Should we trust London police (and therefore the Mayor’s/Home Office’s) claims on crime stats?

I just read a report in the Islington newspaper about crime statistics.

Ten days ago I was sitting outside a cafe in Islington.

Thanks to a few years of working in a nightclub and a couple of years in Russia followed by episodes like the referendum, I have developed a greater than average degree of paranoia. This is almost always irritating but occasionally useful. 

Typing away on my computer, I sensed a scooter’s noise was too close.

I looked up and my eyes locked on those of someone driving their scooter into my table in about one second’s time.

Between a mask across his nose and a hat, all I could see was young black male eyes (~15-25). I think it extremely unlikely I could have identified him in a lineup.

A second later his bike hit my table and he grabbed my laptop.

I grabbed it back, we wrestled, he nearly fell off his bike and after a half second pause when I thought ‘fuckhesabouttogetoffhisbikehithimfirst’ he whizzed off down the pavement nearly smashing into someone on the pavement.

This was seen by half a dozen people. Two were calling the cops within seconds. 

I stood on the street and cursed my stupidity in fighting over a laptop (no Carole, no evidence of global conspiracies there).

The cops told both witnesses they would come.

I hung around for an hour or so. They never came despite having been told the whole scene was captured on CCTV.

A few days later, as I was typing on my laptop inside the same cafe, the same scene played out.

I saw it through the window as a guy grabbed a laptop from a girl and whizzed off. She was sitting between two parents each with a small child. Both parents were rightly worried about the potential for such attacks to lead to a collision between escaping bike and toddler. My wife and I often sit there with our toddler.

She called the cops and told them it would be on CCTV (I’d told her).

The cops said they’d come.

I hung around for an hour or so.

They never came.

These two incidents have happened after a spate of knife attacks in the half a square mile around this cafe and the colonisation of Rosemary Gardens by various gangs at various times of the day.

According to the Islington Gazette today (HERE), the local cops are claiming that moped crime is 60% down.

I know from my nightclub days that when local cops need to show a fall in crime for political reasons there are all sorts of ways in which they can easily cheat numbers.

As far as I understand it, neither of the two moped attacks above would be recorded in the stats. There was no attempt to watch CCTV footage or gather evidence once they knew the people concerned were not claiming injuries.

Should I trust official statistics such as those announced by Islington police today or am I right to be sceptical? Are there are any serious statistical papers estimating what sort of errors are likely in such statistics (NB. polling companies often misstate the definition of ‘margin of error’ in their own polls so it is common for fields to have ropey ideas about error rates)? 

Apart from whether there is a rigorous process for gathering such statistics locally, is there a Red Team that acts across London to review local processes?

Do Corbyn and Thornberry (local MPs) believe the official statistics? Does the Mayor? Do the Home Secretary and Prime Minister? (I imagine that the Mayor’s office has no real capacity to interrogate official figures and is more or less completely reliant on what he is told?)

Ps. Later that day I called 111 to see what would happen if I tried to report it. A recorded message said long delays, use the website. I went to the website, started to fill it in, the page crashed, and I abandoned ship. Doubtless I should have pursued harder to ensure it was recorded but I guess my behaviour is roughly typical so many similar incidents with other people are probably not being recorded, which is my main point.

Pps. At the least, saying ‘we will come’ then not coming leads local people to conclude a) you can’t rely on the police, b) they’re giving up. So if they are not going to come, it would be wiser to say so and explain why. It’s always interesting when such basic processes are wrong. E.g the way health systems kill thousands every year needlessly because they don’t use simple checklists to avoid central line infections. People in politics tend to spend far too much time on higher profile issues affecting few people and too little time on such basic processes that affect thousands or millions and which we know how to do much better… Cf. blog on expertise which is also relevant to the new money for the NHS.

6 thoughts on “Should we trust London police (and therefore the Mayor’s/Home Office’s) claims on crime stats?

  1. It is not just London it is across the country that there is selective police response to crime. My daughter has had her phone stolen and she and my wife threatened by the drugged up boozed up teenagers that committed the crime. The police would not attend and said report it on non emergency number so you can get the incident number. Claim on your insurance. My son was punched and chased down the street by a bottle wielding thug. He hid and called police who again said it was not an emergency he had got away so no one was in danger. Apparently this is now national policy that the police will not attend unless they deem that life is in danger. The country is going down the pan because the victims have less rights than the criminals and politicians tie the hands of the police on the streets. The senior officers are too busy being political and enforcing suppression of freedoms of the silent majority in order to promote and protect those who wish to destroy the morals and traditions that this country was built upon

    Liked by 2 people

  2. It is shocking how many stories you now see showing terrible priorities on the part of the police. For a long time I had considerable respect for the UK police and the nature of their relationship with the wider population. No longer. Again and again you see a lack of interest in investigating the crimes people care about (violence, theft); an obsession with policing thought crimes online; and a refusal to investigate crimes from certain subsectors (e.g. the burglar who died in the confrontation with the pensioner, the burglars parents are reported as living in a 1.5m house that they bought for 60k from the elderly man who is now living in a caravan on site, the parents have a history of defrauding the elderly, yet when the ex-wife tried to get the police interested she was turned away).

    Schools should focus on teaching and excellence.
    Police on protecting the vulnerable and dissuading the criminal.

    How hard is this? How have so many government institutions lost focus on their core purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is a general problem with use of objective stats for optimizing a system. The stat gets optimized, not the problem. Major problem in science funding. Which alternatives to use, however, is tricky.


  4. The scene from The Wire comes to mind, where the former cop turn teacher tells another teacher about “juking the stats”.

    Either someone’s juking the stats, or the stats have become optimised for the problem. Which is more likely?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I live in Rushcliffe, the constituency of Ken Clarke. The Sunday Times had Rushcliffe down as having the lowest run of solved crimes in the country (3.9%). Probably due to there being no police, although we do seem to suffer an abundance of incompetent councils and counsellors. And Mr Clarke? Very quiet. In fact so quiet on the subject….. It is impossible to imagine anyone quieter.


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