After I reported, in the Sunday Times, that “London overtook New York in murders for the first time in modern history in February,” a story taken up by every other national media outlet, some people are inevitably trying to pick holes.
They tend, admittedly, to be the same people who initially reacted to reports about rising immigration by saying it was all made up by the Murdoch press and the Daily Mail.
The most common responses of the deniers have been to:
- Point out that London had fewer murders than New York in 2017, and in January 2018: I do know this, and indeed pointed it out myself in the article, but I’m not clear why it disproves a statement about murders in February and March 2018. There was a gap, but it has closed to nothing in those two months – for the first time ever. One of the core purposes of journalism is to spot precisely such tipping-points.
- Claim the real reason London has overtaken New York is that the American city’s murder rate has “fallen dramatically.” That is certainly part of the reason: but the dramatic falls happened in the early 1990s, around 25 years ago. New York homicide continues to fall, but much more gradually. Just as important, and far more recent, is the dramatic three-year trend rise in murders (38% between 2014-17, even excluding terrorism) in London.
- Say that two months is too short a period to draw any conclusions from. Our reporting didn’t draw any conclusions – it merely reported the facts. That said, the three-year trend of rising murders does appear to be accelerating, with an average of 12.7 a month over the last six months (Oct 2017 – Mar 2018) compared with 9.2 a month between Oct 2016 and March 2017.
- Say that it’s just a “spike.” A spike is something that goes up and then comes down again. For the moment at least, this isn’t coming down.
- Misrepresent what we reported. A common tactic when you can’t deny what’s actually been said: deny something else instead. Among the things we have been accused of claiming: that “London was now more dangerous than New York” (we didn’t – clearly danger lies in more than murder); that London murders in 2018 as a whole were higher than NY (we said the reverse); that we linked the rise in murders to the fall in stop-and-search (no again.)
- Say it’s all an attack on Sadiq Khan. The New Statesman says claims of murders topping New York are a “myth…being used to mislead people about Sadiq Khan’s mayoralty.” Sadiq has in fact barely been mentioned in most of the coverage – our leader article, for instance, focused entirely on the failings of the government – but perhaps he should have been. He is the mayor, after all, and a rather underachieving one, in cycling, in housing, and in transport as well as in crime. Why should he be exempt from criticism?
- Say London’s “the safest global city in the world and one of the safest cities in the world,” the official soundbite response to this story. This just sounds silly because even the people parroting it must know it’s not true. London is less safe than Hong Kong, Singapore or Tokyo (to name three other global cities), less safe than most other cities in Britain and less safe than many other cities on mainland Europe.
In conclusion, the facts aren’t pretty and they certainly threaten some people’s idea of London. But the problem clearly is both real and growing – and liberals really shouldn’t try to wish it away. To do so is to fail other Londoners in much less safe neighbourhoods than theirs.