Join 3,501 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


UK more crime-ridden than US?
June 28, 2000 4:25 PM   Subscribe

UK more crime-ridden than US? CBS News has come up with a report describing the UK as a "battleground" for crime, replete with pictures of downtown Friday night battles after the pubs close. You're more likely to be robbed, assaulted, or have your car stolen in Britain than the US, according to recent figures. Then again, according to the DOJ, you're less likely to be raped, murdered or shot. Comparing apples and oranges?
posted by holgate (29 comments total)

 
Basically, a look at the report itself reveals all the hallmarks of sloppy network-news reporting: selective use of charts and statistics, emotionally-driven interviews (a mugged pensioner, an emergency surgeon) and judgements based on clich├ęd preconceptions of "genteel olde England". Three shootings in London -- a city of eight million with some of the country's worst living conditions -- in one night? How terrible! And to think of the daily news reports from Atlanta on my last visit...

But the basic premise is more disturbing: violent crime rates are increasing in Britain, while they steadily decrease in the US. That said, the base levels distort the figures, and my overall feeling is to shrug and say "apples and oranges".
posted by holgate at 4:33 PM on June 28, 2000


But British police statistics are deeply flawed, as only one in four assaults ever gets recorded. The reality is the streets and shopping malls of Britain are a battleground.

This makes it sounds as if crime statistics in the US are more reliable in comparision. A friend that I grew up with is a Chicago cop now and from what I hear crimes get mislabeled, mixed up, lost, you name it. Of course, that could just be the Chicago way.

Notice what phrases are in bold. Except for the credits for the reporter all the points are geared towards pushing for more and stricter laws.

Laws don't deter crime, the reduction of the desperation bred from poverty does. Doesn't the growing number of laws strike you as a road that makes once "free" societies into totalitarian police states?
posted by john at 5:20 PM on June 28, 2000


But how do we reduce the desperation bred from poverty? Insure that the rich give to the poor? At gunpoint if necessary? That's been tried. Hope people do it on their own? That's been tried. Fight to insure equal pay for equal work? That's been tried. Desperation doesn't stem just from poverty, and desperation is not the only factor involving crime. Capitalism, Socialism, Totalitarianism, Communism, Fascism. I got yer isms right here, baby. =) They've all been tried and none of them achieve utopia. And that's what you're talking about. If you want a society without laws, yet no crime, where no one is left wanting, we're talking about utopia. And folks, when it comes to utopia, human beings are their own worst enemy and obstacle.

If only we were something more than human, we could achieve utopia.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:32 PM on June 28, 2000


Utopia...nah. Please, don't exagerrate my point. I just think that the typical reaction to problems is more legislation. This creates the demand for more policing. That syphons money from social programs or creates more taxes that cause buisnesses to have more bottom line tunnel vision.

Of course I know that poverty is not the only factor, but I'd wager that it's the main factor. When you don't have anything to lose, no amount of laws will stop you. I know. I'm damn lucky to live the way I'm living now.

The point is to not strive for impossible utopian measures, but to as least push in the direction of positive change. It's a slow process. The best promise of all the newly rich benefactors of the modern economy is for them to reinvest in their old neighborhoods any way they can.
posted by john at 7:13 PM on June 28, 2000


I believe the same argument could be made of nearly every European city - it's generally a more civil continent.

Would that I might live in a city who's greatest fear is the occaisional soccer (pardon me, football) hoolligan.

Instead, I read about gang violence - 8 dead in the park last weekend - and massacres in our high schools.

It doesn't have anything to do with the fact that there are far fewer guns and much stricter gun control laws in Europe. You know, cause guns don't kill people, it's the soccer hooligans with guns that kill people.

Which is why we have Eddie Eagle and the good people at the NRA to teach our children how to wield their weapons "safely".
posted by aladfar at 9:27 PM on June 28, 2000


Which continent are you more likely to be blown up in? I keep forgetting.We have guns, but not a lot of bombing. People who want to kill, find a way to kill.To blame crime on poverty is a canard, and it is most unfair to poor people who are law abiding. Unless you believe most or all poor people are criminals. If that is how you believe, it takes the wind out of your sails when you complain that affluent people get away with all their crimes when it happens in more or less equal numbers. My understanding is that most crime is commited to support drug addiction. I don't know if it is true, but it would not be hard to support the argument.
Are most American killers members of the NRA? I had not heard that, and it strikes me as wierd. Joining a whitebread organization, with a lame mascot dumbs down the freewheeling killer image dont you think. People don't kill people, guns kill people, the fly around shooting all living things, no brain attached to the mayhem. It is tragic that we abdicate our responsibility to a pound of steel, I guess we are a bunch of monkeys who cannot be trusted with any technology. What is really depressing is that I'm going to hear these same tired arguments for the rest of my nanotech enhanced long life. Nobody is ever going to sucessfully disarm the American citizenry and nobody will ever stop talking about it. Is this off topic?
posted by thirteen at 10:05 PM on June 28, 2000


poverty alone does not breed crime, look at the poorest nations-- those not involved in war have low crime rates. perhaps poverty breeds desperation when it seems that the system that values money above all else. I'm also wondering if studies have been done on white-collar crime rates, which almost never involve the poor. Anyone have a link?
posted by chaz at 11:32 PM on June 28, 2000


There's something very odd about a reporter, who it appears in all seriousness, discounts a large number of shootings as statistically insignificant. Then they use this rather useless piece of reporting to endorse the three strikes policy that many believe could encourage violent crime.
As someone who lives in the UK I have to laugh at ridiculous reporting like this. I can't say that I feel greatly threatened walking around London but then I have got my kalashnikov and full body armour with me like any sensible Londoner.
There is a worrying side effect of this kind of journalism. Recently there was the case of Tony Martin who shot and killed a young criminal on his property. The constant fear of crime generated by the press lead to this horrible and muderous old git being held up as a hero by the public. This has lead to more vigilantism, often a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.
posted by dodgygeezer at 2:07 AM on June 29, 2000


And I thought our tabloids were bad, this is nothing but sensationalist reporting using meaningless statistics to back up a pre-determined point of veiw. Pile of bollocks.
posted by Markb at 5:29 AM on June 29, 2000


thirteen,

Drug addiction? Perhaps, but only because they can't afford the drugs or treatment.

Chaz,

Please, in those poorest nations you have the situation where there is no one to rob or few people. Ever see the kind of sercurity systems that weathy people have when living in poor countries? The other thing about poor countries is that the people are more oppressed and you don't commit a crime when death penalties are common for minor infractions.

White collar crime is a completely different issue. It's akin to gambling. Most of those that commit those crimes don't think they will be caught. There's a whole range of reason why people commit crimes with the most trivial being boredom, but I believe that when a person has nothing to lose or can rationalize the risk/lose factor, that person is more inclined to commit a crime.

Perhaps you need to actually taste what it's like to have very little to nothing.
posted by john at 7:33 AM on June 29, 2000


John: I am not knocking you position entirely, and I agree with you about the growing number of laws. That said, if the poverty is caused by the drug addiction, and drug addicts often become poor, the poverty is a side effect of the addiction, and any crimes commited by this fictional drug addict should not be attributed to his being poor. Crime happens for millions of reasons, and at the core of every crime is the individual who thinks his need is justified. Crime is the selfish belief that your needs are more important than others.
posted by thirteen at 8:21 AM on June 29, 2000


Good point and I agree that it is selfish behavior. The fight for survival is selfish.

I put drug addiction and poverty in the chicken and egg category. People do drugs to have fun or to ignore their problems. Poverty is a problem for too many people living on this world.
posted by john at 9:32 AM on June 29, 2000


This might be long. I apologize in advance, but there's an unspoken subtext here that needs to be brought to the surface.
You can't talk about class (poverty) as a contributing element to crime statistics without also taking race into effect (in the US, at least). You also can't just look at who is committing the crime, but what happens to them once they get into the so-called justice system.
Pulling out my handy copy of Live from Death Row by Mumia Abu-Jamal (no, I really just happened to have it with me), I give you a quote from "Teetering On the Brink," originally published in the Yale Law Journal (footnotes omitted -- if you need them, contact me).
Where the issue of the death penalty is concerned, law follows politics, and conservatives won the socio-political battles of the 1980s on the basis of an agenda that included a ringing endorsement of capital punishment. The venerated principle of stare decisis -- following rulings of previous judicial decisions -- meant little in the politically charged judicial arena. Statistical methodology and scientific and sociological studies, once valued tools for challenging state practice, now serve as meaningless academic exercises.
McCleskey vs Kemp (1987) was the clincher. The Supreme Court majority, Justice Powell writing, assumed the validity of the so-called Baldus Study, which presented mounds of powerful statistical data demonstrating gross racial disparity in Georgia's death penalty tallies, but rejected the study's clear implications.
Justice Brennan's dissent telescoped the Baldus study's meaning: defendants charged with killing whites are 4.3 times more likely to be sentenced to die than defendants charged with killing blacks; six of every eleven defendants convicted of killing a white would not have received a death sentence had their victim been black. Thus the study showed that 'there was a significant chance that race would play a prominent role in determining if [a defendant] lived or died.'
The majority's perambulations to its eventual rejection of that which it could hardly deny -- that the race of the victim is a primary facter in determining whether a defendant lives of dies -- proved the potency of the old adage offered by the satirical character Mr. Dooley, who shrewdly observed: 'No matter whether th' constitution follows the flag or not, th' supreme coort follows th' illiction returns.'
McCleskey's claim, based on sophisticated statistical and multiple regression analyses, buttressed by 'our understnding of history and human experience,' was not disproved by the McCleskey Court; rather , it was rejected out of fear. In rejecting the conclusion that the facts established an unconstitutional informity, Justice Powell noted with alarm that 'McCleskey's claim, taken to its logical conclusion, throws into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice system.'
Precisely.

Abu-Jamal makes an interesting and I think reasonably well-argued claim that this judicial inequity based on race has its roots in the Dred Scott decision. Whatever its source, the facts are quite clear. In the US, the justice system works in a systematically racist way to punish blacks and other minorities more harshly than whites for similar crimes.
I doubt that this is news to anyone, but it had to be said. Having been said, we have to consider the way that race and racism play into the popular perception of crime rates. To what extent is that perception manipulated by exploiting racist fears? In the US, my experience has been that fears about the crime rate are almost invariably linked to racist ideology, although it might be cloaked by concerns about class/poverty and other socioeconomic factors, like drug addiction. In public discourse, by and large, those factors are coded to mean "black."
For more infomation on Racial Disparity in the Criminal Justice System I refer you to the resources of The Sentencing Project.
PS. I have not intended to imply nor do I imply that any post in this topic, or any poster, is racist. I am just trying to get behind the words that are being used, which I think was the original intention in starting the thread by critiquing the report from CBS.
posted by elgoose at 12:08 PM on June 29, 2000


word!
posted by sudama at 12:38 PM on June 29, 2000


You can always paint issues with racial bias, especially in this country. I was trying to take it beyond just the US's racial problems. Your right however, because even in countries that consist almost entirely of one race they develop inter-regional hatred.

So you come back to the point where there are so many factors involved that there is a paralysis in the effort to find some central contributing factor or even try at all.

Apathy results. Progress halts. We should (ack) take a bite out of crime, one bite at a time. This is central to many problems in society. If a solution doesn't eliminate the problem, it is deemed a failure. Consensus on any particular route towards a solution seems doubtful when some people see that their side of it won't be handled for a long time coming.
posted by john at 1:27 PM on June 29, 2000


if it's true that you can always "paint" issues with racial bias, it's because racial bias is always present. to choose not to work for racial justice because race isn't one's "side of it" is not an apathetic choice, it's a racist choice. i'm not trying to be accusatory, but it's extremely frustrating to see this perspective dismissed again and again on this Web site.
posted by sudama at 1:41 PM on June 29, 2000


if it's true that you can always "paint" issues with racial bias, it's because racial bias is always present. to choose not to work for racial justice because race isn't one's "side of it" is not an apathetic choice, it's a racist choice. i'm not trying to be accusatory, but it's extremely frustrating to see this perspective dismissed again and again on this Web site.
posted by sudama at 1:50 PM on June 29, 2000


Why do you suppose that perspective is dismissed again and again. There should not be two standards of justice, I want the same punishment for anyone who chooses to wrong me in a legal sense. Racial bias is not *always* present, unless you are looking for it to be, or are looking for an excuse. Anybody out there in favor of letting some off the hook for kicking in your door, and stealing all your stuff, just because they have the same color skin as you? Me neither.
posted by thirteen at 2:00 PM on June 29, 2000


I think that it's easier to spread the wealth then to spread the love. Money and resourses are tangible things that can be shared. Hate is something that can not be taken away from a lot of people.

I'm not dismissing hate. I realize it's a lot harder to fight. Maybe If one part of the problem is taken out of the equation a domino effect will occur.
posted by john at 2:21 PM on June 29, 2000


as explained above, people of color systematically receive harsher punishments than whites for the same crime. i have no idea what you're talking about.
posted by sudama at 2:32 PM on June 29, 2000


that "i have no idea" post was in response to thirteen.john, i agree with you to a large extent, and hope you're right about the domino effect. that's exactly what the new abolitionists are trying to accomplish by encouraging white people to renounce their white identity -- an identity which they argue only serves as a mark of privilege to separate those who benefit by racism from those who don't.there are a lot of ways to address racial injustice that don't involve trying to change bigots' minds -- like getting rid of mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws, abolishing the death penalty, reining in the prison system to name a few.
posted by sudama at 2:47 PM on June 29, 2000


Sudama: I misread your post, and entered a confusing reply. Eek, I feel very stupid indeed. We agree on the main point that people regardless of color should receive the same punishment for the same crime. I meant to convey that I feel no greater anger for wrongs commited against me by people of a different race, and that I am not inclined to give a pass to someone because they have the same colored skin as I. I do not think a racial bias is ALWAYS present. Generalizations fail when you can show exceptions, and there are many occasions in life and law where race is not an issue.
I do not know what to make of the new abolitionist link. I can't imagine many people turning on to what seems to be a self loathing cause. Blaming white people for all the problems in our country is just as wrong as blaming all the black people.
Re: sentencing laws, death penalty,etc. I do not believe the solution is to do away with these things, we just have to make sure every one who deserves these punishments, gets them. I feel more for the victim than the criminal.
posted by thirteen at 4:45 PM on June 29, 2000


All I have to say is I'm glad that the terror I felt in London was justified. :)

Seriously, the English are about as frightening as wet bunnies. Sorry, but it's true. Even your disenfranchised were polite by comparison. Everywhere I went, I felt like a Visigoth compared to the people I met. It was quite disconcerting.

America is a violent, boisterous, sometimes demented and manic nation. England is crazy, too, but in a very different way. (I sometimes think the whole world mad.) As far as abandoning who you are...why should you? Why should anyone abandon their identity? Sure, white people have done a lot of horrible things throughout history...but so has everyone else. The very people descended from slaves in the US now were sold into it by their neighbors in many instances, and it's ironic that those descendants many times turn to the Islam that kept the African slave trade alive for hundreds of years. Hell, the Islamic nations' desire for slaves helped keep the Vikings in business, stealing captives from all over Northern Europe in order to make great profits in Muslim Spain and North Africa.

I am that I am. I have Chinese ancestors, Native American ancestors, and European ancestors. Many of them were brutal thugs and warlords. My great-great-grandfather, Black John Morgan, shot five people while he was out west, and brought a chinese wife home to Edinburgh who he met while working as an overseer for the railroad companies. I am not about to forget or abjure them, for they are in me, and knowing who they were and what they did helps me make better decisions about who I am and what I do. I do not loathe them, nor myself.

If we abandon the past, we have failed to learn from it.
posted by Ezrael at 5:51 PM on June 29, 2000


abolishing the white race has nothing to do with self-loathing on the part of white people -- it's about eliminating a category which only exists to grease the wheels of racial oppression. the only reason we call people "white" is as a verbal shortcut to "not black"... and not anything else which is by definition undeserving of the privileges of whiteness. and it's not at all about blaming white people for all the problems in the US but about blaming the systems and institutions which reward white people for allowing racial injustice to go unchallenged.
posted by sudama at 7:06 PM on June 29, 2000


I got the same feeling browsing through the abolitionist link, that I got while looking through Ezrael's christian identity link on the main page. There is someting hateful bubling just below the surface. I am inclined to attribute any privilage, to being in the majority, rather than being white. White as a collective term is handy, just as black and asian are as well. If I am receiving benefit for the color of my skin, it is pretty paltry. I grew up poor, went to primarily black schools. There are times in America where it is advantageous to have black skin. We all know driving while black, try walking while white in the wrong part of town. Why isn't the group for the removal of all ethnic description? There is something wrong there, either intentional, or radical left kid stuff, but wrong.
posted by thirteen at 9:44 PM on June 29, 2000


This sure has strayed from the orignal theme. I think we can blame whiteness on the hated British (fine long removed Irish boy that I am), and thus crime was invented.
posted by thirteen at 9:49 PM on June 29, 2000


yes, contemporary islam is the exact same thing as the arabian slave trade which existed in a muslim society (and before it). give me a break! it's really not ironic at all, religion can give people hope and strength, even ones you aren't comfortable with.
posted by chaz at 11:30 PM on June 29, 2000


Kuro5hin: Dan Rather is right.
posted by aaron at 9:36 PM on June 30, 2000


No chaz, i think Ezrael was refering to the black nationalist movement towards Islam (correct me if I'm wrong please). I find it ironic when I hear misinformed Leftists say that a black persons "true religion" should be Islam. Some people are moving to the religion for the wrong reasons.
posted by andy at 1:01 PM on July 5, 2000


« Older Frictionary!...  |  The Register has an article... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments