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Andy Hemsted

I have to say on my visits to America (LA, Washington, San Francisco, Vegas etc) I have always felt safe. Never once have I felt worried for my well being. I wish I could say the smae for London, or indeed the part of it, (Chingford) that I come from.

Indeed, staying with friends or mine in San Francisco and LA, I was amazed that they never locked thier front doors and had never been robbed.

This is something we could never do in London


I would be interested to find out if city centres in the US suffer similar levels of alcohol-fuelled crime that have made many UK towns squalid and intimidating places during evenings.


Very interesting article. In response to Andy, I am currently studying in Pittsburgh and have to say that going out on a Friday and Saturday night one feels completely safe. The police are visible yet people seem to far better behaved than they are back home. Another aspect of this is the fact that there is still a sense of community spirit outside of the major cities and it certainly helps to explain why crime in America surburbia is very low.


Maybe I'm affected by the nature of our MSM always focusing on crime and negative attributes of our society but I'm a little surprised by the comments of Andy Hemsted and Paul. I may be presumptive but I think some of those cities would be thought of as kinda dangerous by many Americans. LA and Washington in particular are often portrayed as having serious crime. I suppose its relative to the rest of the country. I haven't been to either.

After witnessing so much anti-Americanism reading comments like from the above posters is what really makes this site worth the effort.


A few things shocked me on arriving in Britain.

1. Drunk "lads" and "ladettes" in the town square on a friday evening. (I thought the British were all prim and proper and well behaved).

2. The large number of WHITE (and occasionally PINK) stretch limousines (Lincoln and HUMMER). They are ubiquitous. They look like something out of a "gangsta rap" video - they look totally out of place in "the green and pleasant land". They are used for weddings, parties, hen nights and proms (yes, the British now have proms).

(Imagine a stretch hummer in front of St. Judes in Leeds - it doesn't look right!)

3. Crime. Heard some really nasty crimes on TV. I also came in contact with quite a few people who have been mugged.

America isn't that bad.


I too am amazed that some people in large cities don't lock their doors per Andy Hemsted's comment. That behavior is more prevalent in small towns and rural areas.

I live in a small city (pop. 10,000 or so) in western Washington state where there is very low crime. Here we can leave our doors unlocked, the mailman can leave a package on your doorstep, and you can leave your keys in the ignition of your unlocked car in the driveway with no incident. An occasional burglary of a vacant (vacation) home might occur, but rarely do we have home robberies. It might have something to do with the fact that many homeowners here are armed. However, at night, I wouldn't walk around unarmed - and not because of a fear of assault by a person - but because of the possibility of bumping into a bear or a cougar or pack of coyotes...

Simon Newman

Good article - I think non-Americans do mistake the USA's high murder rate for a high general crime rate. The high murder rate is a cultural phenomenon that applies across all ethnicities, not just black and Hispanic (incidentally, a point on the demographics you mention - the Hispanic violent crime rate is around 3.3 times the non-Hispanic white rate, or roughly half the black rate). I've long had the impression that there is less of a cultural taboo on killing in the USA than in other Western countries - of course there is still a strong taboo against killing, but it seems to be seen as less of an 'ultimate transgression'.


Atheling, what town are you residing. I'm in Vancouver, on the border with Portland.



I'm on the Olympic Peninsula...

Andy Hemsted

Following on about the comments od the drunken English lads and ladettes, I have to admit I have never seen this behaviour in America either. I am sure it must happen, but no where near as much as in the UK.

In Britain we do have a very real problem, and every year it does seem to be getting worse. Young people are getting worse in their behaviour, and the government seems powerless (or lacks the will) to act.

This is another reason why I am working on moving to the States. Not only am I sick of not feeling safe on my streets, but am sick of being asked to pay more tax for a government that keeps on taking away my basic rights etc


The 'drunken yob' of many a British town on a friday night is an interesting cultural phenomenon, especially when compared to the U.S. I studied in Charleston, SC last year and found American young 'uns to be no less boozy than our own lads and laddettes (or indeed, myself); with the difference that they rarely if ever would resort to the kind of behaviour that comes as second nature to a generation of teens/chavs in this country - loud swearing in public, throwing up in gutters, throwing rubbish bins around the street, etc, etc. The almost total absence of low level thuggery was a pleasure to behold.

I speculated that one reason for this may have been the more noticable presence of the police around and about town of an evening. Drunk Americans are no different from drunk Britains, but I'd hypothesise that what keeps the former in check is a criminal justice system (at least in South Carolina) that isn't afraid to tackle the kind of low level disorder that it is just too much hassle for British coppers (thanks to PACE 1984) to even bother to think about dealing with. If people think there is a realistic chance that they will be imprisoned or given hard labour for a drunken assault, then even the most inebriated can -sometimes - control themselves. Common sense really.

Again, I am totally uninformed about police procedure and regulations in South Carolina, or any other U.S. jurisdiction. They me be just as snow-bound with red-tape as our own police force (or 'service' as Sir Ian Blair likes to call it) and just as reluctant to enforce public civility, though my own observations and personal experience lead me to believe otherwise. Comments on this would be informative.


"a homicide might be listed as a murder before there is any investigation as to whether it was justifiable or excusable"

Note that in the US, a homicide is a homicide, whether justifiable or not. We calculate our stats by the victims, whether someone has been charged or convicted or not.

As others have pointed out, we here have "war zones" in larger cities where most crime occurs. Crime is extremely low in the rest of the country. Even cities have large low crime areas, as others have said. I live in the mountains in central Pennsylvania, in a college town with a population of around 39,000. Murders and violent crimes here are front-page news, and are pretty rare -- and most of the crime that does occur here happens on or near campus when the 40,000 students are here. We're more worried about bears in the back yard or hitting deer on the roads than we are being assaulted.

There is one other point that rarely gets mentioned. Americans are, as a group, less tolerant of crime and criminals than most European nations, and perhaps the other nations of the Anglosphere. Drive through town at 3 am, and you will see that the car is sitting at the red light waiting for it to turn green, even though there is nobody else on the road. We not only still have the death penalty, but after the SCOTUS ruled that only juries could hand down the death penalty, several studies have shown that juries are more likely to hand down a death sentence than judges. We have our share of hand-wringing "he was abused as a child!" liberals, of course, but your average American believes strongly that people who commit violent crimes should be locked up.


"Americans are, as a group, less tolerant of crime and criminals than most European nations..."

That is certainly reflected in the international sphere. Look at the present situation with Iran. Americans can be certain that we will have little or no support from Europe regarding Ahmadinejad and his nuclear ambitions. Indeed, we will see Europe thwart any attempt to rein him in.


"Again, I am totally uninformed about police procedure and regulations in South Carolina, or any other U.S. jurisdiction. They me be just as snow-bound with red-tape as our own police force (or 'service' as Sir Ian Blair likes to call it) and just as reluctant to enforce public civility, though my own observations and personal experience lead me to believe otherwise. Comments on this would be informative."

James our police have quite a bit of authority to enforce. If you even resist an officer's 'request' that may just be enough to get the opportunity to have your due process and stand before a judge to make your case.

You're very observant, and your bottom line is true... a drunk is a drunk :)


Do they have public drunkenness laws in Britain? In many American cities and towns public drunkenness is enough to get you a night in the slammer.


Atheling, we do indeed have public drunkenness laws on the books in the UK but thanks to the obscene amount of regulation loaded on the police everytime they seek to charge a fellon the incentive is to give them a 'stern warning' or some such cop out (no pun intended). If you get loud and drunk you have to do something pretty bad to get arrested - eg, assault. One of the things I found surprising in the US was the number of guys my age who had been arrested by the police. I soon learned this wasn't because they were any worse bahaved than some of my friends and acquaintances in the old country, but more due to the police having a much lower tolerance of bad public behaviour.

Jonathan Powell

your average American believes strongly that people who commit violent crimes should be locked up.

I think the average Brit feels the same way, unfortunately the politicians/ judges don't always take the same view...

Frogg, USA

Is this article accurate???


26 June 2007 23:12

UK Government figures 'missing' two million violent crimes

By David Barrett, PA Home Affairs Correspondent
Published: 26 June 2007

An extra two million violent crimes a year are committed in Britain than previously thought because of a bizarre distortion in the Government's flagship crime figures, it was claimed yesterday.

A former Home Office research expert said that across all types of crime, three million offences a year are excluded from the British Crime Survey (BCS).


Frogg, USA

Summary from another source:

Using the United States as a point of reference, we arrive at the following conclusions:

Burglary – Widely believed as the gravest of property crimes, burglary is lower in US today than in the 80s. As of 2000, US has lower rates than Australia, Canada, Denmark, England, Finland, and Wales. It has higher rates than Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Spain.

Homicide – US had been consistently high in homicide rates than most of the Western countries from 1980 – 2000. Though the rate was cut almost in half in the 90s, it is still higher than all nations without political and social turmoil with the 2000 rate of 5.5 homicides per 100,000 people.

Countries entrenched in turmoil like Colombia and South Africa, had 63 homicides per 100,000 and 51, respectively.

Rape – In the 80s and 90s, US rates were higher than most of the Western countries, but by 2000, Canada is leading. Rape reports are lower in Asia and the Middle East.

Robbery – The past 2 decades saw a steady decline in the US. Countries with more reported robberies than US include England, Wales, Portugal, and Spain. Those with fewer are France, Germany, and Italy, and Asian countries plus the Middle East.

In overall crimes (the total of all mentioned crimes), US ranks the highest, followed by Germany, United Kingdom, France, and South Africa.

-- Cathie Madsen, Dec 2006.

For the past two decades crime rates in the US have been on the decline, while it has been on the increase in much of Europe. However, the past two years have shown an increase in crime rates in the US (still much lower than two decades ago). I hope this is not a new trend.

It's nice to see an article put a little perspective on US crime. The misconceptions are sometimes ridiculous.


I live in a small city in Iowa (60,000 people) where we recently had a murder. It was major news because things like this happen so rarely. We do lock our doors, I suppose primarily because my wife and I moved here from the East Coast not too long ago and there it was necessary (Philadelphia area). Here I can be on the streets in most parts of town, on foot, at any hour of the day or night in perfect safety. It may be pretty deserted, but there will be no danger to my person. This is the common description of most of small town America, which is most of the country after you leave the two coasts.


Yes interesting - that's perspective. Thanks


"your average American believes strongly that people who commit violent crimes should be locked up."

It isn't the violent crimes that are the problem. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 702 inmates per 100,000 residents behind bars.

Among black males 25 to 29, 12.9 percent were in prison or jail. Overall, 4.8 percent of black males were in prison or jails, compared to 1.7 percent of Hispanics and 0.6 percent of whites.

Black women in prisons and jails continue to outnumber their white (5 times as many) and Hispanic (more than twice as many) counterparts.

Drug offenses account for nearly 60 percent of the federal prison population and more than 20 percent of the state inmate population.
( http://norml.com/index.cfm?Group_ID=6334 )

The problem is once in prison there is no effort placed on rehabilitation and the rate of reoffending is astronomical.


"highest incarceration rate in the world"

Obviously, the incarceration rate isn't high enough, or we wouldn't have criminals on the streets. The reason we have a high incarceration rate is because, as I said, we don't tolerate criminals. And blacks are underrepresented in prison. See here:


Do the crime, do the time.


"we don't tolerate criminals"

Neither does Europe. The crime rate in Europe is more or less the same as in America. To be fair, crime rates are very low in both places. Only Europe doesn't need to lock up 1% of its population to keep crime levels down. Europe doesn't need draconian punishments to deter petty criminals. Fact: There is more criminal energy and propensity for violence in American society.



I notice the implied superiority in your tone:

"Only Europe doesn't need to lock up 1% of its population to keep crime levels down. Europe doesn't need draconian punishments to deter petty criminals"

Are you somehow saying that Europeans are superior moral beings to Yanks? If so get off your self-righteous high horse.

You say that European and American crime rates are nigh on equal and in the same breath you state that Americans have more "criminal energy" (whatever that is) and propensity for violence, utterly contradicting yourself.

You are just plain ignorant. Go back to the drawing board.

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