TAKE your pick. There were 5.5 million crime offences committed in Britain in 2004/05. Or, Britain had an estimated 10.8 million offences in 2004/05. No wonder there is so much disagreement about whether crime is being brought under control or is running out of control.

There is a statistic to back almost any political point-scoring in which a minister or MP wants to indulge. The figures are compiled in different ways and use different definitions of what constitutes a “serious” crime. The total figures already quoted are compiled by the police and the Home Office respectively; the police log offences reported to 43 forces whereas the Home Office's own British Crime Survey is based on interviews with 40'000 people each year. This week the independent Statistics Commission has called for a single system for which neither the police nor the Home Office would have any direct responsibility. In a trenchant report it says that “we do not believe trust can be built up with the public while the same ministers, advisers and senior officials are directly involved in publishing the figures and in setting out the Government's position.” The need for this reform is borne out by the fact that although the British Crime Survey has reported a sustained 44 per cent fall in crime over the past ten years, opinion polls consistently show that the general public simply does not believe this. When one considers the amount of hot air generated by politicians in discussion of crime it is deplorable that the basic facts are not known.


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