Men – the real cause of crime?

November 27th, 2011

Posted: November 27th, doctor 2011  Author:   No Comments »

I’m looking forward to talking in a couple of weeks time to some Sociology A-level students about UK crime, crime statistics and a host of related crime issues – one of which was crime related to gender. Do get in touch if you’d like me – Dan Lewis – to talk to you abuut UKCrimeStats, crime issues etc.. I can’t afford to give these talks for free but offer a much reduced and affordable rate for Schools and village societies as well as the angle and insight of an independent.

Anyway, back to the title of the post – if you’re interested in crime and gender relationships, you absolutely have to read this article in The Sydney Morning Herald, Counting the social cost of masculinity by Cynthis Cockburn, an honorary professor in the Centre for the Study of Women and Gender, Warwick University and Ann Oakley, a sociology professor.

Amongst the many factual points they assemble;

“Take the August riots in Britain this year. As the suspects were charged, considerable detail was published by the Ministry of Justice. The press focused on the age, ethnicity, neighbourhood and employment status of offenders. Yet by far the most dramatic divergence the statistics revealed was gender: 92 per cent of the first 466 defendants were male.”


“If men committed crimes leading to jail at the rate women do, the government would save about £3.4 billion a year. Zoom out to the overall cost of crime, calculated by the Home Office at £78 billion a year in 2009, including not only criminal justice system costs but lost productivity, service costs, and impact on victims.”

Here at UKCrimeStats – we currently have no data on the criminal and certainly not on their gender. I don’t think there’s much doubt that most crime is committed by men. The trouble is, I don’t think men will ever commit crimes at the rate women do and a male-free society is not really an option. And I’m not wholly convinced that the culture of masculinity (how do you define that?) is the root cause for crime. Moreover, what about the thumping big majority of men who are not criminals but manage to be seemingly masculine?

The authors didn’t seem to have space to say which of “. . . the certain widespread masculine traits and behaviour are dangerous and costly to individuals and society“.

I do much agree though that it is violent crime that is so worrying and there does seem to be an established long-term rise. Measured as a percentage of the total of reported crime, violent crime has been;

2.4% in 1900

1% in 1937

0.9% in 1967

5.6% in 1997

About 10% so far in 2011 – CORRECTION (28/11/2011) – sorry, it worse than I thought as I was including ASB under the crime total which it isn’t.  In September 2011, violent crime made up 17.42% of the total of recorded crime. 

These first 4 figures come from a quite brilliant book, “The Strange Death of Moral Britain” by Professor Christie Davies that explores how the UK went from being a low crime, highly moral society from the end of the Victorian period to the 1950s to what we have today. I couldn’t give justice to his book here but there really are many factors at play – family breakdown, drug addiction, the death of religion, alcoholism and a major decline in moral habits of orderliness, honesty, duty and loyalty.

The good news is, as a country, we have been here before – the early Victorian period was heavily marred by crime and social breakdown and they managed to put nearly all of these negatives into reverse by the end of the 19th century.

And I for one am young and naive enough to believe it can be done again.

Elected PCCs – a help or hindrance to crimefighting?

November 23rd, 2011

Posted: November 23rd, diagnosis ed 2011  Author:   No Comments »

This is a post I started writing back in June and parked for a bit. Now it’s very much back in the news.  And just a couple of days ago, sales the Conservative Party set up this page for potential candidates to apply.

When we set up UKCrimeStats we understood back then that elected Police heads would be held accountable not just at the ballot box but by their relative performance over time according to the crime data. An independent and trusted platform, pharmacy UKCrimeStats would be needed to keep track of their performance as well as provide more incisive analysis and statistics, dig deeper into the data and where necessary, expose the errors – see our new page and spreadsheet and crime data forum – a lot of data still needs cleaning up.

For all that, I’m well aware that one can be a very effective Police Leader in a high crime area, where it is even rising through no fault of their own – correlation is not causation. But I’m disappointed that some Policing traditionalists believe the voting public is quite unable to discern the externalities to local crime trends and is even less capable of making a sensible choice at the polling booth once they were made part of the process.

Anyway, I’m all for lots of open debate on this – your comments as always, are most welcome.  What do you think, will PCCs be  a help or a hindrance to fighting crime?

What we need to do is move beyond this disappointingly one-sided article in the Western Mail from earlier this year. Here are a couple of points the article faithfully reports without challenge (in italics) and what some of us might have said in rejoinder in bold;


1. Opponents of the UK Government’s flagship plan to scrap police authorities and replace them with elected police and crime commissioners (PCCs) last night used the evidence of high crime levels in Gwent to call for a re-think, saying funds for front-line policing would be diverted to pay for expensive elections.


Actually, this is back to front. The whole point of this reform is to create bottom-up political pressure which diverts resources away from bureaucracy to the front line. And according to a Policy Exchange report, The Cost of the Cops – there is quite a lot of bureaucracy.  As Police Minister Nick Herbert says here

“I believe that elected police and crime commissioners will have a very strong focus on reducing the burden of bureaucracy and administration in their forces precisely because they will feel pressure from their electorate to ensure that resources are directed to the front line. We are also placing police and crime commissioners under a duty to collaborate and I am sure that they will work together to drive out unnecessary costs from their forces.”


2. . . . there is evidence from other countries like Zimbabwe and China that politicisation of the police has dangerous consequences.


Quite the most preposterous argument I’ve ever heard. Electricity or money don’t work too well in Zimbabwe either, does that mean we shouldn’t have these too?

In Britain, knife crime is much more deadly than gun crime

November 19th, 2011

Posted: November 19th, recipe 2011  Author:   sales knife crime is much more deadly than gun crime”>No Comments »

Having just learnt of this terrible story – Four Metropolitan Police officers stabbed in London – it took place in this neighbourhood, check  I did some research and came across this very informative website, which I’ve now added to our blogroll. Violent crime as I’ve written here before, is a very broad category that we have to work with on UKCrimeStats with 143 types of offences that can be used to charge a suspect. We now have a new category called Public Disorder and Weapons, with just 1 month of data so far.

Now back to the theme of the post – according to KnifeCrimes, the arresting fact is that in the 9 years to 2005, victims were 4 times more likely to be murdered by knives than by guns – by 2,026 to 601.  When you add to that the number of people who are merely injured rather than murdered, one starts to understand why knife crime has been such a priority for Politicians and the Police for some years.

UKCrimeStats now updated for September with new categories

November 6th, 2011

Posted: November 6th, unhealthy 2011  Author:   No Comments »

Ok, ampoule we’ve done it. It took longer than usual because we had new 5 new crime types to build into the database. These are;

  1. Theft-shoplifting
  2. Drugs
  3. Criminal Damage and Arson
  4. Public Disorder and Weapons
  5. Theft-Other

As you’ll see from our main chart below, we have added these under the Other category (from whence they came) so you can keep track going backwards. Going forwards, when we have more than 1 month of data, we will split them out and on the reports section too.  See our national page here where we have already started doing this.

We have also updated constituency populations to mid-2010 estimates using the latest data released by the Office for National Statistics. IMHO, Constituencies are a much better guide than neighbourhoods to comparing crime in different areas because they generally have similar and larger population samples, the boundaries don’t change (well, not much – every 4-5 years !) and the population data is far more up to date and precisely sourced. I suspect a lot of the neighbourhood population data – where Police Forces have included it and still too many haven’t – may date from as early as the 2001 census. And as I’m sure you appreciate, this is quite a different country today to then. How many people do you think live in the same place they did 10 years ago?

Comments and suggestions always welcome – just email me, Dan Lewis, on


No, we don’t want a Robin Hood tax or a hole in the head

November 4th, 2011

Earlier today I was reading Rod Liddle’s Spectator article on the depressingly nutty views he encountered of the protesters outside St Pauls Cathedral which some members of the Church of England seem so in thrall to. I won’t go into details – suffice to say he summed them up by writing “I wonder who their dealers were and maybe if I could get a phone number“.

London’s City, the financial centre of Europe and in some key markets, the world, is, as I wrote a few years ago in 2008, under constant assault from EU Regulations, Financial quangos, jealous American regulators and untramelled foreign competition. As I opined back then;

Anyone who thinks legislation is the answer to the City’s woes must be ill-versed in daily life there. Forget for a moment the public image of the high-earning wide-boy traders and the hedge fund managers. Today’s financial sector is easily the most over-regulated, conservative industry in the whole country. Too much of the entrepreneurship has gone out of the sector.

No wonder then that when I bump into old friends occasionally who I worked with in the City quite a few years ago, I notice they appear to have aged prematurely and seem – to be horribly blunt – emotionally repressed. The human animal and its entrepreneurial spirit wants to be free to experiment and to work in creative bursts. But constantly having to worry about complying day-in, day-out with regulations whilst working long hours can take you far the other way.

So now we have news that someone sensible and highly accomplished,  Bill Gates,  adds his weight to call for Robin Hood tax. Gates said;

It is very plausible that certain kinds of FTTs (Financial Tax on Transactions aka Robin Hood Tax) could work. I am lending some credibility to that. This money could be well spent and make a difference. An FTT is more possible now than it was a year ago, but it won’t be at rates that magically raise gigantic sums of money

If you read that slowly, it’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Personally, I can think of lots of things that are plausible but are on balance, far from a good idea.  And whilst one must respect the work that the Gates Foundation has done, don’t think for a moment that governments would be as good at distributing funds as they have. Optimal tax collection – usually a mirage in itself when measured by costs of collection, cost of compliance and  lost revenue by evasion or avoidance – rarely matches a hypothecated optimal reallocation.

And then there’s the much bigger issue,  those within the EU pushing hard for the Financial Transaction Tax don’t seem to have anything like as much as a financial sector, that serves as a job creation scheme and an income and corporate tax revenue generator as the UK. So who has most to lose here?

Obviously it’s us. So all credit to the Adam Smith Institute for producing a paper entitled “Hanging London out to dry: The impact of an EU Financial Transaction Tax“. I can’t see this tax being anything other than a negative on British Financial Services. Why on earth would you want to reduce liquidity by increasing trading costs which are then passed onto  your dwindling pool of consumers?

There are lots of valid criticisms of our financial service sector to be made – the unwarranted high margins of active fund and pension managers, the extent of the bailouts, the lack of retail banking competition  – to name but a few.

But a Robin Hood Tax is definitely not the solution. Do we really want to inadvertently send vast quantities of city front and middle offices (much of the back office went some time ago) abroad to Hong Kong, Singapore or Zurich?


Some guiding principles for a successful open data economy

November 1st, 2011

For some months now, I’ve been following “open data” on my google alerts and there is a lot going on, even in nations like Kenya. Added to the experience and frustration I’ve gained working on Britain’s second largest public dataset – crime – and working with my excellent Chief Data Architect, I’ve come to realise that for any government, organisation or developer starting out on this journey, there ought to be in place the following principles from the outset – which I’m sorry to say, has not been our experience.

Guiding principles for open data;

  1. The data released by the government or public sector organisation must be 100% accurate and all fields completed. If it is not, you will raise the barriers to entry for developers who will have to spend their own precious time and money cleaning it up which they will then understandably be reluctant to share with anyone else.
  2. No new data fields may be added until point 1. is fully complete. If you try to run before you can walk, you and your data will fall over and public confidence in the initiative will quickly ebb.
  3. The provider of the data must not have a conflict of interest in providing it – i.e. they should not be releasing public data but witholding key information that they hope to make financial gain from nor should they be entitled to run a website that uses the data to advertise their business, nor should they have first sight and use of the data before the development community. Release the data yes –  release a competing platform simultaneously with unfair advantages – no.
  4. There must be from the start an open two-way conversation between data providers and developers. The easiest way to do this is to set up a forum with an ethos of recrimination free information discovery. The much less effective way is to set up a panel of experts who meet every couple of months and have little first hand knowledge of the data.
  5. Visibly open metrics must be kept on the number of active developers/applications/downloads – what is growing, declining, why?
  6. Government must take full responsibility for the accuracy of the data it releases. If some of it is found to be wrong, say so and say when it will be fixed. Do not change files and not tell any developers or the general public. They will notice.
  7. Government, public sector organisations and developers must be quick to be honest and open about any mistakes in data or applications – there will be some, this is part of the learning process. The point is that mistakes get found because it is open but were hidden away when it was closed.
  8. Establish clear data governance rules from the outset. Central hub collectors of large datasets should not permit spoke feed-in organisations to freely change codes, numbers, files etc. – this has a knock-on effect to developers down the line whose system is then broken and has to be redesigned, again raising the cost of open data development. Data integrity needs to be relied upon. Databases rely on defined rules that are always do this and never do that.