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Map of the week: Serious violence

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Mark Easton | 08:39 UK time, Monday, 28 July 2008

My map of the week is taken from the newly published crime figures for England and Wales and shows how some places suffer significantly higher levels of serious violence.

Home Office map showing areas of serious violent crimes

"Most serious violence against the person'" includes those crimes recorded by the police where the injury inflicted or intended is life threatening: homicide and causing death by either dangerous driving, careless driving when under the influence of drink or drugs, or aggravated vehicle-taking, attempted murder, more serious wounding or acts endangering life (eg wounding, poisoning and use of weapons and explosives, all with intent to cause serious injury).

The independent statisticians who now control the data say this: "Offences of most serious violence against the person will tend to provide a more reliable measure of trends than overall violence recorded by the police as they are more immune to changes in reporting and recording."

Most serious violence against the person offences accounted for 0.3% of all police recorded crime. There were 16,939 recorded offences compared with 19,150 in 2006/07, a decrease of 12% and the smallest total seen for nine years.

Now, I know some of you will find this hard to believe and might argue that the fall is down to the police recording less of it or people not bothering to report it. This seems unlikely because of the seriousness of the crimes.

For such offences to be increasing requires us to believe that as more people get shot, stabbed, poisoned or run-over by a drunk, fewer people report the matter to the authorities.

Given that the British Crime Survey which regularly asks 50,000 people of their experience of crime also finds such offences to be falling is further evidence that it is going down not up. The latest figures for woundings show a statistically significant decrease of 19% between the 2006/07 and 2007/08.

Most serious violence against the person is concentrated in a small number of geographical areas. The average rate for England and Wales was 0.3 offences per 1,000 population in 2007/08. A comparison of local authority rates shows that the 21 authorities with rates more than twice the average for England and Wales represent 10% of the population but account for 26% of offences of most serious violence against the person.

I tried to get a similar map for Scotland but nothing relevant exists. However, if you want to see what is happening there you can go to this site and make your own.


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  • 1. At 10:32am on 28 Jul 2008, Gingerbridgeman wrote:

    The spot on the front page reads as follows: 'Serious violence data is good gauge of crime trends.'

    It should read 'data are'.

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  • 2. At 10:59am on 28 Jul 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    Actually many violent offences including shooting are not reported. My father removed a bullet from a Glaswegian gangster (who I won't name for legal reasons) who came in to hospital with blood pumping from a hole in his leg. He claimed he was doing DIY and the drill slipped. After the op the junior surgeon who assisted the op dropped the mangled bullet in the guys lap and said 'here's your drill bit back'.

    Equally there was an epidemic of drug dealers slashing the ham strings of non-paying 'customers' with stanley knives which kept the surgeons busy all night but which were rarely reported as the victims didn't want to risk greater reprisals.

    The only plus side is that this sort of crime doesn't directly impact upon law abiding citizens.

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  • 3. At 12:03pm on 28 Jul 2008, Dave wrote:

    I must have missed something here. What point is the correspondent trying to make by saying that we might be surprised to hear that violent crimes are actually down this year? If that's what the data says, then why might we interpret it any other way? OK, so there have been a small number of truly horrific crimes committed in the last year but, just because the media milk them for all their gory glory, this outcome doesn't mean that the threat to the public at large is any greater than it was a year ago.

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  • 4. At 12:14pm on 28 Jul 2008, 1JustCurious wrote:

    I recently read the front page of a newspaper which had 2 stories. One was about a drop in crime and the other was a drop in the need for secondary school places because of demographic changes. I suggest this may account for the drop in violent crime. So we still have violent youth but less of them. Which means we still have on an individual basis a need to help our youth. I also observe that with our increasing/too high/acceptable (choose your word) number of illegals in the country who are much less likely to report anything (such as violence) to the police we have a two tiered problem.

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  • 5. At 12:22pm on 28 Jul 2008, Lazarus wrote:

    Woohoo! More statistics! There seem to be even more of these than normal at the moment - the Nu-Liebour Ministry For Truth must be trying extra hard to convince us that everything's going according to plan.

    Unfortunately, as with every other set of figures, the only people fooled are BBC journalists, cabinet members, and ever-gullible left-wing psuedo-intellectuals who rarely leave the house.

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  • 6. At 12:25pm on 28 Jul 2008, doctor-gloom wrote:

    Good stuff Mark:

    It certainly seems that the closer we get to densely populated metropolitan areas the figures rise above the average. It would be interesting to see a similar map for violent youth crime, especially given the current 'stabbing' madness dominating the news

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  • 7. At 12:46pm on 28 Jul 2008, hants_gw wrote:


    Without wishing to join in the chorus of "you're in the pay of the government" there are some odd results in that graph. London seems surprisingly peaceful. In fact that map shows most of London being less violent than large parts of Devon and Cornwall. Hmm. Then if you just let your eyes drift to the darkest hotspot you find yourself looking at South Wales, including that well known centre of violence against the person - the Gower peninsula. Kent looks pretty dodgy too, by comparison with the sea of white across most of the rest of the south. And is Birmingham really so much worse than London?

    The colouring is based on local authority boundaries, so I suspect that is distorting the apparent results, since the granularity in London (many geographically small authorities) is very different to Devon and Cornwall.

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  • 8. At 12:50pm on 28 Jul 2008, nodrogvic wrote:

    How come the Brecon Beacons are the serious crime 'capital' of the UK, then?

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  • 9. At 12:55pm on 28 Jul 2008, DisgustedOfMitcham2 wrote:

    Interesting stuff, but it's not us you need to tell: please tell all your colleagues in the media who keep bombarding us with all the "shock horror epidemic of violent crime" stories.

    But I suspect you'll be facing an uphill struggle. Isn't the first thing you get taught at journalism school "never let the truth get in the way of good story"?

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  • 10. At 1:03pm on 28 Jul 2008, aardware wrote:


    Croydon, being a part of Surrey comes up white on that map. I live in Croydon and the papers are constantly full of stabbings and violence that happen in the Croydon area.

    We have a portable ambulance station that sometimes sits in the High Street on a Friday night!

    Still, just goes to show what you can do with statistics if you try hard enough.

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  • 11. At 1:57pm on 28 Jul 2008, PensivePrudence wrote:

    Since so many violent incidents have been cautioned and not charged, obviously the figures are going to show a decrease. The truth is quite different.

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  • 12. At 2:00pm on 28 Jul 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #8. The Brecon beacons are a major army training area. I'd suggest its small population plus a fair few drunken squadies means that per head there's more violent crime than many metropolitan areas.

    Incidentally I was a squaddie and trained in Brecon so I know EXACTLY what drunken soldiers are like.

    Same applies for Devon and Cornwall: very little crime, but very small populations. A few stabbings in plymouth work out as more crimes per head than Brixton.

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  • 13. At 2:10pm on 28 Jul 2008, Peter_Sym wrote:

    #11. These are recorded OFFENCES. Even if the perpetrator is never found, never mind cautioned the actual offence is still recorded.

    if the stats showed people convicted of a crimes I'd agree with your interpretation, but clean up rate, and incidence of crime are two totally different stats.

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  • 14. At 2:25pm on 28 Jul 2008, sbusdjh wrote:

    Cynics like djlazurus and aardware will never be convinced by any government statistics unless they happen to confirm their own experiences, perceptions or prejudices.

    We need a truly independent statistics regulator to restore trust in these kinds of figures.

    At the same time though, the often sensationalist reporting of crime by the media should also be scrutinised.

    The BBC should make an entertaining but informative programme or series about statistics and it's time the subject was taught more in schools and universities.

    It's too important to be left to anoraks!

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  • 15. At 2:51pm on 28 Jul 2008, SovereignJaguar wrote:

    Apart from my other concerns, coming from Cardiff I find these figures amazing. There has to be something very wrong in both the way the figures are recorded and collated and the basis upon which the figures are collected.

    It does not need corrupt politicians (as Mark wrote in another crime blog) nor wayward statisticians to present unreliable figures. The government has frequently changed the methods by which most statistics are collected and it is understandable that where crime is concerned they wish to present a 'better picture'. Neither Tory nor Labour governments have taken the public wish to deal effectively with crime, seriously. In reality they have no idea what to do; successive Home Secretaries have all protested their determination to 'do something' about crime, but even if they doubled the numbers of police they would not tackle the root causes.

    The most serious problem in controlling crime is the lack of police free and ready to deal with it; increasing the total number has not increased the number available as there is still a mountain of paperwork and other administration work - attending court and other hearings, probation matters et al - and the string of comments from the public and business sectors about the failure of police to take any interest, let alone action, in so much crime clearly shows where the Home Office is failing.

    The map must show the figures given. Whether or not it truly reflects reality is questionable. I would be surprised if all those of us who live in the 'twice the average' areas together with those who live in 'below the average' areas agreed with the conclusions. Then there is the frequently mentioned problem of so much overcrowding in our prisons. The prison population has increased steadily over the last 10 years; more prisons are being built; police cells are frequently used in place of prison cells. Are we expected to believe that this increasing problem is due solely to a huge increase in minor crime? How does this explain the government's wish that judges should not use prison sentences unless for serious crimes? And that criminals of all sorts should be considered for earlier release?

    There is too much conflicting information and evidence for us to be confident in any of the figures and comments put out by government. If we ever get back to a position where police attend promptly every crime; and the digitised on site record is fixed (that is cannot be changed/removed/permanently deleted) in
    a police computer system that is totally secure and reliable we may then be able to put irrefutable demands to our politicians. Meanwhile we will continue with a system or systems that neither satisfy nor meet the needs of all the population.

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  • 16. At 3:08pm on 28 Jul 2008, chiff26 wrote:

    The trouble with these stats is that the actual perception of crime is more important than the actual event.
    There are areas whether it's inner-city Moss Side , any town centre after 10.00pm at weekends, or the local council estate where you don't go. The fact that this is a no-go area matters more than whether it represents a figure of X% or X-% or X+%. I suppose that the measurement in absolute terms of these spots is the relevant statistic rather than some fairly meaningless comparative. I feel safer in danger spot Kent (as per map) than I would in Croydon.

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  • 17. At 3:16pm on 28 Jul 2008, aflockhart wrote:

    Why is this one not presented using the 'hexagons map' that you used for some of the earlier articles ? Contrary to some of the earlier comments, the map actually does show some high figures in London - but the geographical areas are so small that they barely show up.

    Zoom in to 400% view and you can just about see that Lambeth, Southwark, Lewisham, Islington, Ealing, Brent, Barking and Tower Hamlets are all "above average"

    "Most of London" less violent than "parts of Devon and Cornwall" ? Sounds about right - I'd expect a city like Plymouth to have higher violent crime than the leafier suburbs of London like Barnet or Richmond.

    As for fobbing off Scotland with a "make your own" comment ( and omitting NI entirely) : it took me about 5 mins to find the figures and would have taken another 10 mins to plot them on a map - so why can't the BBC take the trouble to do this for its Scottish and Irish licence payers ?

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  • 18. At 3:23pm on 28 Jul 2008, aflockhart wrote:

    Also I don't think it is actually the Brecon Beacons that has the high rate - they're part of Powys which is shown in white.

    So maybe the squaddies are better behaved than the rest of us ?

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  • 19. At 9:24pm on 28 Jul 2008, Rachel Blackburn wrote:

    A "trend" needs more than 2 years of data, yet once again you're only quoting data for this year and last year.

    Perhaps those figures would also support your point, but you don't mention them. And 11 years of Labour (and Speed Camera Partnerships and Global Warming apologists - who between them almost make Labour look honest in their statistics) make me automatically look for the loophole in any quoted statistic. Why this measure? Why this particular time period? Why this particular wording? The quiet little caveat...

    Ah, there it is, buried away - "the lowest figure for 9 years". Meaning, presumably, that violent crime was lower still 9 years ago! Or put another way, after 9 years of Labour they've finally managed to get the violent crime figure almost back to where it was soon after they took office?

    You (or your headliner) may call that a reducing trend - but if after 9 years we're still not back where we started - after (allegedly) massive injections of cash, prisons and police - it doesn't really sound much like progress in reducing crime to me!

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  • 20. At 10:55pm on 28 Jul 2008, Apmnyc wrote:

    Rachel Blackburn at #19.

    Top post. Forensic in its exposure of the ongoing and increasingly transparent 'Save Gordon' campaign by Mr Easton and the BBC.
    The inherent flaws and deliberate dishonesty built into New Labour's use of crime figures have been exposed time and again, yet the BBC's coverage of the issue rarely reflects this.
    Mr Easton: please have the grace and courage to answer Rachel Blackburn's point directly.
    Either you missed it - in which case you're incompetent - or you ignored it, in which case you're biased.
    Which is it, please?

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  • 21. At 11:41pm on 28 Jul 2008, lostGrifff wrote:

    I have no confidence in any police statistic - try reading a few police blogs and you'll see why. (I recommend 'Inspector gadget').

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  • 22. At 11:44pm on 28 Jul 2008, vollans1 wrote:

    1. At 10:32am on 28 Jul 2008, Gingerbridgeman wrote:
    The spot on the front page reads as follows: 'Serious violence data is good gauge of crime trends.'

    It should read 'data are'.

    Wrong - a dictionary for Gingerbridgeman please.


    1. a pl. of datum.

    2. (used with a plural verb) individual facts, statistics, or items of information: These data represent the results of our analyses. Data are entered by terminal for immediate processing by the computer.

    3. (used with a singular verb) a body of facts; information: E.g. Additional data is available from the president of the firm.

    Clearly, the data referred to is a body of facts or information and as such is singular.

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  • 23. At 11:48am on 29 Jul 2008, sbusdjh wrote:

    If I was one of David Cameron's team I would actually be a little worried about some of the comments on this and other blogs.

    Just because a statistic is quoted by a "New Labour" minister or apologist, doesn't necessarily make it a lie. Just because you dislike the messenger doesn't mean you should always reject the message.

    People have short memories and a new Tory government will have to cope with very unrealistic expectations of its ability to always tell the truth. It won't be long before the honeymoon is over.

    I wanted Labour to win in 1997, but I was uncomfortable about the way everyone wanted to put the boot into John Major. Plus ca change...

    Remember that David Cameron's only previous working experience is in Public Relations - the art of distorting statistics and promoting style over substance.

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  • 24. At 6:41pm on 08 Sep 2008, newtried wrote:

    I recon we can fit in 1 person per square mtre providing the doner country can supply the heath and food. Im not mean but its just im running out of cash suporting the existing charities> Im thinking of emigrating to their country! " The grass is greener on the other side fence"

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