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The UK Peace Index - highlighting the opportunity cost of violent crime

Wednesday, April 24, 2013
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I'm always sightly dubious about statistics and information represented by campaign organisations - I'm left with the reservation that information can presented in any way that you want to prove whatever point that you are trying to make (wasn't it an economist who came up with the phrase 'lies, damned lies and statistics'?).  So this fascinating report from an organisation called 'Vision of Humanity' needs to be looked at with an open mind.

However, if you take it at face value, it offers some really interesting information.

To summarise:

  • Violent crime in the UK has fallen by 11% over the last decade despite having spent half of that time in a recession (and bucking a century long trend)
  • The cost of violent crime to the economy is a staggering £124 billion - far more than the cost of providing education
  • The major cause of violent crime is not simply down to lack of income - factors such as lack of employment opportunities, access to affordable housing and access to appropriate health care all play a part as well
  • The authors have created an index to measure the most and least 'peaceful' places in the UK.
This short (3.5 minutes) youtube video gives a great summary in a very classroom-friendly style.
The question for economists here is 'how does this information inform our policies?'  Do these statistics show a clear argument for greater government intervention and more short-term spending to reduce the long-term costs of violent crime?  Does the fact that the downturn in the violent crime has coincided with the worst recession in living memory and the austerity measures implemented suggest that the population of the UK are more inclined to accept their lot and feel less anxious about a relatively poorer quality of life (and therefore feel less inclined towards violent crime)?  It's something to think about!

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