There’s probably no better weapon against prejudice and ignorance than just getting the facts straight with a little thorough investigation. One of the most complicating factors in issues of immigration is the frequent lack of good information, of hard data. So it’s always nice to see studies tackling these issues, giving us all better weapons to fight the fight.

A few days ago I spied these two articles in the Guardian on immigrant crime in the U.K. Both highlighting a study busting the mythh that Eastern European immigration has sparked any sort of spike in crime.

There’s been a lot of alarm-sounding by many in the law enforcement community-most famously, Julie Spence of the Cambridgeshire constabulary who got a lot of attention when she said that immigrant crime was costing significant amounts of money for policing – especially due to translation costs. But despite the repetition of the claim of an Eastern European crime wave

…today’s police study has concluded that the surge in immigrants from eastern Europe has not fuelled a rise in crime. It would appear that the rate of offending in Polish, Romanian and Bulgarian communities is in line with the general population.

Sweet. So basically it seems that people were throwing about scary sounding numbers without giving them context, i.e. placing them in proportion to the population at large.

In Spence’s defense however, I have to wonder if it may still be a legitimate concern that, while immigrants might not be committing more crime, their crimes – because of processing and administrative factors like the translation costs mentioned above – may, in the short term, be costing more, proportionally to native crimes. The above article does take her to task a bit though, as her remarks about immigrant crime, it seems, coincided with the time of year at which police districts ask the government for more funding. Tsk, tsk.

The other article addresses the perceptions of Britons about Eastern European immigrants:

The report by Grahame Maxwell, chief constable of North Yorkshire, and Peter Fahy, who leads the Cheshire force, says that “resentment and misunderstanding” about why new migrants are coming to Britain has stoked tensions. It calls for businesses benefiting from the new workers to do a better job of explaining the economic benefit of migrant workers.

Hmm, yeah it’s a nice idea that the business community would come to the defense of their migrant workers, but I wouldn’t count on it, as that might involve portraying them as hard-working human beings, significantly crippling a business’ ability to exploit them in degrading conditions for the lowest wages possible. But a nice thought nonetheless.

And again, in that article, another demonstration of the sheer lack of information:

The report is primarily based on intelligence gathered by detectives about crime patterns in different areas of England and Wales. Police recording codes only contains the category “white Europeans” covering people originating from France to the Urals. The report says more analysis is needed.

Everywhere you read about immigration issues you will see time and again that advocates for immigrant’s rights are often faced with a simple but crippling lack of good information on which to rely to refute xenophobic, racist propaganda. Power to the statisticians and the people who design government information collection form thingies- we need more of you!

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