Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Crime figures go in right direction

Statistics should always carry a health warning. Figures can be skillfully manipulated to tell virtually whatever story the author wants.

Yet we are prepared to accept the PSNI's assertion that crime is at a 14-year low in Northern Ireland with decreased incidents in six of the main nine crime categories.

Given budgetary constraints and attempts to trim the force's size that is quite an achievement and testament to the hard work put in.

Sadly there are some disappointing results as well. Violent offences against the person and drug crimes increased.

These are types of crime which gain much publicity as witnessed by the reaction to the death of 72-year-old Bertie Acheson after a burglary at his home in Coleraine earlier this month and other attacks on the elderly.

While the cold statistics may say otherwise, the impression among the public is that danger is about, especially if you are an elderly person.

Anti-social behaviour is another of the types of crime where the statistics and public perception are at odds. People living with the terror of gangs like the Divis hoods in west Belfast or who see groups of young people disrupting their lives in other areas will find it hard to believe that anti-social crime is at its lowest level since the present recording system began six years ago.

The Chief Constable Matt Baggott is a firm believer in normal community policing, a move which chimes with the more normalised society since the ending of the Troubles.

While there is still some low-level terrorism - although it is a very serious matter for those at whom it is directed - the province's streets are not dissimilar to those of any other region of the UK now.

If the crime statistics continue in a downward trend then Mr Baggott's vision for policing has to be seen as the right one.

At the moment we have to say that so far so good.

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