30 December 2008

Cutting crime

As if it wasn't depressing enough with half of UK retailers about to go out of business, the Conservatives have decided a good bit of panic is in order, by drawing attention to the rise in knife crime in the UK. According to their figures, there are now 6 knife murders every week in the UK. The inevitable corollary of this message is a demand for more police on the streets.

Given the disproportionate coverage this sort of crime regularly attracts in the news, I thought this was a rather small number, so the story actually had the reverse effect of its intention by reassuring me, rather than making me anxious. It is a well-known principle of political stirring, of course, relying on the general inability of humans to make sense of statistics and use them to calculate probability.

Last year, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were 504,052 deaths in the UK. Of these 2,481 people killed themselves with intent, while another 2,236 were met their deaths after an accident in the home. So by just using the raw data, I am nearly ten times more likely to either kill myself on purpose, or by accident under my own roof, so maybe the government should send round a few coppers to my house, just in case.

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