Thursday, October 28, 2010

Decline in crime being ignored?

The Irish Independent reports on the country's most recent crime statistics with a morose focus on spiralling robbery rates:

Ireland is in the grip of a robbery epidemic with an average of five people being held up every day, official figures revealed today.

More positive trends are pushed further down the article, yet a look at the statistics themselves shows that the overall picture of crime in Ireland is a remarkably good one. The following kinds of crime all saw decreases:

-8.3% for the same quarter last year

Attempts/Threats to Murder, Assaults, Harassments and Related Offences

Dangerous or Negligent Acts

Driving/In charge of a vehicle while over legal alcohol limit

Kidnapping and Related Offences

Human trafficking offences

Burglary and Related Offences

Theft and Related Offences

Controlled Drug Offences

Weapons and Explosives Offences

Arson offences

Criminal damage (not arson)

Liquor licencing offences

Disorderly conduct

Offences against Government, Justice Procedures and Organisation of Crime
almost -27%

The only sections experiencing increases in crime were:

Robbery, Extortion and Hijacking Offences

Sexual offences (the dramatic increase here is 'mainly due to an on-going review of all cases involving alleged sexual offences reported')

Fraud, Deception and Related Offences

So Ireland has experienced an overall widespread decline in crime, which the Irish Independent reports as a "robbery epidemic".

The curious thing is that during the height of the economic boom media were reporting real increases in particular crimes which were directly connected to the population's growing wealth. Higher incomes allowed increased spending on alcohol and recreational drugs. Immigration pushed the proportion of young men (the demographic group most involved in crime) higher, and increased congestion on the roads. The recession has reversed these trends, leading to decreases in several kinds of serious crime.

These positive trends can be concealed by a media tendency to compare official statistics only in the very short-term. Rather than simply comparing each quarter or year with the previous one it may be more useful to extend to period a little further. For example, since 2004, the number of murders each year in Ireland went like this:

Manslaughter has experienced a consistent decline:

Dangerous driving has also caused fewer deaths:

Wondering how closely the declines in dangerous driving deaths and the decline of Ireland's economy correlate, I superimposed Ireland's joblessness rate from 2004 to January 2010 over the above image:

Loss of wealth has caused a fall in alcohol consumption, along with all the social ills that brings. Truck traffic has declined by 13%, and car traffic by 4%, driving down congestion and road traffic accidents. Good news stares us in the face, so it is disappointing that many news media sources still focus on the negative.

As for the robbery figures the Irish Independent called an epidemic, how do they look over the medium term?

Some epidemic: compared with 2004, robbery rates have actually fallen.

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