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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

C# Developer

£35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: My client is lo...

Business Project Manager

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Project Manager job vaca...

Day In a Page

Read Next
80 per cent of Commonwealth countries discriminate against LGBTI people - will Salmond speak out?  

Alex Salmond must speak out against the Commonwealth's homophobic countries

Peter Tatchell
 

Commonwealth Games 2014: Speak out against homophobia, Mr Salmond

Peter Tatchell
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

20 best days out for the summer holidays

From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

All the wood’s a stage

Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

Self-preservation society

Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor