Britain the most violent country?

Readers have sent me an article in the Mail about a study saying that Britain is the most violent country in Europe. Having followed events in the Clockwork Orange Kingdom so closely, I’m certainly prepared to believe that. But something about this report is off-base and I don’t trust it. For example:

But it is the naming of Britain as the most violent country in the EU that is most shocking. The analysis is based on the number of crimes per 100,000 residents.

In the UK, there are 2,034 offences per 100,000 people, way ahead of second-placed Austria with a rate of 1,677.

The U.S. has a violence rate of 466 crimes per 100,000 residents, Canada 935, Australia 92 and South Africa 1,609.

Britain has four times more violent crimes per 100,000 people than the U.S.? That’s absurd.

- end of initial entry -

William A. writes:

The British crime statistics to which you refer appear to be correct. It is appalling that violent crime in England is four times more prevalent than in the United States.

The reasons appear to be (1) the successful effort of the British elite to disarm the population, with ever more draconian weapons control laws beginning in the 1920s, (2) explicit instructions to the public from police, the courts, and public figures never to resist evildoers, and of course (3) the rapid increase in the population of immigrants from cultures that do not share such a pacifistic way of life.

If you find it hard to believe that England could have become so violent, consult Theodore Dalrymple or Joyce Lee Malcolm. Or just read the Daily Mail more frequently.

LA replies:

I won’t believe it until I see independent figures. For as long as we’ve known, the U.S. has been more violent than European countries—because of our huge black population. When we looked at only white violence, the U.S. was no more violent than Europe. Britain has under two million blacks in a country of 60 million, three percent. The U.S. is about 13 percent black (and 13 percent Hispanic). Britain’s Muslim population is also below two million. Unless we assume that whites in Britain are more violent than blacks in America (and remember that U.S. blacks’ per capita murder, rape and armed robbery rates are between six and ten times that of U.S. whites), the notion that Britain is four times more violent than the U.S. is impossible.

I don’t have the time today to research this. I’m writing up something on Angelo Codevilla’s insane and treasonous article in the American Spectator calling for the U.S. to merge itself with Mexico.

You write:

“Or just read the Daily Mail more frequently.”

VFR probably posts Daily Mail articles more frequently than any other blog in the U.S.

Ron K. writes:

The Mail is dishonest.

Look at the first two sentences you quote:

“But it is the naming of Britain as the most violent country in the EU that is most shocking. The analysis is based on the number of crimes per 100,000 residents.”

“Crimes per 100,000,” not “violent crimes per 100,000.” That’s so simple an error that you have to wonder if they deliberately made it to jazz up the story.

Property crimes may well be more prevalent in the UK than in the U.S. Add to them “hate speech” and “congestion pricing” violations, among others, and I’ve no doubt they surpassed us long ago.

LA replies:

Yes, I also noticed that ambiguity about “crimes” and “violent crimes” when I read the article.

William A. writes:

Checking these figures is indeed difficult. It is always possible to manipulate statistics.

However, according the UK government there were 2,164,000 violent incidents against adults in England & Wales in 2007/2008 (they use a fiscal year sort of reporting).

For comparison, there were in the U.S. in 2005 approximately 5.2 million violent crimes against victims over the age of 12 ().

Using 300 million as the population of the U.S. and 60 million for the UK gives crude rates of 0.017 for the U.S. and 0.036 for the UK.

According to that comparison, violent crime is twice as frequent in the UK as in the U.S.

One of the problems with such comparisons is a difference in definitions—it is important to know what constitutes a “violent crime” in the different jurisdictions. As the Daily Mail article notes, “In Britain, an affray is considered a violent crime, while in other countries it will only be logged if a person is physically injured.” [According to the British public order laws, “A person is guilty of affray if he uses or threatens unlawful violence towards another and the person’s conduct is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his personal safety.”]

Also note that Britain is more violent than South Africa in the Daily Mail’s overall rankings, but there were just under 1,000 murders in the UK, compared to 20,000 in South Africa.

LA replies:

As you yourself indicate, the different definitions of violence used in these reports render meaningful national comparisons based on them impossible.

William A. replies:

I have no argument with that.

It is perhaps more meaningful to look at changes in crime rates within one country over time.

By that measure, crime in Britain has undoubtedly increased over the course of the 20th century.

Alan Levine writes:

I myself would have found it hard to believe the claim about the prevalence of violence in Britain if I had not read some of the writings of Dalrymple, Sean Gabb, and Melanie Phillips. I think your tendency to go overboard on race may obscure matters here—you have not taken into account two issues: 1) the “yobbication” of the native British lower class whites. 2) the complete absurdity of British law enforcement, which is far, far more insane than ours. It is difficult to believe that modern day Britain is the same country that in the 1950s had probably the lowest crime rate and the best law enforcement in the world.

July 3

Karl H. writes:

Some potentially more reliable (though limited) crime comparisons are presented in the International Crime Victims Survey, which seems to be UN-sponsored, and conducted by European criminologists at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. I’ve only glanced through it, but their methodology seems to be to conduct direct, standardized surveys of the public in various countries, rather than relying on official statistics (with their uncertain definitions). Here is the 2004/2005 report. They have conducted several surveys since 1988.

Unfortunately for our purpose of considering violent crime rates, most of the crimes surveyed are non-violent, but there is a category of “Contact Crimes,” broken down into robbery, rape and “assaults and threats.” In robberies, the U.S. is well below England and Wales (0.6 percent of U.S. survey respondents reporting robberies vs. 1.4 percent in England and Wales). For rapes, the U.S. is tied for the highest in the study (with Iceland!) at 1.4 percent of women responding reporting rapes, and England and Wales having a 0.9 percent rate (although the report cautions that there are significant differences in “the type of behavior perceived by female respondents to constitute an offense”). For “assaults and threats” the U.S. is at 4.3 percent and England and Wales are higher at 5.8 percent. “Assaults” here seem to mean actual physical contact whereas I understand in the English-speaking world assault does not necessarily involve physical contact.

LA replies:

This seems way to subjective for the purposes of inter-national comparisons. It seems to me you’ve got to use officially reported crimes of a certain defined nature.

Patrick H. writes:

The figures seem highly suspect to me. Consider Canada’s figure of 935, twice that of the U.S. Followed by Australia, a country very similar to Canada in most social indices (better weather though) with a rate of 92! (Who knows, maybe the Canadian figure was a misprint of 93.5?)

Any stats that show Canada twice as violent as the U.S. and ten times as violent as Australia need to be taken with several tons of salt, even when they’re talking about Britain. And of course, the comparison with South Africa is just as preposterous.

I call stinkeroo on this one.

William V. writes:

You recently expressed your disbelief that violent crime rates in the U.S. were much higher than those in the UK. I think you are right that they are not four times as high, but they are higher. Except for murder, the US is less violent than the UK.

The U.S. murder rate (6 per 100K) is higher than the UK’s or Canada’s, each at 2 per 100K. (See Wikipeida on list of countries by murder rate.) But the U.S. white murder rate is not higher than the UK or Canada white murder rate (or at least the differences is small)——-I don’t have a cite for this handy.

There is an international crime victimization survey conducted to address exactly your concerns about measurement problems. It is described on wikipedia here. The most recent report from that survey is here. That survey has a less-than-ideal way of categorizing crimes, but it is consistent across countries, at least. What they call “contact crime” is roughly violent crime (ignoring homicides, which are 1000X rarer, so that the omission is not especially important, but including possibly overbroad measures of both sexual assault and assault). For robbery, the rates per 100 (not per 100K!) in the U.S., Canada, and England/Wales are 0.6, 0.8, 1.4. [LA replies: Over one in 200 persons in the U.S. was robbed in a year? And 1.4 percent of persons in England/Wales were robbed in a year? I don’t believe it. I’ll have to read these documents.] For sexual assault, they are 1.4, 0.8, 0.9. For assault, they are 4.3, 3.0, 5.8. For burglary, probably the worst of the property crimes, the rates are 2.0, 2.5, 3.5. These rates don’t count how many times each person is victimized, just whether or not they were in 2003-4. Other European countries are mostly safer than the US, but some are less so. [So U.S. is higher than England in murder and in sexual assaults. England is higher in assaults, burglaries, and robberies. Burglaries are not personal violence. And I’ll bet a lot of the assaults in England are not that serious, consisting of men pushing each other around in pubs, fights at soccer games and such like. The most significant difference is the more than twice-higher robbery rate in England than the U.S., but, again, the figures for all the countries seem too high to be believable. Further, as you acknowledge, the four-times higher violence in UK than the U.S. reported in the Mail is wrong.]

The U.S. probably has a higher violent crime rate than does Canada, but the UK (or England and Wales, at least) has more violent crime than the U.S. I know some criminologists, and, as far as I know, these facts are not especially controversial.

There are other relevant factors however. My understanding is that crime in the U.S. tends to be more geographically and demographically concentrated than it does in other countries (again, no handy cite). So that, if we compare, say, white middle class people living in middle class areas, the US is much safer than the UK and probably safer than Canada.

D. from Seattle writes:

I find it extremely unlikely that Austria would have a higher rate of violent crime than South Africa. I have been to Austria (not recently) and it seemed like a very clean and orderly place. Even with the level of non-European immigration they have, and the rise in crime that would bring, there is simply no way that it could be more violent than SA. Nothing I ever read or heard anywhere else would corroborate this comparison.

Deogowulf from England writes:

The statistics do not surprise me. If you visit some British towns on a Friday or Saturday night, which are best avoided, you will perhaps realise how violent Britain can be. Violent incidents are, I suppose, vastly underreported. Violence is quite normal, and not to report it is likewise. In more than just physical violence, it is an island of savages—and I speak as a native! Not so long ago it was otherwise. Of course, in liberal-progressive ideology, that cannot be the case; for, since it is the liberal-progressive revolution which has reshaped society, the “vibrancy” and “diversity” of which is to be “celebrated,” it must therefore be the case that whatever has not got better has either always been as bad as it is now or has been dragged down by bigots and reactionaries. No regress is possible under liberal progress; only further perfection. It is naturally just a conservative delusion that progress towards perfection just happens to look more like a descent into hell.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at July 02, 2009 12:20 PM | Send

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