The Economist/Ipsos MORI May Issues index shows that around one in six (17%) consider crime/law and order to be among the most important issues facing the country. Concern about this issue peaked six years ago and has been in decline since; in August 2007 over half (55%) placed crime amongst the most important issues facing Britain.
Despite the fact that crime, as reported by the British Crime Survey, was actually falling between 2004-2007, concern about crime actually increased during that period. For much of 2007 and 2008 crime jostled with race relations/immigration as the issue that concerned the public the most but in late 2008, the economy assumed the position as the most important issue, where it has remained ever since.
During this period, it was our experience talking to the public that the types of crime that the public were concerned about were those that were symptomatic of ‘Broken Britain’, including Anti Social Behaviour as well as violent crime, and especially crimes committed by young people.
In 2004, MORI analysed stories about young people in the national and local news and found that a third of them were focused around crime/violence and ASB. Polling conducted between 2001-2004 consistently showed that better parenting was the most popular suggestion for how crime should be reduced. Furthermore, when concern about crime peaked, in August 2007, it was as a result of the murders of Rhys Jones and Garry Newlove in the North West, crimes perpetrated by young people.
Anxiety about the economy has replaced anxiety about crime. In part this reflects a shift in media coverage of ASB and violent crime to the recession, and the austerity programme needed to deal with the huge UK deficit, as well as falls in real crime. Ultimately 'Broken Britain' has been replaced by 'Broke Britain'.