LONDON’S murder rate has stayed the same for years, according to a new statistical report.

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With lurid stories of knife slayings turning up at regular intervals, particularly in the past year, you could be forgiven for thinking we’re in the middle of a murder plague, but the facts say otherwise.

“There seems to be a misconception that in 2008 London’s murder rate suddenly rose,” said Professor David Spiegelhalter in the Royal Statistical Society’s magazine, Significance.

“In fact the numbers have remained fairly stable for the last five years.

“We focused on London for this report as there is a general feeling, often driven by the media, that over the last 12 months murders have increased more than would be expected.”

Some of the confusion comes when there is a bunch of murders in a short space of time, which can give the impression of a more general increase, but the London murder rate has been at or around 170 since 2003.

Spiegelhalter explains that bunching is likely to happen every so often, similar to when, once in a while, you throw a few sixes in a row.

“Four murders on the same day in London would be expected to occur about once every three years, and it has done,” said Spiegelhalter.

“Seven days without a murder should occur about six times a year, and it does.”

The implications for the police and politicians are clear: take a long view of crime stats and don’t be suckered into introducing laws based on occasional peaks in the numbers.

“Statistical evidence must inform any decision making,” said Spiegelhalter. “Those in authority need to remain level headed and offer the general public a thoughtful, proportionate response.”

The Significance report was produced in conjunction with the Risk and Regulation Advisory Council, set up by Prime Minister Gordon Brown to look at risk in public life.

In the light of the often hysterical media coverage of knife crime in London, do you agree with Professor Spiegelhalter’s assertion that we need a little more statistical perspective in these emotive matters? Tell us your views via the ‘Post New Comment’ box below.