by David Dalgleish
The two ‘race and crime’ articles from The Telegraph reveal more about creative journalism and the misuse of statistics than the topics they claim to address. They exploit a genuine concern about serious crimes perpetrated by members of London’s black community against each other, and the despair felt by those seeking a solution.
Both articles are littered with false claims and deceitful arguments. The first is that their findings “permit an informed debate on a sensitive subject for the first time”. The trouble is, not only is it uninformed – as only they hold the data, it is not in the public domain – but neither is it the first time, there’s the Home Affairs Select Committee Report of 2005.
The creative journalism involved suggests so much, but offers very little. As journalists know, there is a duty to inform readers about the reliability of the data they are using. The first article does this in five lines towards the end of the piece after much of the hatchet-job has been carried out.
Let’s revisit these clarifications. They are not solely conviction rates, so – as the article states – they include acquittals and cases the CPS dropped. They also exclude unsolved crimes, which again hinders the reliability of the statistics. Despite these set-backs, and even a warning in the second article not to “leap to conclusions which are not justified by the figures”, they abandon all caution and pursue their own agenda.
The latter part of the second article offers a series of arguments that it uses the statistics to shoot down. However, these arguments rely on artificial opposition and false logic. For example, it infers that some people have suggested that police racism means no black men have been involved in these crimes. No one has ever made such an argument, and no serious commentator would because they would destroy their credibility instantly.
In a similar vein it questions the credibility of arguments that no reasonable person would make. It states that it is unlikely or implausible that a black victim would identify their attacker as black when they were in fact white. Of course not, but the problem here is no one has made such a spurious claim. These fake opponents are a ploy to set up their main argument.
The key point they wish to make is that it is “logical” for the police to target stops and searches at young black men instead of – note use of arguments from imagined opponents again – “old white women” or “Asian mothers”. Indeed it is, but the author conveniently forgets that the Home Office guidance endorsed by the Association of Chief Police Officers states that such stops and searches should be “intelligence-led”.
This means avoiding a scatter-gun approach of stopping any young black man in the vicinity, which would be both a waste of time and a disservice to the victim. If your suspect looks like Thierry Henry, searching someone who looks like Shaun Bailey or Tim Campbell is as equally illogical and pointless as stopping old white women and Asian mothers.
In a fit of faked confusion it asks what the Met police can do to investigate such crimes without criticism, yet it knows that if a victim states their attacker was a black teenager in a white t-shirt and jeans they are describing hundreds of people in that vicinity. This is not ‘intelligence’ and is as (un)helpful to police as stating that your robber at Liverpool St station was a white man in a pinstripe suit.
This article conveniently forgets to mention the recent finding that several forces including the Met were found to have unlawfully used Section 44 (anti-terrorism) stops and searches. The outcomes of these searches showed far more arrests for possession of drugs or weapons than terrorism related offences, and despite the relative lack of young black male terror suspects, they were again over-represented in these statistics.
Those who have bought in to these articles from a place of humanitarian concern for young people have been made victims themselves by peddlers of the stereotype of the black criminal, something that has been with us for much longer than the developments in serious youth crime we have seen on London’s streets. That is not to say that there are not issues to be faced within the black community on this topic, there clearly are.
However, if the Telegraph wants to have a genuine debate about the links between ‘race and crime’, in the spirit of balance it could perhaps explore why so many people from the white communities find the sexual abuse of children either entertaining or arousing. As someone from that community that is one debate I would like them to question and “shed fresh light” on.