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Everyday Probability

Everyday Probability

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Published by Anh Ton

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Published by: Anh Ton on Sep 21, 2011
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03/27/2013

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Homicide is the category of crime that includes murder and
manslaughter,andistheonethatmostimpingesonthepublic’sgen-
eral awareness of crime. A murder is always reported in the local
press and on local radio and television news programs. A homi-
cide with special characteristics, involving, say, multiple deaths, a
celebrity,achildortheuseofafirearmwillusuallybecomeanational
news item. This concentration of attention on homicide in the news
media leads to the impression that it is a common occurrence in
society. The incidence of homicide in England and Wales from 1993
to 2005, as displayed in Fig. 16.5 shows that, on the contrary, it is a
very rare crime. The numbers per year are measured in hundreds,
whereas the numbers per year of the other types of crime to which

Fig. 16.5. Homicides in England and Wales, 1993–2005.

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178 Everyday Probability and Statistics

we have referred are measured in millions. However, the graph
shows a different evolutionary pattern to those of the other types
of crime.

The later entries in the graph are a little misleading, because
the 2000–2001 figure includes the deaths of 58 Chinese illegal immi-
grants who suffocated in a lorry that brought them into the United
Kingdom and the 2002–2003 figure is greatly distorted by includ-
ing all the victims of the mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman, esti-
mated to be between 150 and 250, in that year, although their
deaths occurred over several years. Taking these special factors into
account, it is probably true to say that the underlying rate has flat-
tened out at a level less than 10% above what it was in the late
1990s — to something in the region of 830 per year. It is customary
when reporting homicide rates in any society to express it as homi-
cides per 100,000 of the population per year. Given the population
of England and Wales as about 53million, this gives a rate of 1.6 per
100,000 per year.

Asmightbeexpectedtheratestendtobehigherinmajorcities:
the figures for three major cities in the United Kingdom are

London 2.1
Edinburgh 2.4
Belfast 4.4

TheBelfastfigureisaffectedbyacomponentofsectarianhomi-
cidewhichisnotpresenttoanyextentintheremainderoftheUnited
Kingdom. However, while any homicide is one too many, it turns
out that the United Kingdom is one of the safest countries in the
world in terms of homicide. Of all major countries, only Japan has
a lower homicide rate (0.9 per 100,000, but accompanied by a huge
suicide rate); even Switzerland, generally regarded as a haven of
harmony and tranquility, has more than twice the UK rate. To put
the UK city figures in perspective, some quoted figures for major

March 24, 2008 17:9 B-595

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Crime is Increasing and Decreasing 179

cities in Europe and the United States are as follows:

New York

7.3

Amsterdam

7.7

Lisbon

9.7

Chicago

22.2

Baltimore

38.3
Washington, DC 45.8

DespitealltheimpressionstothecontrarytheUnitedKingdom
is a safe place to live — at least as far as homicide is concerned.
AUKcitizenshouldbeconcernedabouthomicide,butitshouldnot
overshadow his life — he is four times more likely to be killed in a
road accident than to be the victim of a homicide.

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