Monday, 27 December 2010

Drug offences go up, burglary goes down

This is a "man bites dog" chart.

The prevailing myth is that drug use is associated with crime. Moreover, the drug users speciality is burglary. If only drugs were legal, users wouldn't have to commit crime, especially burglary.

The data, however, doesn't want to sing that song. Since 2003, drug offences exploded. At the same time, burglary offences fell. Thus, it would appear that legalisation of drugs isn't the only route to lower crime.

There are a couple of ways to explain the paradox:

  • Target the drug offence, tackle the crime - Perhaps the data is tell us that the Police should target drug offences.  Finding a smackhead with a few crumbs of Class A is easier than catching them breaking and entering.
  • Misreporting - Crime data has become totally politicised.  The police have a strong incentive to register declines in key crime categories. 
  • Lower drug prices reduce crime - Another possibiity is that lower prices of drugs reduces the need to commit crime.  Previously, it might have taken two criminal offences to secure a given amount of drugs; now it only takes one.

Personally, I like the first explanation, but that might be because of my deep rooted antipathy to drug takers.

The main takeaway from this chart is that the relationship between drugs and crime is much more complicated than it seems.


Techno Mystic said...

I've heard other explanations for declining burglaries, namely:

- better home security
- domestic appliances are so cheap now that their re-sale value is too low to make burglary worthwhile.
- people don't bother reporting burglaries because the Police don't do anything (misreporting again).

First two things things might cause addicts to turn to other types of crime that are more profitable eg. mugging, prostitution, identity/benefit fraud.

Electro-Kevin said...

The near perfect symmetry of that chart bears out your conclusion, AC

Steven_L said...

Coppers tell me the number of burglaries corresponds to the number or burglers in prison.

There's only so many people that do it.