Go figure

Thursday April 21, 2005

Crime in a complex society is, as you’d expect, a fiendishly difficult problem to define and analyse. There isn’t a single measure, method of measurement, nor a single set of statistics, that lets you, or anyone, see a plain and simple answer. So, until an as yet unsung genius comes up with something better, we have to make do with the measures and the statistics we are able to produce today.

Two sets of complementary crime figures were published today, looking at the problem from two different standpoints. It’s not at all surprising to me that, in some areas, they seem to contradict one another. Read together, it’s just about possible to say with certainty that in some areas crime is being brought under control while in others, it’s not. That’s what these things are most useful for. You look at the bad bits and do your best to find ways to combat them while not making the good bits worse.

Leastways, that’s what decent folks do.

Politicians, on the other hand, are not generally known or recognised for doing the decent thing, most especially in the campaign leading up to a general election.

So, the party in government, looking at the figures, presents the most optimistic picture possible from them, and claims to be working on the rest. The main opposition party looks for all of the negatives, doing their best to paint a picture of an imminent total collapse of society under the forces of crime, unless, that is, we vote them into power. The secondary opposition party looks at all the figures, notes what the other parties are doing, and solves the entire problem by promising to spend lots and lots more money on it. “You can trust me,” they all say, and, “You can’t trust them.”

As usual, the poor voter is reduced to fastening on one view or the other if they are already committed, or saying: “Oh, hell, I dunno,” and reaching for the remote in case there’s something more interesting on another channel.

Me, I’m reminded of an old saw that goes something like: “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure” and I reach for the OFF button, condemning them all to a hopefully uneasy sleep.



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