Monday, April 2, 2018

The Problem With UK Murder Statistics

In my "Quick Run Around the Web" from yesterday, I noted that London's murder rate now equals that of New York City. However, in the comments, a reader notes that the way the UK counts murders actually severely undercounts them when compared to the United States. He directed me this article-- "Comparing England (or UK) murder rates with the US: More complex than you thought" at Rick Notes--which explains that "We [i.e., the U.S. A.] count and report crimes based on initial data. The Brits count and report crimes based on the outcome of the investigation and trial." (Emphasis in original). The author goes on:
It turns out that the Home office is very restrictive in what they report as "murders."  Still, looking at the detailed report for 2010/2011 the Home office tells us that in the reporting period there were 636 murders "provisionally recorded" for a murder rate of 1.15 per 100,000 --- less than 1/3 the murder rate in the US.
The author dug into other public records in order to ascertain what the murder rate in the UK would be using criteria similar to that of the United States. Analyzing the UK's death register, he found:
        In 2011 329 people died from "assault", 27 by poisoning (not suicide or work related), 361 by strangulation (not suicide), 127 by non-accidental or suicidal drowning, 7 with guns, 2 with explosives, 20 by stabbing, 62 pushed from a high place, 21 run over, and another 198 of "other specified events in various places" . 
        I make that 1154 violent deaths of interest to the police which would in the US be reported as murders, and that doesn't include every death that might be a murder since the "cause of death" of a murder or manslaughter victim might well be an infection or other medical complication resulting from an injury during a crime or assault. That death would be classed as murder in the US but I can't pull it out from the causes of death numbers. Never the less at a minimum this gives us about double the number of "Murders" in England as was reported in the Home Office crime stats.   Edit  Quick math says that if 636 deaths was a rate of 1.15 per 100,000 then 1154 is 2.08 per 100k.  Still substantially lower than the US rate, but substantially higher than the Home Office number. 
The author then turned to determinations made by coroner's inquests (similar to a grand jury) and discovered that "over the last decade coroners have taken to producing 'narrative' verdicts instead of calling something a homicide or an accident or negligent or whatever." Thus:
The Coroners only called 229 of the cases they determined a cause of death on a homicide, and in 4400 cases they filed a "narrative verdict" describing the cause of death in a narrative manner without putting it in a category. If those 4400 cases are what we would normally call murders  that would suggest that the correct number of "violent deaths of interest to the police" is on the order of 4700 for 2011, then the UK murder rate is 8.5 per 100,000 or about 177% of the US murder rate. Now, honestly, we don't know what conclusion as to cause the coroner would have reached if they weren't using [narrative verdicts].  It's entirely possible that very few of them would have been classed as homicides. We don't know.  My point here isn't that the English death rates should be quoted from the highest available but rather, no matter which source I attempt to use, I can't actually get an apples to apples comparison.  The data simply isn't available.  
But, from what the author was able to determine, the UK's murder rate is, at the least, twice what the UK reports. (See also this article from America's 1st Freedom magazine).

         There is evidence that the UK has a higher overall violent crime rate than the U.S.A. For instance, this 2006 Gallop poll revealed that 8% of UK households had been victimized by a violent crime compared to only 5% in the United States. The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control published statistics for 2007 (summarized here--PDF) showed nearly identical rape rates between England/Wales (Scotland was counted separately) and the United States (27.7 and 28.6 per 100,000, respectively); almost identical robbery rates (137 and 133 per 100,000 respectively); and assault rates nearly three times that of the U.S. (730 and 262 per 100,000 respectively). A 2001 article from the Daily Mail cited an international crime report when stating:
         According to the figures released yesterday, 3.6 per cent of the population of England and Wales were victims of violent crime in 1999 - second only to Australia, where the figure was 4.1 per cent. 
         Scotland had a slightly lower rate of violence, at 3.4 per cent. 
         In the U.S., only 2 per cent of the population suffered an assault or robbery. 
          One in 40 people in England and Wales had their cars stolen in 1999, the highest rate in the 17 developed countries examined. 
          Just one in 200 Americans suffered a car theft while in Japan there was only one per 1,000 of the population. 
          The study looked at crime rates in 12 western European countries plus Poland, Canada, the U.S., Australia and Japan. 
         The chances of becoming a victim of any crime in England and Wales were second only to Australia. 
         Here, 26 per cent suffered from crime against an average across all the countries of just 21 per cent. 
         England and Wales are among the countries 'most pressured by crime', the report concludes. 
         The two countries had the equal highest number of crimes per head of population of all 17 states. 
         There were 58 incidents for every 100 inhabitants in England and Wales - the same as Australia. 
         The study said the size of the sample meant first place in many categories came down to statistical accident, suggesting that for many areas of crime Britain may actually be worst in the world.
And these are old reports. Countless articles have reported that the UK's violent crime rates continue to climb:
  • This January 25, 2018 BBC article, for instance, reports that robbery offenses were up 29% over the prior year, sex offenses were up 23%, knife crime offenses were up 21%, and violent crime offenses were up 20%. Also, "[e]xcluding the Hillsborough stadium deaths and last year's terror attacks from the data, 57 more people were killed or murdered than the previous year - the highest total since 2008-9." The article also noted that "recorded sexual offences and violent crimes have more than doubled in three years," and vehicle thefts and gun crimes had been climbing.
  • This April 27, 2017 article from The Guardian reports:
            There have been “small but genuine” increases in murder and other violent crimes, including 13-14% increases in gun and knife crime in 2016, according to the latest police-recorded crime figures.
              The Office for National Statistics said the police data showed a 9% rise in overall crime in 2016, but that had to be viewed alongside the more authoritative crime survey of England and Wales, which showed an apparent 5% fall over the same period. These figures do, however, show an increase in violent crime, with a 10% rise in robberies, a 35% increase in public order offences and a 12% rise in sexual offences, including rapes.
               The English and Welsh police figures include an apparently alarming 21% rise in the number of murders, up 121 to 697, but the figures include 96 cases of manslaughter at Hillsborough in 1989. Once those are excluded the increase is much lower, at 4%.
                 The police data also shows a 19% rise in offences involving violence against the person, but the statisticians say 40% of the increase is accounted for by the inclusion of certain types of harassment offences for the first time.
                    The rise in crime in England and Wales is accelerating, according to police figures, which show a 14% year-on-year increase in offences recorded by forces across England and Wales.
                     Knife crime has gone up even more steeply, by 21% in the 12 months to September, and gun crime has risen by 20%, according to quarterly figures released on Thursday.
                      Police chiefs said the increases – including a 32% rise in domestic burglary to 261,965 offences and an 18% rise in vehicle-related crimes (443,577 offences) alongside the sharp rises in violent crime – marked a turning point after more than 20 years of sustained falls in these categories.
                And, in support of the comments I made yesterday, I would note this March 21, 2018, article from The Guardian which reports that "[i]n total 26 people have been murdered by knives this year alone. Six of them were teenagers, and most of them were black. Hewitt told BBC News that he fears this is having an impact on how people react and how the issue is tackled." The thrust of the article is the concern that since the increased knife deaths are almost exclusively a black problem, people won't care as much.

                       After looking through all this, it appears that the UK is a poster child for Lott's conclusion that less guns equals more crime. 

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