New evidence links inequality in England to increased crime

Research carried out at the University of Sheffield shows areas where there is more inequality suffer from more cases of burglary, robbery, violence, vehicle crime and criminal damage.

The study compared Home Office figures for a wide range of crimes from 2002-2009 in Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships (CDRP) against factors including inequality, unemployment, residential turnover and educational achievement in the same areas.

Dr Adam Whitworth from the University's Department of Geography found inequality is significantly and positively associated with increased levels of all five crime types, and in particular thefts and burglaries.

Dr Whitworth believes the investigation highlights the importance of Government policies to tackle broader social and economic inequalities.

He said: "New Labour was criticised for continuing the previous Conservative Government's individualisation of policy around ideas of personal responsibility, with social and economic context pushed down the agenda, and this is a trend that continues under the Coalition Government.

"This encourages Government to adopt a policy approach wedded to the assertion of greater control, protection of the socio-economic status quo and more intensive punishment of individuals. This is the risk of ignoring the structural inequalities within which outcomes need to be placed as well as the harm done to the social order from perfectly legal large-scale tax avoidance by wealthy individuals and organizations."

The study also found unemployment correlated to all crime types except for criminal damage, and is particularly strongly associated with robbery, and population turn-over correlated significantly with burglary and robbery but related less to vehicle crime and violence.

Dr Whitworth added: "There is a substantial and growing body of evidence about the harmful effects of inequality on different social outcomes. This harms all of us but particularly those who are least able to insulate themselves and their families from its negative consequences.

"The findings of this new research contribute further evidence of the harmful effects of inequality on social outcomes in terms of associations with increased levels of crime at sub-national level across England. We must have greater recognition in Government policy of the role of structural social and economic inequalities in relation to crime outcomes and a closer integration between social, economic and crime policies."

The report, titled 'Inequality and crime across England: a multi-level modelling approach', was published in Social Policy and Society this month (January 2012).

Notes for Editors: With nearly 25,000 students from 125 countries, the University of Sheffield is one of the UK's leading and largest universities. A member of the Russell Group, it has a reputation for world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines. The University of Sheffield has been named University of the Year in the Times Higher Education Awards for its exceptional performance in research, teaching, access and business performance. In addition, the University has won four Queen's Anniversary Prizes (1998, 2000, 2002, 2007).

These prestigious awards recognise outstanding contributions by universities and colleges to the United Kingdom's intellectual, economic, cultural and social life. Sheffield also boasts five Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and many of its alumni have gone on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence around the world. The University's research partners and clients include Boeing, Rolls Royce, Unilever, Boots, AstraZeneca, GSK, ICI, Slazenger, and many more household names, as well as UK and overseas government agencies and charitable foundations.

The University has well-established partnerships with a number of universities and major corporations, both in the UK and abroad. Its partnership with Leeds and York Universities in the White Rose Consortium has a combined research power greater than that of either Oxford or Cambridge.

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