CRIME TRENDS IN THE USA AND IN BRITAIN
In this chapter we look at what has been happening to crime in the USA and in Britain, both in an overall sense and in terms of trends in relation to different types of crime. As part of this process, we comment in passing on what we know about fear of crime in those societies, because fear of crime can be as serious a problem as crime itself. We also consider the demography and the broad geography of crime, because these factors have major effects on its place-specific elements which are also the main focus of the relationship between crime and the design of the built environment. It is necessary to undertake a breakdown of this nature in any event, because overall crime figures mask very significant spatial differences.This chapter therefore has four sections:
|• a general cautionary introduction to the use of crime statistics;|
|• an examination of crime trends in the USA;|
|• an examination of crime trends in Britain;|
|• comparison and conclusions.|
There are two common sources of crime statistics. The first is data on crimes recorded by the police; these tend to be the easiest to use, since they are readily available, and they have an apparent consistency to them, since they are published annually and thus invite comparisons with what happened in previous years. They are often used in the absence of available alternatives, as we will do for this reason in this book; but there are some very important cautionary notes that need to be entered about data of this kind which must never be forgotten when they are used. We set these out below. The second major source is periodic surveys, either of victims of crime or of the population at large, which are usually done on a sample basis. This means, of course, that they are subject to all the problems usually associated with sample surveys, plus some particular difficulties which arise from the nature of their subject matter. Again, therefore, we set these difficulties out below, and we also look at what can be learned about the reliability of these data sources when they are compared with each other.
There are four main difficulties with police data on reported crimes.