Dave Hill: Let’s have a truthful debate about crime in London

Dave Hill: Let’s have a truthful debate about crime in London

Talking rubbish about crime often seems to be in the job description of politicians. Plenty of journalists aren’t much better, especially the “so-called” variety working for the glut of Right-wing propaganda outlets, and even more especially when it comes to London. That is as irresponsible as it is dismal.

Like everyone else, Londoners want to feel confident that they can live free from being harmed by others, assured that their homes are unlikely to be burgled or their property stolen or damaged, and to feel sure that if they become victims of crime the police will investigate professionally.

None of those ambitions, so crucial to life in the capital, are remotely furthered by the exaggeration, scaremongering and proffered “common sense” solutions that characterise too much of what passes for public debate about community security.

With the mayoral election less than two months away, asking for the headline  discourse about crime and policing to be measured, serious and, above all, truthful is already an exercise in futility. But On London wants to do its bit to improve that state of affairs.

Voters receive far too little solid information about some very basic issues, such as: what crime statistics and the way they change do and do not tell us; what the powers, influence and responsibilities of London’s Mayors in this area actually are; and which groups of people are most likely to commit or be victims of different types of crime in London.

Each of these subjects and others merits its own in-depth coverage, together with sensible assessments of what every candidate for Mayor who should be paid attention to is proposing. I and others are working on it.

In the meantime, it seems right to challenge the more self-serving, prejudiced and dishonest assertions in circulation.

By no objective yardstick is London a “lawless” place where crime is “out of control” and more prevalent than everywhere else in the country, whatever GB News and suchlike would have you believe.

According to the most recently released official statistics, the rate of crime as a whole per head of population is lower in London as a whole than in two other English regions and in a bunch of other cities and major urban areas, including Durham, Bristol, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, South Yorkshire and Humberside.

Those same official figures show London to have a lower rate of crimes of violence against the person than for England in all and for every individual English region. Its rate was also lower than in every other region except one in cases where the violence resulted in injury.

London has lately seen small year-on-year percentage increase in total recorded crime, a smaller one in violence against the person and larger ones in some other categories, among them robbery and theft. But other regions have seen such increases too, again contradicting the idea that London crime is “spiralling” uniquely.

In December, new figures for crime related to London public transport showed significant percentage rises, notably in reported thefts on the Underground. Headlines howled. Yet the rate of reported offences on the Tube network was still a tiny 18.6 per million passenger journeys. That is very far from rife.

The figures need to be delved into more deeply, not least because they sometimes tell different stories than they initially appear to. Even so, they do not support recurring claims that the capital is in the grip of a “crime wave” engulfing each and every Londoner.

That is not to say that crime of every kind does not need to be reduced. Doing so entails viewing statistics in perspective, not fomenting disproportionate fear. Instead, the focus should be on taking the most effective action on behalf of those who need it most.

That is a task for the Met, the Mayor and the government as well as for London’s people. In the weeks running up to the elections for Mayor and the London Assembly On London will strive to cut through the fibs, flimflam and falsehoods and contribute to that task being performed well.

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