- Donald Trump posted a tweet linking an increase in UK crime to “Islamic terror.”
- Statistics from the previous day showed a 13% increase — but not in terrorism.
- UK authorities have been very hesitant to engage with Trump’s analysis.
- That’s probably because he’s wrong — the real picture is complex, and prosaic.
In his daily morning tweetstorm, President Donald Trump made the relatively unusual decision to go beyond the domestic news agenda and comment on the affairs of the United Kingdom.
His tweet, based on a statistical release the previous day by the UK government, asserted a link between an increase in recorded crime, alongside a warning about “Radical Islamic terror.”
Here’s what he said:
Just out report: “United Kingdom crime rises 13% annually amid spread of Radical Islamic terror.” Not good, we must keep America safe!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 20, 2017
It’s fewer than 140 characters, but it doesn’t take much to insinuate a false and pernicious narrative, especially when you’re the most powerful man in the world.
As with much that Trump says, he makes no concrete claims, but the implication is clear: He thinks that Islamic terrorism is the primary driver of this increase in crime.
The UK government and its statisticians were not keen to engage with Trump’s take on the latest crime statistics, presumably for diplomatic reasons.
The UK Home Office, which usually vigorously defends the government’s record on crime, did not want to respond.
The Office for National Statistics, which published the briefing containing the 13% rise, alongside extensive analysis, said it would need more time to decide whether to react.
But when pressed by Business Insider on whether their analysis tallies at all with Trump’s, a spokesman said: “I’m not aware of any comments to that effect.”
The prosaic reasons behind the spike in crime
Rather than an overwhelming march of terrorism, the reasons official channels suggest for a spike in crime are rather more prosaic.
According to the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), the main factor is that police have got better at recording the crime which has, broadly, been happening all along.
Here are the categories of crime which the ONS says have gone up the most:
- Domestic abuse (18%)
- Bicycle theft (19%)
- Violence without injury (21%)
- Stalking and harassment (36%)
- Sex offences (19%)
According to the statisticians, most of the spike is either due to people being more willing to report previously stigmatised crimes (domestic abuse, stalking, sex offences), or police making official records of more minor crimes (bicycle theft, violence without injury).
Notably, none of these trends has any relation at all to “radical Islamic terror,” which is extremely rare in comparison to the offences above.
Having said that, it is, ultimately, true that terrorism is on the rise in the UK — and most of it is linked to Islam.
Trump would have been wiser to highlight Home Office figures released earlier this year, showing a record number of terror-related arrests. It also showed that 90% of detainees have what it called “Islamist extremist views.”
However, the record 379 terror arrests is still a tiny proportion of total arrests in Britain.
The most up to date Home Office figures show 896,209 people were taken into custody between March 2015 and March 2016. It’s a rough comparison, because of differences in the periods assessed, but 379 terror arrests represent just 0.042% of this overall figure.
As the UK government and police will tell you, any crime is too much crime. It is right to hold these bodies to account when the figures go up, so that they can improve the system.
But to misdiagnose the problem so badly, as Trump has done this morning, does nothing to help victims of crime, or to make the world a safer place. In all likelihood, it will instead do the exact opposite.