One of the issues raised by people when talking about nightlife, particularly in cities such as Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is the high perceived levels of crime. In my PhD research, however, participants have always emphasised how little crime they experience – and this includes groups such as street-cleaners and taxi drivers. I’m not aware of ever seeing any crime while conducting research at night, or at least anything more severe than people relieving themselves into the river…
I was therefore interested to read this document recently which reinforces what a lot of my participants have said. The document refers to the proposed introduction of a ‘late-night levy’ on Newcastle’s businesses (more on that another time I think!), and included within it are Newcastle’s late night-crime stats for 2012.
While the overall number (2419) of crimes sounds a lot, that’s only 6.61 per night. Furthermore, only 42% of these are classed as ‘alcohol related’ – that’s 2.7 crimes a night, which is much lower than people would presume. On a Sunday morning (ie Saturday night), which is the busiest night, they’re still only clocking in 18 crimes in total on a night. To give some context to that, Marion Roberts in 2006 claimed that there were 40,000 people a night in Newcastle city centre during the weekend, although she doesn’t source this information. Whatever the exact figure, it’s clear that the amount of crime is miniscule compared to the numbers involved: few gatherings of 40,000 people would experience no crime at all.
Furthermore, compared to Newcastle City as a whole – and this is the council area, rather than the whole conurbation, so still a relatively small area – the city centre experiences similar crimes levels to elsewhere. In 2012, there were 2208 crimes in Newcastle between Midnight-6am (6.04 a night), outside of the city centre. Only on weekend nights did the city centre see higher levels of crime than the rest of the city at night.
Of course, this data doesn’t tell us about the nature of those crimes. However, my interviews with research participants and police suggest that the vast majority of it consists of ‘theft from the person’ – that is, stealing of bags, jackets and phones. The fact is that the sort of violent crime associated with alcohol that actually occurs in Newcastle City Centre at night – assaults, vandalism – is practically non-existent. Despite what the media (and many academics!) would have you believe, British city centres at night are not particularly more dangerous than city centres during the day, or than suburbs are at night.