Now, Unity points out (via Obsolete) that the Telegraph regurgitated the Mail's figures a day after the second Mail article in a nice bit of churnalism headlined 'Foreigners 'commit fifth of crime in London', and further confuses the figures by claiming they refer to different things.
Originally, I was confused by the Mail's articles as their claims are all over the place and say different things about the figures even in the same article. The paper claims that they were for the number of arrests, the number of people charged, the proportion of them who were foreign nationals and the proportion who were immigrants. Had I read the Telegraph, I would have been even more confused, since it claims these are from solved crimes - a definition I'm finding difficult to find anywhere. That actually hints at something else, but more on that later.
When the Express used similar figures earlier this year that didn't seem to tally with the Mail's, I sent my own FOI request to the Metropolitan police to clarify what the actual figures really represented. This is what I found out.
The figures don't measure the number of immigrants or foreign nationals responsible in one way or another for crimes in the capital. They measure what suspects give as their nationality when they come to the attention of the police. As the Met point out in the notes on the figures they sent:
The MPS crime recording system can not be searched to obtain details of someone's status as a 'foreign national', only the nationality they give when the come to the attention of the Police. As a consequence there is no way to distinguish between residents of the UK (regardless of citizenship) and visitors from other countries
And, in the covering email I was sent, they also point this out:
Please can I draw your attention to the 'Notes' page that will further explain exactly what the information represents. From reading this page you will see that we have never released information regarding foreign nationals as the system that we use to collect the information does not distinguish between foreign nationals, tourists, dual-nationalities, etc. so these figures purely show the number of individuals charged who provided their nationality. Please also be aware that it is not a mandatory field, it is self-defined and as such there is no way of checking that the data is actually accurate, e.g. if someone provides their nationality as Jamaican we have no way of checking whether this is actually the case. The 'Notes' page will explain all these issues in further detail.
The figures measure the number of people accused of a crime. That is, the number of people who have been arrested or had proceedings taken out against them. They don't measure the number of people charged, and they don't measure the number of people convicted. To say they measure the number of people responsible isn't accurate by legal definitions, or in the more common usage of the word, since it might turn out they're not responsible at all.
So, the people aren't foreign nationals, and they're not 'responsible' for the crimes. To be 'responsible' for a crime, as far as I can tell, someone needs to be charged or cautioned, etc. And it definitely hasn't yet been decided whether they have actually committed any crime yet.
Which leads me to the 'solved' crime claim and a very important question.
I can't for the life of me find an official definition of solved crime, but I can find one for 'detection', which seems to be the same thing since the Met seems to be using 'solve' and 'detection' interchangeably in these two press releases.
In order for a crime to be detected, it has to meet certain criteria - someone has to be charged or cautioned, etc. The full list of criteria is here - but a crime that has only had someone accused doesn't count as being detected. So the figures the Telegraph is using aren't actually from solved crimes.
The Telegraph article only includes the claim about the figures being for solved crimes at the end of this sentence:
Romanians, whose country became part of the EU in January, committed more than 1,000 offences — an eightfold rise on the same period in 2006, according to Metropolitan Police figures for solved crimes.
This could mean that the figures for the number of Romanins were accused of for the first half of 2007 are eight times as high as the number of crimes Romanians were charged (or cautioned for, etc) with in the first half of 2006 - two very different things indeed. If the word 'solved' refers to the number of convictions we could be talking about something even more different than that.
The figures I got from the Met also show the number of people charged for crimes in the whole of 2007. The number of Romanians charged with crimes for the first half of 2007 is 469, so it looks as though the rise in crimes Romanians are responsible for has risen by four rather than eight times. It's difficult to say without knowing exactly what the original number actually refers to. Is it arrests, detections or convictions?
Given the loose way the paper has treated the other figures (probably more as a result of churning the Mail'n numbers that anything else), it'd be wise to treat them with caution. Especially as the Express claims in another article that Romanians were connected with 922 crimes in the whole of Britain in the last six months of 2007.
To sum up - these figures are meaningless. They don't measure foreign nationals or immigrants at all. They don't tell us the number of crimes the people measured are responsible for - only the rate they are accused of crimes compared to the number of crimes people who describe themselves as British are accused of. As I've said before, there were 447,628 crimes reported in London in the first half of 2007. People describing themselves as non-British were accused of 22,973 of those - or 1 in 20 - and actually charged with 9,878 of them - or about 1 in 45. Saying 'Foreigners are accused of a twentieth of crime in London' or 'Foreigners are responsible for one in forty crimes in London' would be closer to the truth.
But if you can't even be sure if they're actually foreign or not, what's the point?