By Robin Marris

Robin Marris is an Emeritus Professor of Economics, London University who lives in Chiswick and currently advises the Home Office on the study of crime trends

About six months ago I published on ChiswickW4.com a mini essay on crime trends, based on my experience of working with the Home Office.

On Jan 9 last the HO published a Statistical Bulletin making it possible to estimate fairly accurately the final national crime figures for 2002 and also an important research study on mugging (which they call personal robbery).

Shortly after, a valuable report was made to the Council's Chiswick Area Committee which has already been commented on on this site. Here I add my own comments, followed by my interpretation of the national picture

Hounslow Crime comparison, 2 Quarter to Third Quarter 2002

We have the twin problems, described in my original note, of possible statistical blips and of the effect of the fact that the new nationwide statistical recording rules have been adopted at different rates in different police areas.

Total Police-reported Notified Crime fell by about 3000 on about 300,000 between the two quarters in London as a whole while in Hounslow the figure was a rise of about 150 on about 9000. Does this mean something or nothing? I don't know.

The same applies to the reported fall in Chiswick burglaries from 174 to 144 and to the rise in Chiswick Homefields Burglaries from 55 to 63.

There was also a special spate of vehicle break-ins in Chiswick in late September targeting VWs in residential areas.

The report however notes correctly that the burglary rate in Chiswick Homefields is high by national standards. This is true and I have commented on it before: this ward chronically has maybe 75 more burglaries a year than would be the case if the rate conformed to the national average. Previous research has confirmed that burglary is more likely from properties with non-overlooked potential access (e.g. large back gardens) and, of course, the likelihood of good yields. I think the Ward conforms to this pattern and my personal recommendation is to put yourself in the position of a thief who has got into your back garden and is scanning for ways to get in. Where would you try and how can you improve the corresponding security?

Of course there are also a number of front-door entries. This is only possible if the locks are insecure. In my experience, by and large, security works. There have been three burglaries in the past 3 months in the Chiswick Mall Neighbourhood Watch area: one was a classic rear-entry when owners were away, one was through a front door left open and one was through a front door using an instrument or rod to turn the lock.

But it is nevertheless altogether wrong that whenever a front door is accidentally left open for a short time, someone pops through. Although, see below, national crime is still falling I think there is still far far too much of it.

The National Crime Outcome for 2002.

Police Recorded Crime
By means of a fairly concrete statistical procedure the Department estimates that the total effect of the change in reporting procedures that I described in my previous note will inflate Police-Recorded crime overall by about 10%. When that is allowed for there seemed to be no important changes in recorded crime, upwards or downward between 2001 and 2002.

An exception is mugging which may eventually show a fall of ten per cent or more.

Victim-Reported Crime: good news
Domestic Burglary down about 7%.
Thefts of or from vehicles owned by households, down about 15%.
Violence about constant.
All British Crime Survey categories of crime down about 7%.

Because these figures are based on a sample survey there is a one in ten chance that the true decline for burglary was as small as zero, but in practice I would be very surprised if it was actually less than 5%.

Public Opinion

Home Office reported that the Survey showed that most people thought that crime in general had gone up, but not in their own district. This is hardly surprising as the Press paid almost no attention to the new figures, except in a few cases where as usual they concentrated on the worst apparent aspect, namely the unadjusted Recorded figures. I have said all I have to say on that topic. The fault, dear Reader, lies in you. If the papers print good news about crime you refuse to read it!


Whether or not this fell in 2002 it remains a very bad business, is much too high and is an affront to public order. It is still running at twice the level of ten years ago. If it is true that Blair has been personally conducting frequent meetings about the problem I think he is quite right.

The Mugging report is very useful and, despite Politically Cautious wording gives all you need to assess the veracity of the general impression that it is mainly a crime committed by young black males against white people, especially against young white people. Black males are no more than about 15% of the population but no less than three quarters of muggers are young blacks. This finding should be read against the background of what I originally wrote on the topic of the ethnic element in crime, namely,

"It must frankly be accepted that young men of colour whose ancestors were transported from Africa 250 years ago, then spent five generations in slavery and then another five in near-slavery, and whose families have since come to the UK, are over-represented in all crime and prison statistics. My belief that one of the causes is a long hangover of the disrupting effect of slavery and near-slavery on family life and the male role is somewhat supported by some data suggesting that people who have come to this country directly from West Africa do better."

The effect on total crime must not be over-estimated. I calculate that if West Indian males had average, rather than elevated, crime rates, the national crime rate would be reduced by about five per cent. But in some locations (of which Hounslow is not one), of course, the effect would be considerably stronger.

The conclusion does not apply to Mugging. On the figures, if young black men had no greater tendency to commit this crime than young white men, the national mugging rate would be reduced massively.

If my previous suggestion that aberrant crime behaviour has something to do with the long arm of slavery, white people can perceive that they are certainly being punished for it. In the meantime, apart from general fear and insecurity for the whole public the situation surely cannot do the Black community any good and surely encourages racism. I feel that black political leadership is needed.

February 17, 2003

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