The trouble with statistics is that they’re easily skewed and seldom reveal a complete picture.
For example, government statistics reported in the Scottish press today reveal a significant fall in the country’s homicide rate - down 20% on last year - to levels not seen since 1979.
Knife crime, the ugly smudge on Scotland’s copybook, is also down, with homicides involving a ‘sharp instrument’ accounting for 35 of the nation’s 78 homicides last year.
This is excellent news: Scotland now ranks alongside Bulgaria and Romania on the European ‘homicides per head of population’ league table.
The Scottish government was quick to pat itself on the back. Justice secretary, Kenny MacAskill, said the success was thanks to the government’s drive to put a thousand extra Scottish police officers on the beat since 2007.
While I agree with the commitment to provide more cops at street level, I dispute Mr MacAskill’s assertion that homicide rates are falling because of his government’s commitment to fighting crime.
Common sense dictates that the gradual reduction in homicide rates over, say, the last hundred years is as much to do with advances made in medicine during the corresponding period. We’ve become much more competent at repairing stab wounds; it’s not necessarily the case that we’re less violent towards one another.
When collating the number of assaults involving knives and ‘sharp instruments’, is the degree of surgery the victim needs recorded? Surely that’s a significant factor in determining whether someone lives or becomes another homicide stat, but I doubt it’s being recorded or analysed.
In my opinion, it's our doctors, paramedics, nurses and surgeons who deserve our thanks, not some spineless politician.
A run of bad luck in theatre - or idiotic funding cuts to the NHS budget - and those homicide rates can skyrocket.
Government statistics? I seldom believe them. They’re too easily manipulated and only slightly more trustworthy than the average politician.
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