With Londoners heading to the polls this week to elect the next mayor, voters will be making their decision on a whole range of different factors; but one subject will always be a major talking point from generation to generation: crime.
The impression that some people – mostly those who rarely visit the city – have of London is that it is a dangerous place. But while the capital has its share of problems with crime like any town or city, the idea that crime is proportionately higher than anywhere else is not necessarily true. Sure, there are more incidents than there are in any other UK city, but there are also a lot more people.
When you compare London’s crime figures to those from other major cities around the world, you’ll find that they are actually quite low. In 2009, the United Nations compared the murder rates per 100,000 of the population of 112 major cities across the world, and London came out 21st from the bottom of that list. London councils have brought together a range of publications to try and bust some of the myths regarding crime in the city and their response to it, but the personal safety and the protection of private property remains a key issue in the upcoming election.
Both the major mayoral candidates, current incumbent Boris Johnson and former mayor Ken Livingstone, have addressed the subject of crime in the run-up to the ballot. Both have highlighted the steady downward trend in the crime data; Mr Livingstone focussing on the fact that while crime is still falling, it is at a lower rate than that experienced during his time in office, and Mr Johnson pointing out that a 4.6 per cent fall in instances of criminality over his four years in office is very positive, considering this coincided with a significant economic downturn.
The economic situation in wider society will always have an impact on crime statistics, as it has throughout history; while London’s overall crime rate has dropped in the last four years, instances of burglary and theft have risen slightly, as criminals target items that can be resold quickly and easily such as flat-screen TVs, games consoles and laptops. But this is not just a London thing – data from a home insurance provider Castle Cover indicates that this increase in burglary and theft is reflected across the UK. Furthermore, there is evidence to suggest that this link is apparent elsewhere; this USA Today article highlights how half of US police agencies reported spikes in crime linked to the economic downturn in 2009.
So while London may not be the crime hotbed that some people assume it to be, the slight increase in burglary rates should keep you on your toes when it comes to securing your property. With the cost of living rising – particularly in reference to utility bills – some homeowners may be thinking of making cutbacks in their monthly outgoings, with home insurance being identified as an area where savings can be made.
While it is valuable to shop around a see what is on offer from the various providers, there are steps you can take to make your home more secure. Not only will this reduce the chances of you being burgled, it may help you achieve lower premiums with your provider.
Although it goes without saying that windows should be kept shut, many people still do not invest in adequate locks for them. Thieves would rather force a window than attract attention by trying to smash the pane, so don’t give them that chance. Yet a strong window lock means nothing if the frame that houses it is weak, so make sure you replace any rotting wood – and the same principle goes for doors.
If you’re lucky enough to have a garden or yard, you need to think about how this can be an access point for thieves. Large trees and bushes can provide cover for burglars and make your home a more attractive option, so trim foliage back where possible. Security lights and burglar alarms are also relatively inexpensive home additions that can be made to act as a deterrent to thieves. And never leave gardening implements or ladders lying around near the rear of the house – these easily turn into tools to help a thief gain access to your property.
If you have outbuildings, you may be surprised about the value of the items you have in there. You should take care to protect sheds and garages anyway, but make an extra effort to beef up security if you use them to store things such as bicycles and lawnmowers.
Overall, London is safer than it was, and much safer than it is often perceived to be. But while politicians continue to spout statistics from their soapboxes, it pays to take a responsible approach to your own property and do your bit to help bring the crime rate down.