Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Fun With Numbers: Part II

After the Aussie gun debacle, I wandered over to see how our British cousins are faring after disarming their citizenry. I was in for a surprise. The British Home Office reports that Violent Crime is tumbling down to it's lowest level in twenty years; in fact all crime is down.

Well, I figured I was wrong. Taking guns away from law-biding citizens indeed does the trick.

But then I read this, and I got an incredible warm, gushy feeling, you know, the kind you get when you pick up a loveable, squirming puppy and it pisses all over your chest:

"Note: Violent crime, as measured by the BCS, includes common assault, wounding, robbery and snatch theft. It does not include homicide (as the victims cannot be surveyed) and other types of violent crime, like firearms offences."

Note to reader: BCS is the British Crime Survey

So what's going on? This report at News Max (March 2001) begins to peel back the facade of civility surrounding England's anti-gun laws.

To the great consternation of British authorities concerned about tourism revenue, a June CBS News report proclaimed Great Britain "one of the most violent urban societies in the Western world." Declared Dan Rather: "This summer, thousands of Americans will travel to Britain expecting a civilized island free from crime and ugliness ... [but now] the U.K. has a crime problem ... worse than ours."

Thousands of Americans also traveled to CBS for an unbiased story from Gunga Dan and have come away disappointed. But he got it right this time...

Not surprisingly to many observers, the violent crime rate has risen dramatically and steadily since gun bans have been instituted. That's a trend seen wherever strict gun control laws have been implemented. And that's the part of the story British officials have tried to keep under wraps.

A headline in the London Daily Telegraph back on April 1, 1996, said it all: "Crime Figures a Sham, Say Police." The story noted that "pressure to convince the public that police were winning the fight against crime had resulted in a long list of ruses to 'massage' statistics," and "the recorded crime level bore no resemblance to the actual amount of crime being committed."

The coppers know Barbara Streisand when they smell her.

For example, where a series of homes were burgled, they were regularly recorded as one crime. If a burglar hit 15 or 20 flats, only one crime was added to the statistics.

This is what is known as cooking the books. All that needs to be done is "reclassify" the crime or simply refuse to report a specific type of incident. I have seen it done recently at the local level.

More recently, a 2000 report from the Inspectorate of Constabulary charges Britain's 43 police departments with systemic under-classification of crime – for example, by recording burglary as "vandalism." The report lays much of the blame on the police's desire to avoid the extra paperwork associated with more serious crimes.

Britain's justice officials have also kept crime totals down by being careful about what to count.

It gets better.

"American homicide rates are based on initial data, but British homicide rates are based on the final disposition." Suppose that three men kill a woman during an argument outside a bar. They are arrested for murder, but because of problems with identification (the main witness is dead), charges are eventually dropped. In American crime statistics, the event counts as a three-person homicide, but in British statistics it counts as nothing at all. "With such differences in reporting criteria, comparisons of U.S. homicide rates with British homicide rates is a sham," the report concludes.

What a concept! Give Misha the credit at AIR... this is merely an "Undocumented DOA!" Case closed, let's say we hit the pub for a pint, no?

Explaining away the disparity between crime reported by victims and the official figures became so difficult that, in April 1998, the British Home Office was forced to change its method of reporting crime, and a somewhat more accurate picture began to emerge. In January 2000, official street-crime rates in London were more than double the official rate from the year before.

When you cook the crime books like this you create a potentially very dangerous situation. Policy decisions are supposed to be data-driven, that is, you establish a statistical basis that will support your policy recommendations. When the statistical base you create only exists in the fevered imaginations of liberal politicians, your policies are going to go right down the crapper. And that is exactly what has happened in Merry Ole.

When the United Nations sees the train wreck, you know it's a doozy. This from the September 19,2005 London Times:

A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America. England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.

The study, based on telephone interviews with victims of crime in 21 countries, found that more than 2,000 Scots were attacked every week, almost ten times the official police figures. They include non-sexual crimes of violence and serious assaults.

Violent crime has doubled in Scotland over the past 20 years and levels, per head of population, are now comparable with cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Tbilisi.

Based on a crime survey of the world's top industrialized countries, the U.N. report indicates that a resident of the United Kingdom is nearly 3 times more likely to become a victim of violent assault than is a citizen of the United States. The report reveals that Scotland is the most violent country in the industrialized world with over 2,000 Scots attacked every week, which amounts to about 3 percent of the population on an annual basis. England and Wales are close behind with 2.8 percent of the population falling victim to violent assault. By comparison, Americans are victimized by violent offenders at a rate of 1.2 percent.

Case closed.

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