If you trust the media, you would think that Britain was awash with all the worst social ills; crime, rioting, the NHS in crisis, education being dumbed-down and a general sense that the country “was going to the dogs.” We in Britain, with our characteristic understatedness, tend to believe that all the above are true.
Optimism is a quality we Brits lack. Average living standards around the world are always improving. Fewer people are dying in wars, dying from starvation and disease while poverty, both relative and absolute is declining rapidly. But that’s not what we hear in the media.
So Britain, here’s something to cheer you up. I should warn you first that if you are from Manchester, Birmingham or certain areas of London, you might find this article a little disheartening. But for the majority of readers, I’m going to put a smile on your face. Here’s the reason why; Britain is a growingly peaceful country.
So, has your mouth widened, Joker-style? Probably not, but you should be pretty happy to hear that you live in such a nice country.
Because in a report published last week by the Institute for Economics & Peace, Britain is a much safer place than it was ten years ago. Crime has fallen, homicide has fallen, and so has violent crime. Guess what has happened to alcohol-related offences, weapons crime, fraud offences and robberies? No, they really have all gone down. And this is despite police numbers having being cut by 5.5% in the last 5 years.
It’s strange to hear all this when the public’s perception of crime is that it is getting worse. Constantly, we are bombarded by reports of the various bombings or murders, or in the last year, paedophilia by celebrities. But, public perception is wrong. Britons’ “fear of being a victim of violent crime is greatly overstated,” says the report. 4% of Britons will be a victim of a violent crime, even though 17% think they will be. 66% of respondents polled thought that crime had increased a little or a lot over each year of the past decade. I’m sure their pessimism would be swiped away on hearing that crime is at its lowest for 30 years.
Compared to Europe, we are getting much better too. Our homicide rate is only slightly higher that the Western European average, as it has halved in a decade. Our violent crime rate meanwhile has fallen faster than in Western Europe. Violent crime is higher than it is in the United States, but our homicide rate is significantly smaller.
Now, here comes the bit where Londoners, and I am one, might get a little upset. Of the twenty least peaceful areas in Britain, eighteen are in London, including my London Borough, Hammersmith & Fulham. On reading this, I was a bit dumbstruck, for three reasons; 1) I think it’s a very peaceful area, 2) I’ve never been a victim of crime, 3) It’s a bit posh
On a serious note though, the report did say that crime costs the UK £124 billion a year. That’s slightly more than this year’s national deficit. And the report did find that “by tackling deprivation it is possible to have large impacts on peace.” Poverty needs to be tackled more toughly if both economic and social benefits are to improve. The current government’s economic policy doesn’t give us much cause to be hopeful.
But, let’s be cheerful. In regions all over the country, Britain is becoming more of a Shangri-La. I just hope Hammersmith & Fulham eventually follows.
By Henry Wise