Sunday, 24 February 2008

Lies, drinking, damn lies, crime and statistics

Britain recently passed a licensing act which essentially allowed drinking establishments to remain open as long as they liked. While this is an oversimplification, it serves the purpose; essentially this has meant that all pubs no longer have to close at 23:00, nor all clubs at 02:00. There was great controversy in the media at the time, and fear that this would lead to a rise in binge-drinking and alcohol-related violence and other crime.

Little surprise, then, that there has been much talk in the last week of all their fears being proven true. Both the Telegraph and the Daily Mail have carried stories to the effect that the new 24-hour drinking laws have fuelled a rise in crime in the UK. This is one of the first things I was taught about in my politics undergraduate course: statistics in the media.

What the new drinking laws have actually led to is a rise in crime figures. This is because the police no longer have to deal with a flood of drunken people on the streets when every pub or club in the area kicks them out; they are no longer overwhelmed, and can actually catch and report a greater number of crimes. This "rise in crime" is in the statistics only, and was entirely predicted and intended by those who designed the law. A quote from a police officer (on Daily Mail Watch) supports this:

"The licensing act (24 hour) has also helped a great deal. Instead of kicking-out time for everywhere at 11pm, we’ve got slow dispersement into the night, so the police haven’t got a great mass of people all at once. Crime has ’shot up’ after the licensing Act because we CAN detect, arrest and deal with more people, rather than be swamped and therefore unable to arrest/detect any crime at all! This ‘crime-spike’ was intended by the Home Office and the police as a result of the above reason, but you won’t read that in the Daily Mail!"

Always be wary of statistics, particularly ones concerning crime.

[Raise of the tankard to Obsolete]

No comments: