Saturday, 27 July 2013

Crime, Thatcher & Rolling News.

After the death of Baroness Thatcher was announced, BBC Radio 4's "PM" Programme used audio of BBC Local Radio callers expressing their views of Thatchers' legacy.
Some were complimentary, others not so. One caller used the phrase "all the trouble with crime" when talking about what Baroness Thatcher had sorted out implying crime is worse now... That annoyed me.

There is a perception of crime (particularly violent crime) that is diametrically opposed to the reality of crime, and that is the fault of the media.

In 2011/12 there were 2.1 million violent crimes, in 1995 there were 4.2 million. The number has halved in 17 years. Firearms offences have fallen by 60% since their peak in 2003/2004 and the people most at risk of violent crime are young men (68% of homicides). figures taken from the Office For National Statistics.

My grandmother lives just outside the city of Nottingham and was recounting how she was worried by a stabbing at the end of her road. I asked her to go into detail; it happened at 2 am and involved a fight between a number of young men. I asked her why she was worried and she looked shocked... My point was that at 2 am my 87 year old gran was tucked up in bed and she wasn't a young man getting into fights.

The responsibility lies with the media and its voracious appetite for news.

Rolling news became a fact of life in the UK  in 1989 when Sky News launched and then later in 1997 when BBC News 24 (later BBC News) channel started broadcasting. Before that we had American imports that didn't look at domestic stories.

24 hour news loves crime; it's the story that keeps on giving. From event to investigation, from false leads to arrest, from to bail to charging, from trial to sentence, it's all there. One murder could be reported for years before it becomes old again. Then you throw in the politicising and conjecture and you have a great big crime pudding that journalists eat up with a bit rolling news spoon.

This constant return to cases builds a skewed picture of crime levels; there's always something happening.

Print media wades in with the same cycle and suddenly we have my gran afraid of going out and the legacy of Margaret Thatcher controlling crime being overstated.

So what should happen? We can't just turn off rolling news because it's bad for us, but we could add context, we could add background, we could add information that makes us think more rationally.

Violent crime is now lower than it was in 1981, 2 years after Baroness Thatcher came to power.


Photo credit -
Network 355 via Compfight cc

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