« Home | Boom! » | Brown's bolus of wankers. » | Forgetting your roots. » | The lying lies and dirty secrets of Ms Nadine Dorr... » | How to defraud millions and get away with it part ... » | Each society has - and creates - its own monsters.... » | How to defraud millions and get away with it. » | You better hope you don't smoke the reefer. » | Labour's "relaunch" and what it ought to do. » | He just doesn't get it. » 

Tuesday, May 13, 2008 

Knife crime and how London is more dangerous than Baghdad.

It's strange, isn't it, how it takes the death of a 16-year-old middle-class white teenager for the media in general to suddenly decide that it's time to talk about how the world is ending under the threat of the blade once again, or at least is in London.

Last night Newsnight treated us to four "experts", which in reality meant a mother who'd lost her child and now fronts one of those brilliantly named "Mothers Against" groups, as if all mothers aren't against murder, violence or noise music; the new deputy mayor of London, who despite his record in helming a young offender's institution said nothing of any worth whatsoever; Damilola Taylor's father; and err, Melanie Phillips, that well-known expert on all things concerning teenagers and youth crime.

Their solution? Zero tolerance, of course. It doesn't matter that this zero tolerance which so many espouse is based itself on a flawed prospectus, that those who are meant to have implemented it didn't intend to then be extended across the board as politicians and newspaper columnists in this country now demand, or indeed that it was not the "zero tolerance" which had the effect but rather the crime mapping, the keeping of detailed, regularly updated statistics and economic and demographic change, it's become a simple cure-all solution which has supposedly worked and therefore must be tried.

One of the chief proponents of zero tolerance, the Sun, even goes so far today as to claim that New York is now safer than London, as well as talking nonsense about new sentencing guidelines when the judge still has the discretion to impose up to a four-year sentence for someone brought to court for carrying a knife:

Yet even as the latest victim took his final breath, new punishment guidelines were being slipped out which amount to a slap on the wrist for carrying a blade.

Despite ministers’ repeated pledges to crack down on knives, they will allow yobs to get away with just a fine or community sentence.

The ruling to courts flies in the face of evidence that soft penalties — like Asbos and electronic tags — are worthless.

Thirteen young men and boys have been slaughtered on the streets of London so far this year.

The capital is now more dangerous than once-notorious New York.


Of course, the Sun is ignoring the actual evidence which proves that New York is actually more dangerous not just than London, but this country as a whole, despite others now claiming that the once notorious city is now some kind of shining beacon of peace and security. It's true that crime has fallen substantially in New York, but unless you disbelieve both the police figures and the British Crime Survey, it's also been falling here for around ten years also.

I've gone into the nitty gritty of the figures in depth before, so let's just deal with the one that can't be argued against: murder figures. In New York in 2006 there were 921 murders. In 2005/6 in London there were 168; in 2006/7 there were 162; and in 2007/08 (financial year) there were 156. Across the entire country in 06/07 there were 755 murders.

Let's continue with the Sun's leader:

Ministers wring their hands and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith refuses to venture out at night.

Parents are terrified every time their kids leave home.

And teenagers walk in fear of being killed by lawless savages who are ready to kill for a laugh.

Fines and community sentences will do nothing to stop this massacre.


And nor will importing failed policies from across the pond.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Share |

You are right to point out that there are more murders in New York than in the whole of the UK but you should remember that there was once a time when there were more murders in a singe New York poloce precinct than in the whole of the UK. In 1990 there were 2,605 murders in NYC.

The debate continues about what exactly has brought about the reduction in crime in NYC but there is absolutely no doubt that the city is now far, far safer for the average citizen than it was.

Quite true. As pointed out in the post though, whether the current drop has anything to do with zero tolerance is highly dubious at best.

"there is absolutely no doubt that the city is now far, far safer for the average citizen than it was."

So's Baghdad, but no one in their right mind would want to adopt the same tactics used there to reduce violence. The fact that New York has gone from extraordinarily violent to violent doesn't make it a role model, somewhere with actually less crime than London might be a good place to start.

I seem to recall Edinburgh, Glasgow and particularly Belfast were all more violent than London, the latter largely due to organised crime and supply of weapons and men to use them.

Tom. A reduction in crime is a reduction in crime from whatever figure we start. Why shouldn't a city which has reduced the murder rate by a number greater than the total number of murders in the UK be seen as a suitable role model? It has had to deal with types of crime which we have only recently started experiencing. Seems like a perfectly good place to start I would have thought even if you don't like their methods or think they are effective.

"Why shouldn't a city which has reduced the murder rate by a number greater than the total number of murders in the UK be seen as a suitable role model?"

Because the enormous discrepency (I'm assuming the numbers refer to approximately similar populations, although New York is marginally larger) in the murder rate makes it extremely likely that the underlying societal, economic and cultural background of violence are profoundly different. Therefore there's a high risk that the same policies would be ineffective and a waste of time here. It's not just slightly worse there, it's five or six times as bad, although it would be interesting to see a breakdown into domestic, gang and stranger groups.

As a thought experiment:
* In city A guns are more readily available than knives
* In city B knives are more readily available than guns

Therefore concentrating on reducing the supply guns in city A would be sound policy, while in city B it would be a waste of time and actually counterproductive, taking resources away from fighting knife crime.

You can run the same experiment for a city with high proportions of domestic killings against a city with high proportions of gang killings, etc.

"Because the enormous discrepency (I'm assuming the numbers refer to approximately similar populations, although New York is marginally larger) in the murder rate makes it extremely likely that the underlying societal, economic and cultural background of violence are profoundly different."

Granted, I'm six months late on this post, but I wanted to add another important distinction here:

The murder rate in most American cities, while disproportionately high, has little to do with the lives of typical Americans. In Illinois (Chicago, one of the country's more violent cities), at least, as many as 3/4 of murders are tied to gang and drug activity.

In other words, it consists primarily of criminals killing criminals. That's not to make a value judgment about it, but to point out that looking only at murder, excluding the crimes that tend to affect law-abiding citizens (robbery, rape, random street violence), seriously distorts the picture.

FYI, there were not 921 murders in New York in 2006. There were 596. In 2007, there were fewer than 500.

I'm not trying to make any point here besides that you should get your facts and figures correct.

Fewer Killings in 2007, but Still Felt in City’s Streets

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link

About

  • This is septicisle
profile

Links

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates