A major report published last week confirmed that rates of violent crime in Britain have tumbled faster than anywhere else in Western Europe over the past decade. The rate of homicide has fallen by half since 2003, while every region of the UK has become more peaceful despite the country's economic turmoil. Sheffield was confirmed to be one of the most peaceful urban areas in the UK.
Yet people tend to perceive that Britain is much more violent than it is in reality. 17 per cent of people think they will fall victim to violent crime at some point, whereas only four per cent will actually do so.
Now, the statistics on murder and violent crime are fairly reliable indicators of reality. However, as the severity of the crime lessens, there is increasing disparity between the actual incidence of crimes and the reporting and recording of those crimes. To take the most obvious example, consider the actual number of instances of exceeding the speed limit and the number of those which are reported and recorded.
That is why in looking at crime patterns, you need to look at both the Reported Crime statistics and the British Crime Survey – the latter being an annual detailed survey into the actual crime experiences of about 40,000 citizens over the previous 12 months.
So what are we to make of the latest statistics on reported cases of anti-social behaviour, which suggest that South Yorkshire has the second highest rate of any police force after Greater Manchester?
Actually, there is plenty of both research and anecdotal evidence to confirm that reporting anti-social behaviour increases when people have confidence that it will be addressed. So, an increase in recorded ASB might simply be a reflection of increased confidence rather than an increase in the incidence.of the crime itself.
I know that people are far more confident than a decade ago about reporting anti-social behaviour and expecting that something will be done about it. But, I also know that anti-social behaviour happens too frequently.
That’s why I’m very concerned that the Government is turning the clock back with their plans to scrap the ASBO and replace it with a weaker power which carries no criminal sanction for a breach. Similarly, the proposed community trigger, which demands a response if a person has complained three times just isn’t good enough.
People have the right to expect action right away and help to tackle an issue which is a huge worry.