Leading article: Airbrushing out the riots

Share

Riots? What riots? As far as the authorities are concerned, this summer's disturbances were not only socially aberrant but also statistically so. As a consequence, they are being airbrushed out of the local crime maps launched with much fanfare as a boost to police accountability.

Leaving aside quibbles about the potential hit to house prices, online crime maps have much to recommend them. But they are valuable only as far as the data behind them is an accurate reflection of reality. If only. The crime figures for August recorded on the www.police.uk website give barely a hint of the fact that the worst rioting for decades was sweeping through many British cities.

The map for Reeves Corner, in Croydon, for example – where arson destroyed a 140-year-old furniture shop and surrounding businesses – records just one more crime in August than in July. In the St Ann's area of Nottingham – where youths went on the rampage, setting light to cars and firebombing a police station – the number of crimes reportedly fell. Even in Tottenham High Road, the epicentre of disturbances that raged unchecked for several days, crime levels rose to just 149. To anyone who watched the disorder and devastation on the news each night in early August, such figures seem laughable.

There are two explanations for the striking disconnect with reality. One is a technical issue. The crime numbers are traditionally put together on a per-victim basis, so mass looting of a branch of JD Sports, for example, only counts as a single crime. The second defence is that the sudden surge of criminal activity plays havoc with attempts to put together general crime trends, not only skewing this year's headline numbers with a one-off event, but also setting up false comparators with a hopefully riot-free 2012.

But these are the arguments of the statistician rather than those of the local resident looking for a snapshot of crime levels in their area. The riots may have been anomalous, but they nonetheless still occurred. To make believe that they did not – even in order to conform with historical data-gathering rules – is not helping anyone. Least of all police and politicians with a much-vaunted "transparency agenda".

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits