Do you think crime is going up or down where you live?
PUBLISHED: 11:03 21 April 2018 | UPDATED: 11:08 21 April 2018
CRIME! It gets the headlines every day, but do you think it is going up or down where you live?
The answer (which I’m hoping to give you in a future edition of this newspaper) is far more complicated than I thought when I started researching crime figures.
It depends on which data you want to look at, which types of crime you’re interested in and how you classify crime.
Police in Norfolk and Suffolk are recording more crimes – a lot more according to the Office for National Statistics.
It put out stats in January showing a 12pc increase in Norfolk, including a 50pc rise in domestic burglaries.
It was a similarly dystopian picture in Suffolk with 16pc more crime, domestic burglaries up by 59pc and violent offences increasing by 29pc.
Opposition MPs seized on these figures as a sign that the ever-thinning blue line can no longer cope.
The Government counters by focusing on different figures showing that “traditional crime” is falling and victims are feeling more empowered to come forward – so actually police are doing a better job.
When crime rises are reported, police will also tell you that it is down to some sort of classification change and/or police are getting better at recording crime.
That was partly responsible for the massive rise in burglaries recorded in Norfolk and Suffolk last year.
They can also point to other figures proving Norfolk and Suffolk are among the safest counties in the country. So we end up getting involved in a statistical chess match where my data Bishop is countered by your numerical Queen.
I doubt they would admit this publicly but I think police officers want a bit of fear of crime among the public.
Sure, they don’t want everyone jumping behind the sofa at the sound of a door bell, but being wary means we are more likely to lock our windows, not walk down dark alleys at night flashing our phones and install alarms and CCTV.
But just looking at these figures doesn’t tell us much.
I think to measure how well the police are doing their job and what is happening with crime we need to start looking at what happens when crimes are reported.
How many of them result in investigations which are closed with no suspect identified? How many end up with someone brought to justice in court? This is what we’re going to be doing at the EDP over the next few weeks.
We’ve dug out data going back to February 2015 from the police.uk website of every crime reported.
From that we can see what happens with each crime, broken down to the type of offence and by neighbourhood.
So hopefully we’ll be able to bring you some answers to the question at the start of this column soon.