agencies is so useless anyway.  Doubling or halving useless action is not likely to lead to change.  If police could attend Pilkington-like incidents and stop them more officers would not be needed – as they can’t stop the jerks involved prevention would entail vast presence and number increase to prevent by presence.

This kind of sacking to make cuts is stupid in a world in which the private sector cannot take up the slack.  Apart from anything else, those officers left in post will be over-paid against the norms now – the salary cap and pay cut route presents much more value for the tax payer and for the poor sods who lose their jobs and probably for those left with increasing demand.

Human Resourcing Evil

Inspector Gadget

Image via Wikipedia

Most of us don’t think much on how the world works.  We know little of science, economics or human sciences.  I should know, having taught them all in universities.  Students who get into these ‘centres of excellence’ (which they both can be and are usually not) are brighter than average and most of them ‘know’ more rubbish than knowledge and have not developed high level learning skills.  We can test this, but most of the time don’t as it would expose our teaching failures.  To some extent, of course, great works and theories are not established by evidence, but through mannered acceptance.  ‘Education, education, education’, as its boring repetition and  patronising tone suggests, is built in cultural control and moralising.

To claim to know because I’ve been doing teaching and research is problematic.  Cops claim to know about policing because they do it and the barely hidden claim the rest of us can’t because we don’t.  Experience is more important than book learning.  This is both true and false.  Such matters have been discussed over thousands of years.  What one finds teaching people is that most re-invent the wheel or regurgitate small parts of the available literature (perhaps all their teachers know).  There is very little scholarship about and little Enlightenment spirit.  I won’t argue anything on this.  It’s been done.  Do you know about the work or where to find it?

Deep set in what we do are habits of human resource management.  I don’t mean the turgid dross you may experience at work or in a HRM module or reading Harvard Business Review.  It’s deeper than Inspector Gadget filling in Personal Development Reviews when he’d rather be out catching crooks who will be let off by Magistrates.  Human resource management is an evil that underscores nearly all our thinking and attempts at improving social practice.  I’ll say more later through some practical examples, but will say now that my thesis is that the vast majority of us live on ‘benefits’ that kick in because we are employed as cogs in the wheel of this evil.

Costs of Crime

Crime is estimated to cost the UK economy about £78 billion every year.  This is a Home Office estimate.  Mine is higher, but let’s avoid the trap of throwing figures about only to discover we were all making them up in the first place like bankers on heat over junk bonds.

What I want to know is how much crime happens around me, and whether I want to stop it.  I know my former neighbours were committing crime more or less all the time, and that because they were next-door-neighbours sharing a party wall with us, they inflicted massive damage on us that was never recorded, and that cops and local authority agencies were even worse.  In the last month, someone over the road has rented to a notorious burglar and druggie via his buggie-pushing companion.  The landlord didn’t know, apparently, and has just taken a lot of property out of the house having been told.  ‘Burglar Bill’ is now a ‘borrower-from-shops’ and has stated he means to reform, though he is visited by unworthy scum and one has doubts.

It’s hard to get crime figures right – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10338732 – but I can’t really believe as a researcher that the stuff police and the BCS produce is any good.  It all starts in the wrong place.

I’m really only playing with Zemanta at this stage, but comments welcome.  Probably safe to say this guy’s ‘crimes’ mostly went unrecorded either as crimes or in terms of the amounts involved!

Michael Milken

Image via Wikipedia

Looks like a fairly standard corner-boy from round here!  Crime is very difficult to pin down.  Miserable druggies shooting up and then making neighbours’ lives a misery with blaring music, almost constant domestic violence, thieving, corrupting others and kids is a crime, organised gangs of insurance muggers, even the general white collar crime of high fees as a ‘professional’.

I’m watching ‘Johnny Come Lately’ as I write this morning, an old Cagney vehicle with a delightful old lady standing up against small-town corruption.  He’s more or less one of the ‘evil poor’ and she’s taken him on at her newspaper.  I could do with the job!  Probably overqualified!  Life is sadly not so simple.  The crooks in the film are the rich bastards who build crappy houses and don’t sort the water supplies out.  They want the old dear to publish their ZPFNulabour editorials – she’s less of a pushover, broke, than our current lot.  We mostly have clean water here now, though I can’t use my hosepipe after three successive cricket wash-outs.

There are ways, even using ‘statistics’, to work out what crime is as it affects me, you and everyone, in terms of what it is and how it affects us.  We won’t get to that through some cub reporter on the Notlob Evening News of course.  I don’t have a black maid to clean up my clothes.  I guess I have relevant experience as a cop, detective and academic.  Maybe our blogs are the equivalent of the ‘Hicksville Argus’ – at least until we find a way to make them bothersome?  Cagney keeps bumping into decent people, but our lives are amongst the vile middle classes of the Australian novel ‘The Slap’.  Something in today’s Observer on that – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Slap – something of the dull liberalism that seems to prevent us saying anything, prevents us getting at crime.  Cagney’s only had his job a few days, has a better suit than me and an offer of ‘riches’ from the crooks.  Where do I go wrong!  I like to think I would accept this offer,  but I’m too weak.

We can build the ‘statistics of crime’ from the ground up, using some fairly standard modern sociology and business estimating.  There’s a bit of an example –http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10338732 – in the BCS experiment on crime affecting children.  We aren’t showing much willing for the larger debate though.  Even this Zemanta thing throws up quite a lot of relevant material, amongst loads of irrelevance.

I know what many of the stories would be.  In principle, we could go from Dawkin’s notion of ‘religion as a crime against humanity’, through Wall Street to the kid bullied in the playground.  Big task, and bigger for me as I believe we need a ‘New Enlightenment’.  I’m not talking about talking either – when it comes to a lot of very obvious, drug-related, thieving crime, we can’t rely on being able to report it safely and see it dealt with.  Translate ‘The Slap’ to someone trying to report a vile family of drug dealers and you might well find the same story.