Lies, damned lies and statistics

The misclassification of government crime figures revealed last week will instil even greater distrust of official statistics, if that’s possible. For data you can rely on, you need to see the raw numbers yourself. This is why FOI is so important.

FOI requests made by Sunday Telegraph reporters showed how crime figures are being spun for political reasons. They discovered gun crime is 60 per cent higher than official figures would have us believe as official figures excluded illegal possession of a firearm and gun-smuggling in their totals.

They also found that poice forces in England and Wales were massively underreporting knife crime. Until this year, knife offences categorised as actual bodily harm, rape, sexual assault or threats to kill were excluded from the knife crime count. Once they were included, police forces were on course to record a total of 38,000 serious knife crimes this year – more than 100 a day. The figure is at least two-thirds higher than last year’s total of 22,151 offences, announced by the Home Office in July when it unveiled its first annual count of knife crimes.

One Response to “Lies, damned lies and statistics”

  1. George Grant says:

    Well said Mr Bardo. Given the requisitely low level of media scrutiny, figures can be spun to say almost anything. FOI requests are indeed essential to remedy this issue. Government departments need to know that crunching the numbers is likely to do more harm than good, as the statistics they produce are more likely than not to be scrutinised. This has not been the case for far to long. More journalists need to understand the potential of FOI requests, and to make use of them. Nothing better than the threat of force but the use of force…

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