The public misconception is that the UK is a safe country and the US violent, but the truth is just the opposite. Depending on which numbers you choose, the violent crime rate in the UK is five times higher than the rate in the US.
[Update - July 2, 2009: People still don't like these statistics, so here is the latest bunch courtesy of the EU and the UN, Naming Britain the most violent country in Europe, with violent crime rates ahead of the US and South Africa.]
[Update - August 20, 2007: Lots of people don't like my conclusions in the post. Fair enough, you don' have to. Here are some other statistics - from the Times Online and the Independent, since you question the other sources here - that you might want to look at. And if you really don't believe the statistics below, point to better statistics.]
On the east side of the Atlantic, we have the British Home Office and the British Crime Survey for 2005/2006. The UK does not use a calendar-year reporting scheme, but reports on a September-to-September time-frame. (These figures do NOT represent two years' worth of data.) The first problem is that there appear to be two separate figures for the crime rate. If we look at the tables supporting Chapter 5, on Violent Crime, (this is an Excel Workbook) we are told that there was a total of 2,420,000 violent crimes in the time-frame covered by the report. If we take the word of the CIA Factbook the UK had a population of 60,609,153 (July 2006 est.) This gives a rate of violent crime per 100,000 inhabitants as 3992.8. However in Chapter 7, (Table 7a) of the BCS, the total violent crime rate per 1000 inhabitants is listed as 23, which is equivalent to 2300 per 100,000 inhabitants. Even this lower number is an astonishing figure when compared to the US data.
On the west side of the Atlantic we have the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Uniform Crime Report for 2005. (2005 is the last year for which the data are not preliminary.) In table 1, we see that in 2005, the violent crime rate per 100,000 inhabitants was 469.2.
I recently broke out some of the state-by-state numbers. I repeat them here.
|State||Violent Crime Rate|
|murder rate per |
|District of Columbia||1459.0||35.4|
The UK numbers make Washington, D.C. look good.
But then in The Sun Online, in an article: 600 kids mugged each term day we find that the UK numbers do not include crimes against anyone under the age of 16.
Yet the attacks are not included in the Government’s key measure of crime, which IGNORES offences on under-16s. [emphasis in the original]This ignoring of inconvenient facts is not surprising, given that a 2002 study found that as many as 11 million crimes (some serious) were omitted from the British government's official figures. While some reforms have been enacted, cooking the books seems to still be taking place. (Those 600 muggings per day amount to 113,000 additional crimes every year.)
An interesting comparison of two major metropolitan centers, shows just how far the UK has fallen.
- New York has a population of 8 million, London 7 million
- London's crime rate is about 7 times that of New York
- Police budgets are comparable
- New York has 40% more cops on the beat
All of this is true while the perception that the UK is a safe society and the US is the violent, wild west remains.