In his April 11 letter, “Reduction in crime is relative,” James Holland misunderstands the purpose of my original letter (“Migrants are to be welcomed,” April 1). It was not only to dispute claims of rampant crime in Britain and the alleged culpability of “unassimilated” foreigners, but also to challenge the basis on which these claims are premised. Public perceptions of threat appear to be considered sufficient evidence in the same way that fears, rather than facts, inform how foreigners are sometimes viewed in Japan.

The variance between perceptions and reality is exemplified by the cases that Holland cites. According to the British Retail Consortium, shoplifting in Britain has risen by 70 percent over the last six years and has cost British retailers 13.26 billion pound since 2000. In contrast, figures released by APACS, the British payments association, show that credit card fraud decreased in the two years to 2006, and following the introduction of the “chip and PIN” method of authorization, fraudulent losses in shops declined by 43 percent.

Contrary to Holland’s assertion, no formerly banned drugs have been legalized. Cannabis was reclassified as a Class C drug in 2004. In practice, the possession of small amounts will not be prosecuted, but possession remains a criminal offense and the supply of cannabis is punishable by up to 14 years imprisonment.

Holland is right to draw attention to the considerable changes that the Blair government has made to the reporting of crime and the criminal justice system. The introduction in 2002 of more thorough standards of recording had the effect of increasing recorded crime by 10 percent.

Stiffer sentencing policies, including the Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection for those convicted of two assaults, have resulted in the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe. Is this a utopia for criminals?

I agree that crime rates are worryingly high in Britain and that crime figures are susceptible to a range of interpretations. For anyone who is interested, I would suggest they visit the Home Office’s Web site (www.crimestatistics.org.uk) and that of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London (www.crimeinfo.org.uk), and draw their own conclusions.

nick wood

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