The Thin Blue (Virtue Signalling) Line

The police risk losing the confidence of the public with some of their recent schemes.

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Rising Police recorded crime figures have been all of the news the last few days - "Crime rises by 13% in England and Wales" (BBC), "London now more dangerous than New York City, crime stats suggest" (The Telegraph), "Have our Police lost the plot?" (Daily Mail), and "Police told to scrap gimmicks and start doing their jobs as crime rates soar" (The Mirror).

I thought I'd take a look at the figures myself - specifically just for the forces that have been criticised in the linked articles above for wearing bear masks, painting their nails, wearing women's heels, riding dodgems and other virtue signalling activities. I also include some commentary at the end of this post as to whether Crime itself is really rising, or whether the police are simply reporting/recording more of the same amount of crime.

Virtue Signalling Forces and their Crime Figures

All of the data below is from the Police recorded crime figures, published by the Office of National Statistics (in their Crime by Police Force Area supplemental data table). The time period I chose for comparison was June 2013 to June 2017, because this for a five year period (so should smooth out any year to year fluctuations), and June is the latest available data and I want to compare like for like months (to avoid any seasonal changes).

Note I have not included where recorded crime has reducedbecause overall it is rising so most people want to know specifically where it is rising, and for the most part these reductions are usually always in drug offences or minor crimes. Oh, and if I have failed to include one of your favourite virtue signalling forces, let me know either in the comments or via the contact page, and I'd be happy to produce the stats for that Police force.


Note on sexual offences: There were reporting and methodological changes to the way the Police recorded and reported sexual offences since 2014, in reponse to inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services (HMICFRS), which claimed to identify significant under-reporting of these offenses. This could explain some of the very large rises in these offences. But it would not explain the parallel increases in violence, weapons or public order offences.

Conclusion

If the police carry on with many more of these politically correct schemes - especially whilst crime appears to be rising and there is an ongoing risk of terrorism - they will lose the confidence of the vast majority of the British public. And once that confidence is lost, it will be very hard to get it back.

I would question if any gains from these schemes are worth the risk of that loss of confidence, given the British policing model is based on consent of the public.


A different point of view - is crime actually rising?

For an alternative look at the crime figures, the below are useful to understand a different point of view:

  • Rick Muir, Director of The Police Foundation. He claims the opposite to the headlines - that overall crime is falling, based on the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW; which shows a 9% fall in Crime last year, compared to +13% for Police recorded crime). I find this implausible for a couple of reasons - the CSEW has major drawbacks, e.g. the crimes it cannot record, such as homicide (and annual homicides are up 16% between June 2013 and June 2017). It also seems highly unlikely that purely improved police reporting/recording methods (or members of the public reporting more crimes to the police) can explain huge rises in child rape, sexual grooming, knife crime, and other offences. It seems sensible to look at both the Police Recorded Crime figures and those of the CSEW - and even splitting the difference, you'd get a rise of +4% a year. See below for more on homicide as a test case.
  • Simon Jenkins at The Guardian. Simon takes a similar view to Rick Muir, but simply asserts (with no evidence or argument) that the CSEW is "the only reliable indicator of crime" (untrue) and calls John Flatley "the head of the ONS" (he is only in charge of the crime figures, not the whole ONS). These basic mistakes undercut the credibility of Simon's argument.

Also, the ONS is now in charge of the CSEW, and their 19 Oct crime bulletin clearly says: "Most of this [crime] increase was thought to result from improved recording practices but it is likely that rises in the most serious categories reflect genuine rises in violent crime". (emphasis added). The ONS has also analysed the difference between Police recorded crime and the CSEW  - they noted that several major offences "are not currently included in the comparable headline estimates from the CSEW....homicide, sexual offences, shoplifting, harassment, public order, drug and weapon possession offences". Nor are crimes against visitors to the UK, or businesses - only those permanently resident in households. These are huge areas of crime not covered by the CSEW.

Homicide as a test case: is crime rising in the real world?

Homicide (which includes Murder, Manslaughter and Infanticide) is a good test case for whether crime is rising, in particular violent crime which the public is often most concerned about:

  1. It is the most violent type of violent crime
  2. It is unlikely there are a lot of murders or manslaughters taking place, that are just not being reported to the Police (removing under-reporting as a factor)
  3. There are almost always real victims identified (unlike, e.g. public order offences)
  4. It is likely invulnerable to any incorrect Police reporting methodologies, simply because of how high profile the crime is - record a few made up murders and someone will notice, fast
  5. A high percentage of such crimes end up being prosecuted, so can be readily compared to Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) data (unlike e.g. drugs offences)

So I looked at all Homicides both in the Police recorded crime data (Mar-14 to Mar-17), and all prosecutions for Homicide by the CPS (Apr-15 to Mar-17). This clearly shows the Police have are recording +16% more Homicides annually, and the CPS have also prosecuted +21% more annually. 

Conclusion: Homicides are definitely rising in the real world, probably in the range of 15% at least And if this type of crime (which is NOT covered by the CSEW) is rising, it is at least plausible that the other crimes not covered by the CSEW (sexual offences, weapons, shoplifting etc.) could also be rising too.

You can download the CPS data for yourself here. you'll have to do it by each individual month to reproduce the above - I combined Successful and Unsuccessful Homicide cases for total homicide cases, this should be an extremely high % of the total genuine cases as Homicide is almost always referred to the CPS by the police and the CPS almost always prosecute - it is probably one of the few crime categories where this is the case. The slight difference in time period compared between CPS and Police data is because there would be a lag between a crime being reported/recorded by the Police, and it actually being prosecuted by the CPS.