Crime has fallen by 10% in the last year. Great news. Rejoice. Hang out the bunting. The tragedy is – nobody seems to have a clue as to exactly why this is happening especially given that everybody was suggesting that austerity would see a rise in crime.
Various theories have been put forward. Take your pick from any one of the following, as it seems your guess will be just as good as the experts’:-
1/ The reduction of lead in petrol – because lead in petrol in the atmosphere affects the brain. Lead has been reduced in petrol but you can still find a lot of lead in certain places decomposing slowly in the atmosphere – stained glass windows in churches, fishing sinkers, pewter mugs – which might be an argument to avoid vicars, fish and battle re-enactment societies.
2/ The much bigger size of consumer goods such as plasma televisions – although that didn’t stop people making a beeline for Currys during the riots. And it’s not like old televisions were easy to carry – yes they were smaller but they were much bulkier and weighed a ton. At least with plasma TVs you can chuck a curtain over it, put on a dodgy Breton cap and pretend you are some arts student carrying a portfolio.
3/ The cheapness of goods now means it is hardly worth nicking them. Things are certainly very competitive on the high street – one Poundland store in the West Midlands had to have a cut-price sale because they were apparently being undercut by the 99p shop nextdoor. We may yet see the arrival of 95pLand, 50pStretcher and SpareChangeWorld
4/ The increase in home computer games gives young males an alternative outlet. Of course, violent computer games used to be blamed for creating more violence. Now it seems they could be leading to less violence. I never really subscribed to the idea that DVD nasties created copycat violence. There are lots of powerful films out there. If DVD nasties led to copycat behaviour, why shouldn’t other films? Given some of the latest DVD releases, how come people aren’t drinking champagne wearing 1920s spats whilst dancing the Charleston with flappers, or attempting to crash a spaceship into San Francisco, or taking a tiger for a ride on a boat?
5/ There are more unemployed people at home and there are, therefore, less empty houses to break into. If you’re angry and disenfranchised the last thing you want to do is to break into a house which contains somebody else who’s as angry and disenfranchised as you are. Besides, you’d better stay home yourself, just in case they break into yours.
6/ Austerity itself. Nobody has anything worth nicking anymore, so if you did break in you’d only find stuff that was probably worth a quid – or perhaps 95 pence.
7/ And my favourite theory – easy access to hardcore porn. Marx said that religion was the opium of the masses. No longer it seems. Debbie Does Dallas may be the opium of the masses. And Ron Jeremy is their Pope. All hail the internet!
Given that our crime policies for years have supposedly been based on what works it’s a tragedy to find out that nobody is really sure what does work. The argument that prison works is now being countered by the fact that crime is falling in those places with a small prison population [Netherlands, Germany] as well as those with a high prison population [U.S., U.K.]. If you can reduce drug addiction by treatment rather than punishment we should do so, especially given that a night in prison is often quoted as being as expensive as a night in the Ritz, and for a night in the Ritz we should be able to afford some pretty good treatment.
The question arises is this fall in crime real? Yes. These figures are from the Crime Survey of England & Wales 2013 not the Police’s own figures which have recently been downgraded by the UK Statistics Authority as suitable only to be filed somewhere between Historical Fiction and Fantasy. The Police’s figures have fallen even more that the Crime Survey figures, the theory being that individual Forces have been massaging figures to show they are winning the battle against crime. The ironic thing is that Police numbers are being cut across the UK and the Police said this would lead to an increase in crime. With a now established decrease in crime, that’s a bit embarrassing for the Police. The best interpretation is that police numbers have little effect on crime – the worst interpretation, is that the police were causing a lot of the crime.