Feeds

London stab murder rate entirely normal, says top stats prof

Media hysterics capital of the world

The essential guide to IT transformation

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. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
Super Cali signs a kill-switch, campaigners say it's atrocious
Remote-death button bad news for crooks, protesters – and great news for hackers?
UK government accused of hiding TRUTH about Universal Credit fiasco
'Reset rating keeps secrets on one-dole-to-rule-them-all plan', say MPs
Caught red-handed: UK cops, PCSOs, specials behaving badly… on social media
No Mr Fuzz, don't ask a crime victim to be your pal on Facebook
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
Don't even THINK about copyright violation, says Indian state
Pre-emptive arrest for pirates in Karnataka
The police are WRONG: Watching YouTube videos is NOT illegal
And our man Corfield is pretty bloody cross about it
Felony charges? Harsh! Alleged Anon hackers plead guilty to misdemeanours
US judge questions harsh sentence sought by prosecutors
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.