Urbin Report

Monday, September 04, 2006

A reality check from London

Londoner David Devore has his reality check letter published in the Boston Globe:

Christopher Stimpson's admiration for British civilization is touching, but he is mistaken if he believes that Britain enjoys a very low level of crime and that this is due to the absence of the death penalty (``Hunger for vengeance can backfire," letter, Aug. 27).

Britain, in common with many countries, has experienced a rise in crime , especially violent crime, over the past quarter century. Not more than two miles from my home in West London, a man was stabbed to death by muggers as he left the train station . Another was stabbed to death as he answered the front door to robbers posing as postmen. A man who shot a 7-year-old girl so that she could not identify him as the killer of her father was sentenced to 40 years in jail last month. This is not a picture of tranquility.

It is certainly true that the homicide rate in the United States, where capital punishment is permitted, is higher than in England and Wales, where it is prohibited; but the US rate is a fraction of the rate for South Africa , where capital punishment has been prohibited since 1994.

Stimpson goes on to attribute the low ``incidence of violent crime" to Britain's ban on handguns. The United Kingdom did indeed ban the private possession of handguns in 1997, but their use in violent crime has more than doubled since then. Indeed, London's mayor has called for a war on gun crime . This is far from the simplistic picture Mr. Stimpson's letter would have your readers believe. The issues of crime and the appropriate response to it remain complex and worthy of informed debate.