Letters: Statistics on child safety

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Professor M. J. O'Carroll

Sir: Today's news reports (eg, BBC Radio's Today, BBC TV news and ITN's News at Ten) claim that child safety, at least in regard to murder by a stranger, is much the same as it has been for 50 years, because the incidence rate is similar. Wrong!

The incidence rate may be similar, but the exposure rate may not be. Children may be more restricted now than in previous decades. An alternative interpretation could be that the similar incidence rate, in the face of much greater parental concern and caution, shows that the risk for exposed children is much higher.

I do not have statistics on exposure rates (ie. of children being on their own in at-risk situations). My own recollections of 50 years ago, wandering freely as an under-five, and cycling alone to far-off towns at 11 or 12, never fearing to call at an unknown house for a glass of water, as did many other cyclists, would be unthinkable and irresponsible now.

It could be dangerously misleading to suggest that the risks are no higher then in previous decades.

Yours faithfully,

Mike O'Carroll

Welbury, North Yorkshire

1 August