Crime and litter – a closer connection

At last – the Holy Grail that many of us have been searching for – a clear connection between the presence of litter and the incidence of crime in an area.

What am I talking about ? Well, our old friends Keep Britain Tidy (KBT) have just published the 2013/2014 Local Environment Quality Survey for England (LEQSE). They have introduced a new and fascinating dimension to the survey this year.

What KBT have done is to map the risk of crime onto the incidence of litter in the areas surveyed. They have done this using the Indices of Multiple Deprivation, produced by the Office of National Statistics every year.

The results are crystal clear – the most littered areas of our country are also the areas most prone to crime.

That in itself lends strong justification to everyone’s efforts to keep their community free of litter. If you remove the litter, you remove the potential for crime.

But, before I get completely carried away, there is still one more question that needs to be asked before we can be completely satisfied that litter predisposes to crime. And that is the question of what, if any, is the causal link between litter and crime.

In the 2013/2014 LEQSE, the wording used by KBT to refer to the litter-crime connection is carefully chosen. “Risk of crime” and “fear of crime” are the terms used. There is a difference between these and the actual incidence of crime as a result of an area being littered, albeit that some suggest that fear of crime can be as corrosive as crime itself.

So perhaps more work is still needed before we can totally understand whether there is a causal link between the presence of litter and the presence of crime. But we are nearly there and I say “well done” to Keep Britain Tidy for that.

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