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.