Tuesday, 20 August 2013

How much have homicide, theft and robbery fallen in the last two decades?

The Economist recently ran an story entitled The Curious Case of the Fall in Crime, which discusses some of the reasons why crime has fallen in the West over the last couple of decades. The BBC featured a similar article specifically about the British case. But by how much has crime actually decreased? Here, I present three charts which depict, respectively, the change in the homicide rate, the theft rate, and the robbery rate in a number of Western countries since 1995. Data are from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime.

Looking just at these three metrics, the drop in crime is quite impressive. Homicide has fallen by 20-50%, theft by 10-50%, and robbery by a similar amount. The only outlier here is Italy, which appears to have experienced a considerable increase in robbery, beginning in the early 2000s. (Part of this increase may be due to a some kind of change in the definition of 'robbery' under Italian law.)

1 comment:

  1. I've been meaning to come back to this, as it really bothers me. What I was trying to say before was that to my mind all these graphs show - or at least, in the case of the UK, which I do at least have long experience of - is that the FIGURES for crime have fallen. Owing to factors I mentioned like the huge number of crimes that apparently go unreported, the fact that the police now deal with many incidents that formerly would have been recorded as crimes in the statistics by on-the-spot fines and warning, which are not, and so on, to my mind the figures are unlikely to have much of a relationship to the reality on the streets. Surely statistics can only be valuable if the data they are based on is reliable? And certainly mine and many others' subjective impression is that crime has not gone down significantly. Does this reasoning make sense, or do I just not understand statistics?