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Those Crime Stat's

Posted on the 18 July 2013 by Markwadsworth @Mark_Wadsworth
There's a lengthy and interesting article in today's FT about the alarming rise in crime figures between the 1960s and the 1990s and the subsequent dramatic fall. Just to whet your appetite...  ... criminologists have struggled to explain the decrease, leading to the flourishing of conflicting theories. Some say that advances in policing have tamed criminal behaviour, while others suggest a new generation of youngsters, who drink less, take fewer drugs and apply to university in droves, is increasingly uninterested in criminality.  Alternative hypotheses link the fall to the legalisation of abortion – a controversial idea that fewer unwanted children has led to a drop in crime – or to the declining use of lead in paint and petrol, which are thought to have an adverse effect on the developing brain...  But that argument does not explain why violent crime has decreased significantly over the past 30 years. Steven Pinker, the Harvard psychologist, suggests that the western world's "three-decade binge of crime" starting in the 1960s was itself an aberration in a longer-term trend of society slowly "civilising" over thousands of years.  The online version doesn't seem to have the charts which are in the printed edition. One of them says that the number of crimes committed/reported (in the UK) rose from about ten million to eighteen million per year and then fell back to eight million and that the UK prison population was constant at about 40,000 until the mid-1990s and has doubled to 80,000 since then.  Ho hum.  We know that most crimes are committed by a very small number of people, so increasing the prison population is one perfectly plausible explanation for the fall in crime (providing you lock up actual criminals and not people whose only offense is ranting on Twitter or refusing to pay their Council Tax bill), but is it really possible that those extra 40,000 inmates would have committed an average of 250 crimes a year each? Does anybody know how to calculate or estimate the deterrent effect?

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