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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Glasgow Murder City?

Over the weekend this caught my eye:

Scotland has the second highest murder rate in western Europe and Scots are more than three times more likely to be murdered than people in England and Wales, according to a study by the World Health Organisation.

The study, based on the latest crime figures from 21 western European countries, finds that only Finland has a higher murder rate than Scotland.

Scotland's homicide rate is 2.33 deaths for every 100,000 people each year, compared with 0.7 in England and Wales. In Spain it is 1.02, and in Italy 0.96. Germany has western Europe's lowest murder rate: 0.68 per 100,000 people...

Almost half of murders in Scotland are committed by people under the influence of drink or drugs - particularly in Glasgow, which, despite its successful effort to shed its hardman image in the city centre, is still plagued with violence in its east end and hinterland estates.

Scotland's second city is in fact the murder capital of Europe, with about 70 killings each year. Much of the violence is caused by gangs vying to control the city's drugs trade.

But a culture of young men carrying knives also plays a part.

Official figures show that serious crime in the city has risen heavily: murders increased by 19% from 70 in 2003 to 83 in 2004. Attempted murders rose by a third in the same period, from 343 to 459.

This news follows on from last week's revelation that, according to the United Nations, Scotland is the most violent country in the developed world.

A UNITED Nations report has labelled Scotland the most violent country in the developed world, with people three times more likely to be assaulted than in America.

England and Wales recorded the second highest number of violent assaults while Northern Ireland recorded the fewest.

The study, based on telephone interviews with victims of crime in 21 countries, found that more than 2,000 Scots were attacked every week, almost ten times the official police figures. They include non-sexual crimes of violence and serious assaults.

Violent crime has doubled in Scotland over the past 20 years and levels, per head of population, are now comparable with cities such as Rio de Janeiro, Johannesburg and Tbilisi.

This is not particularly surprising to me, having lived in Edinburgh for several years. I've never seen anywhere near as many fights in either London or New York as I did when I was in Edinburgh, and Edinburgh is considerably more genteel than Glasgow. But I must say, the 'Glasgow Murder Capital of Western Europe' stat set my antennae stirring. It seems that the press has gone along with this story without checking their facts; or at the very least the whole story is not being told. This report fails to make the distinction between the city of Glasgow and the Strathclyde Police force. In addition to the city of Glasgow, Strathclyde Police are responsible for a large area of western Scotland. Of the 2.2 million people who live in the Strathclyde zone, only about 580,000 live in Glasgow itself, and only 797,000 live in the four main Glasgow divisions (Glasgow Central and West, Glasgow East, Glasgow North and East Dunbartonshire, and Glasgow South and East Renfrewshire), or about 36% of the total population in Strathclyde Police's boundaries.

Why does this matter? Well, because the number of murders presented here is for all of Strathclyde, not just the city of Glasgow. Generally speaking, Glasgow accounts for about half of the murders committed in Strathclyde in any given year (see page 4 of the linked pdf). Since I can't seem to find any statistics breaking out 2004's murder totals by where they were committed within Strathclyde, it seems fair to assume that probably about 40-45 of the 83 murders mentioned in the Guardian report were committed in Glasgow itself. Annoyingly, nowhere can I find any numbers on how many murders are committed in the immediate Glasgow area (the city and the suburban areas covered by the four Glasgow divisions), so it is hard to tell how much or how little this affects things overall.

Even so, it is clear that Glasgow's murder rate is substantially higher than London's. The most recent statistics from the Metropolitan Police (which cover's the 32 boroughs of Greater London) show that London had 221 murders between April 2004 and March 2005 (the Met publishes its data by financial years). Since London's population is (according to the last census) 7,172,000, this means that London had a murder rate of 3.08 murders per 100,000 people last year. Glasgow, in contrast, has only 577,869 people, so, assuming that Glasgow's percentage of the Strathclyde total was within a fairly normal range, then Glasgow should have had a murder rate somewhere between 6.92 murders per 100,000 people (if there were 40 murders) and 7.79 murders per 100,000 people (if there were 45 murders). Indeed, it could be higher, if the rise in murders between 2003 and 2004 occurred disproportionately within the city of Glasgow. Hell, even if you expand it out to the whole Strathclyde Police area, those 83 murders give a murder rate of 3.77 murders per 100,000 people, which is still above London's rate.

One thing that I find quite remarkable about all this is that, even after finagling Strathclyde's figures down into those from Glasgow, the city still had a higher murder rate than New York City in 2004...without guns! Obviously New York's crime rate has dropped precipitously since the end of the crack wars, but this is still a pretty remarkable statistic. Shooting someone is by far the easiest way to kill them, and guns are key to America's huge number of annual homicides. You need one rough city to manage to beat out somewhere like New York without guns playing much of a role.

|| RPH || 1:47 AM || |