Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

Britain’s murder spike

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Iain Dale discusses Britain’s recent increase in gang-related, US-style gun homicide:

All the evidence points to the lack of a male role model being a key part in a child’s descent into dark places. That’s not criticising single mothers, it is just a statement of fact. Chances are that a child with two parents will emerge into adulthood as a more rounded individual that if it doesn’t have two parents. This is especially true in inner city areas. This cannot be turned around within a few years, but if we do not do something in our education system to explain the benefits of duo-parenthood then if the current trend continues I fear not only for the future of our inner cities but wider areas too. As someone who in the past has aspired to hold political office, I don’t mind admitting that issues like this leave me reeling. I admire those who are thinking about the answers because I suspect very few of us can point to individual measures which we could take immediately to make a difference. Should we be adopting zero tolerance policies in inner cities, or would that push the crimes out into the suburbs? Should we seek to understand less and punish more, or would that entrench criminality for life? Whatever we do, we must learn from other countries. It’s clear that parts of our major cities are experiencing the kind of violent crime which used to afflict many major US cities. We need to learn from from them how they have tackled it and reduced it. New York is not the only example to look at. But we need to do it quickly.

It seems to me the sociological “causes of crime” approach is overly ambitious. Provide people with a good economy and solid education system by all means, but there’s not a whole lot that government can do besides that. All this talk of lack of role models and the bad influence of gangsta culture leaves me underwhelmed. While no doubt these things do add to an atmosphere that encourages violent crime, what exactly can government do about them?

Last time I looked Britain’s murder rate was still only 1/8th or so of America’s, so the British must be doing something right. As a Yank, I’d frankly be tickled pink if the USA had to deal with Britain’s (much smaller) violence “problem.” I mean no disrespect to the victims or families impacted by the recent violence, of course. But by world standards the United Kingdom is still a remarkably peaceful place.

What government can do, of course, is provide swift, efficient justice and effective policing targeting those who commit violent crimes, and those who would seek to profit from violent crime through the black market sale of firearms.

A big part of “effective and swift justice” means putting violent offenders in prison, where they no longer represent a threat to the general public. Imprisoning large numbers of people should make everyone a bit squeamish. And America’s record in this respect is frankly a national scandal (America imprisons a shockingly high percentage of its population). What I don’t think is right is to put huge numbers of non-violent offenders in jail. But I don’t see an alternative to putting away the violent ones. And without a doubt, such a strategy has played an important role in helping the US reduce the incidence of violent crime. It’s not pretty. And it sure isn’t cheap. But building prisons and confining violent criminals inside them has to play a role in any civilization’s quest to protect itself from its most violent elements.

Finally, though there’s not much that can be done about knives (we all have to cut our meat and vegetables, after all), I suspect Britain could redouble its efforts to remain a relatively firearms-free country. Again, this isn’t cheap, and will mean hiring more police specifically charged with the task of going after the illegal guns trade. But making it once again difficult to obtain an illegal gun in Britain will surely go a long way toward reducing the level of murder and mayhem on British streets. As I have argued on numerous occasions (and regrettably to little effect) to pro-gun Americans, being forced to rely on knives and fists turns many a would-be murder into a survivable assault.

UPDATE: I don’t know where I picked up that “Britain’s murder rate is 1/8th of America’s” stat. Well, actually I do, but the blog in questions shall remain nameless. Anyway, I don’t have a link at the moment, but I think recent statistics show America’s murder rate is “merely” triple that of the United Kingdom, not eight times.

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Written by Jasper

August 26, 2007 at 6:10 pm

Posted in Crime, Culture, Policy

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