Feeds

London stab murder rate entirely normal, says top stats prof

Media hysterics capital of the world

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

A top statistician has thrown a bucket of cold water on the stab murder media hysteria which has gripped the UK - and especially London - during the past year.

Professor David Spiegelhalter, Winton Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk at the University of Cambridge, has just published a study on the subject in Significance - the magazine of the Royal Statistical Society.

He has harsh words for comments like that of BBC correspondent Andy Tighe on July 10 last year, following four knife killings that day. Tighe said: "To have four fatal stabbings in one day could be a statistical freak."

Au contraire, says the prof. It was a normal event, to be expected in London at regular intervals.

"Four murders on the same day in London would be expected to occur about once every three years, and it has done," says Spiegelhalter. "Seven days without a murder should occur about six times a year, and it does."

The Significance study was written in conjunction with the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council (RRAC), a government body set up to consider appropriate public response to risk. According to the prof's research, covering crime since April 2004, there has been little change in the capital's murder rate over the past five years.

But you wouldn't know it from reading the news. On 28 July 2008 thelondonpaper had the front-page headline "London's murder count reaches 90". But Spiegelhalter states that this number was normal for that time of year.

"We focused on London for this report as there is a general feeling, often driven by the media, that over the last 12 months murders have increased more than would be expected," he said.

"Those in authority need to remain level headed and offer the general public a thoughtful, proportionate response," said Rick Haythornthwaite of the RRAC. "Sensible decisions can be made whilst never forgetting that each individual case is of course shocking and a tragedy for those affected."

The research can be read in full here (free pdf download available, as of going to press.) Prof Spiegelhalter and his colleagues also have a dedicated site, here. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.