This page contains the current draft of the full text of Chapter 6 of RAFT 2035. All content is subject to change.
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6. Reducing crime
Goal 6 of RAFT 2035 is that the crime rate will have been reduced by at least 90%.
Compared to the previous goals in this group, Goal 6 looks at a different reason why lives can be stunted or damaged. It’s when people become victims of crime, including violent crime, financial crime, or reputational crime. All of these types of crime can diminish the possibilities open to the people who are victims.
Indeed, security is a vital component in the foundational levels of people’s overall hierarchy of needs.
Reducing the rate of crime involves addressing the causes of crime as well as the mechanisms of crime.
The primary goal here is to reduce the social and psychological pressures which incline people to commit criminal acts. This reduction in inclination towards criminal acts can be achieved, not by making people more docile or passive, but by ensuring that people willingly channel their energy in ways benefiting society as a whole.
Statistics on crime in England and Wales are available in the CSEW (Crime Survey for England and Wales) from the ONS (Office of National Statistics). A report published in April 2019 reviewed data on crimes up to December 2018, and going back as far as 1981. Here is the executive summary:
Over recent decades we have seen continued falls in overall levels of crime but in the last year there has been no significant change. However, it is important to look at individual crime types as the total figure hides variation both within and across crime types. We have seen a rise in overall theft but a mixed picture in different types of offences involving theft. There are also differences in the lower-volume but higher-harm types of violence, with increases in homicide and offences involving knives and sharp instruments but decreases in offences involving firearms.
The report also highlights some caveats:
An increase in the number of crimes recorded by the police does not necessarily mean the level of crime has increased.
For many types of crime, police recorded crime statistics do not provide a reliable measure of levels or trends in crime as they only cover crimes that come to the attention of the police.
Police recorded crime can be affected by changes in policing activity and recording practice and by willingness of victims to report.
The CSEW does not cover crimes against businesses or those not resident in households and is not well-suited to measuring trends in some of the more harmful crimes that occur in relatively low volumes.
Adding up all the offences recorded in the different categories of crime, the total crime level of 1981 is estimated around 11 million offences. This grew to a peak of around 20 million offences in 1995 before falling back in more recent years to between 7 million and 10 million offences per year. However, data for “computer misuse” has been introduced since 2018 and pushes up the most recent totals to around 11 million.
Evidently crimes vary in terms of their seriousness, and it would be a mistake simply to focus on numbers of offences. Moreover, the goal of reducing crime rates should not be met simply by some kind of reclassification, in which incidents previously regarded as crimes are somehow disregarded.
Reducing the causes of crime
RAFT 2035 initiatives to improve mental health (Goal 2), to eliminate homelessness (Goal 4), and to remove the need to work to earn an income (Goal 3), should all contribute to reducing the social and psychological pressures that lead to criminal acts.
However, even if only a small proportion of the population remain inclined to criminal acts, the overall crime rate could still remain far too high. That’s because small groups of people will be able to take advantage of technology to carry out lots of crime in parallel – via systems such as “ransomware as a service”, or “intelligent malware as a service”, or worse. The ability of technology to multiply human power means that just a few people with criminal intent could give rise to huge amounts of crime.
This raises the priority for software systems and the rest of our social infrastructure to be highly secure and reliable, so that they cannot be hacked.
Towards trustable monitoring
This also raises the priority of intelligent trusted surveillance of the actions of people who might carry out crimes. This last measure is potentially controversial, since it allows part of society to monitor citizens in a way that could be considered deeply intrusive. For this reason, access to this surveillance data will need to be restricted to trustworthy parts of the overall public apparatus – similar to the way that doctors are uniquely trusted with sensitive medical information. In turn, this highlights the importance of initiatives that increase the trustworthiness of key elements of our national infrastructure.
It remains an open question whether this increase in trustworthiness is achieved using new technology such as federated learning and blockchain, by alterations in social structures, or by other means.
To accelerate progress with Goal 6, two targets for 2025 are proposed:
- To agree basic principles of the design and operation of systems for “trustable monitoring”.
- To advance practical initiatives to understand and reduce particular types of crime, starting with the types of crime (such as violent crime) that have the biggest negative impact on many people’s lives. For example, it is possible that legalisation of selected psychedelic drugs could lower the likelihood of gang warfare over the distribution of the same drugs, in turn reducing the prevalence of knife crime in the UK.
Alongside the risks of damage inflicted from people or groups with criminal intent, we also need to address the risks of damage inflicted by international military conflict. That’s the subject of the next chapter.
For more information
- The 2018 book by Bruce Schneier, Click Here to Kill Everybody: Security and Survival in a Hyper-connected World
- The 2015 book by Marc Goodman, Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable, and What We Can Do About It