Socialist Worker

Newspapers make figures up

Issue No. 1833

CLAIM: Gun crime has almost trebled in most cities over the last year. FACT: The number of offences in which firearms were reportedly used rose from 16,000 in 1994 to 19,500 in 2001. The vast majority of these offences involve people mucking about with air rifles. They are offences of vandalism-annoying but not lethal. There is a huge difference in offences where firearms are said to be 'used' and those in which firearms actually go off which are much lower.

CLAIM: Gun deaths are spiralling out of control. FACT: The papers are bandying about figures without any regard to what they mean or to accuracy. The Observer said that last year 417 people were killed in shootings, the Times put the number at 73. Home Office figures say that between April and November 2001 30 people were killed in gun murders. In 1993 the total figure was 35 and in 1997 it was 39. Over 60 percent of all recorded British gun deaths are suicides.

CLAIM: The police are struggling to cope with the huge increase in gun crime. FACT: Part of the apparent huge percentage increase in gun crime results from changes in how the police record crime. Two years ago the police were criticised for not recording crimes reported to them in order to make their clear-up rates look better. Now they are under more pressure to record crimes, the statistics have jumped upwards. The British Crime Survey found that violent crime has fallen by 17 percent since 1999.

The survey says, 'For violence against the person offences, the impact of recording changes may have been to turn a 5 percent real fall into an 8 percent increase.'

Racism shapes people's lives

THE RIGHT wing press has jumped on fears about gun crime to whip up racism. They talk of a violent black culture imported by drug dealers from Jamaica, and gun running from Bosnia.

David Blunkett and other ministers see no hypocrisy in denouncing black musicians for 'glamorising violence' while planning a murderous attack on Iraq. They also ignore the reality of life for black people. Black pupils are nearly six times more likely than white pupils to be excluded from school. In 2000-1 some 13 white children per 10,000 were excluded from school.

The figure for black pupils was 74 per 10,000. Black people are eight times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police. Black people are around four times more likely than whites to be arrested. And they are around six times as likely to be given prison sentences. Black men are 2.5 times more likely to be out of work.

This is not about culture or lack of ambition. It is about racism.

For more on the reality of racism in Britain see Hassan Mahamdallie's article 'Racism, Myth and Realities' in International Socialism 95, £3 from ISJ, PO Box 82, London E3 3LH.

Violence in this song

CULTURE SECRETARY Kim Howells has attacked the 'macho idiots' of rap music. Howells has never laid into the violence and bigotry promoted by white rock groups, and he ignores black singers who denounce violence like Ms Dynamite. At the rugby clubs in Howell's Pontypridd constituency he could hear a song with the following words sung on Saturday nights:

I saw the light on the night that I passed by her window. I saw the flickering shadows of love on her blind. She was my woman. As she deceived me I watched and went out of my mind... She stood there laughing. I felt the knife in my hand, and she laughed no more.

But this is Tom Jones's 'Delilah' rather than So Solid Crew, so it's regarded as harmless. Rap music reflects the lives of sections of people. It does not cause the violence around them.

Conor McNicholas, editor of the NME magazine said, 'There is more rap music bought and listened to by white kids in Swindon than by black kids in Hackney, and no one is talking about gun culture on the streets of white suburban Britain.'

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Sat 11 Jan 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1833
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