Letter : Rise in crime is not just in the mind

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am surprised to see Polly Toynbee (article, 25 September) repeat the old argument that the increase in crime is largely a myth.

It is inadmissible to suggest that because the homicide rate in 1857 is similar to that of today that there has been no change in the level of violence.This misses out the great trough in between. Given great advances in resuscitation techniques it should decline even given a constant rate of violent behaviour.

The flattening of the homicide statistics since the mid-Seventies that she reports mystifies me. In the last five years of the Seventies the rate was 9.6 per million; in the last five years recently it has been 11.8.

Polly Toynbee repeats the familiar argument that only a small proportion of crime is violent and the vast majority is against property; hence fear of crime is disproportionate, particularly among women and the elderly.

Widespread crimes such as domestic violence and school bullying are not picked up in the statistics. Our own research suggests that crimes of violence are as frequent as property crimes and women have only a little less chance of suffering violence than men.

To suggest, as Polly Toynbee does, that women are irrational in their fears is ironic: of course, after taking elaborate precautions they suffer less crime than men; if they acted like men they would suffer more.

Professor JOCK YOUNG

Head of Centre for Criminology

Middlesex University

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