As I'm sure you are aware, a big story this morning is how the police have, apparently, been 'undercounting' crime. The main charge is that a number of case of grievous bodily harm have been categorised as less serious assaults instead. The end result of this is that the most serious type of violent crime has gone up 22%.
Rather than take apart the statistics, which others have already done, I'd much rather look at what Jacqui Smith has said about the figures. In the same BBC article, she says:
"Let's be clear, this isn't crime that wasn't being recorded or wasn't being reported or wasn't being dealt with. It just wasn't being recorded in the category 'most serious violence'. "So all of this crime has been dealt with."
Hang on a minute. Even if the crimes were being 'dealt with' wouldn't their incorrect categorisation affect, say, how they were prosecuted? If someone is recorded as committing a minor assault, whereas it was in fact a case of grievous bodily harm, won't they then be prosecuted for committing a minor assault only? After all, if the CPS came back to the police disputing their opinion on what charge to use, surely the police would change the records to reflect the more serious charge? Have offenders received lighter sentences because of this recording error?
"It's just that I wanted to focus particularly on most serious violence and therefore we needed to be sure that everybody in terms of categorising it was categorising it in the same way, so that we'd be able to track whether or not all the things that we're putting into place are making a difference."
A rise of 22% would indicate that these things the government has been 'putting into place' are not working.
"What the statisticians are clear about is that the increases in the most serious forms of violence have actually in terms of numbers been more than counteracted by the decreases in less serious violence."
This says a lot about statistics. While it might be true that this rise in serious violent crime has been offset from a statistical point of view by a decrease in less serious crime, that misses the point. Apply such a statistical analysis to another situation; a hospital, for example. It would be like boasting that a particularly vicious cold was prevented from spreading, but that MRSA killed an extra ten people than it did the year before. It means that during a pub fight you are less likely to be punched in the head or shoved around a bit, but are more likely to have your eyes cut out and your face slashed off with a broken bottle. Wonderful.
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