Crime linked to income deprivation in London

According to data provided by Trust for London in 2022, there were 60% more crimes reported in the most-income deprived 20% of areas compared to the least income-deprived 20% of areas in London. 

Contrast this with March 2019 to February 2020, the year before the pandemic, when 42.6% more crimes were reported in the most income-deprived 20% of areas than in the least income-deprived 20%. 

This change came after income inequality widened across London, which was already the most unequal city in the UK before the pandemic, with the highest earners moving further out of sight of the lowest during those years. 

The three-year average from 2018/19 to 2020/21 of the ratio of household income in the top 10% of earners to the lowest 10% reached 11x, which was the highest point for the past 15 years.

At the start of this year Sir Michael Marmot, leader of the Marmot review on the cost-of-living crisis in London, said: “Income inequalities are wider across the capital than the rest of the UK with people in the top 10% of society earning over ten times more than people in the poorest 10%.” 

He added that: “Income inequality has been further impacted by the pandemic: real wages have declined.”

The link between crime and income deprivation meant that when income inequality increased and reached its highest point during the years between 2019 and 2021 crime went down more in less deprived areas because their incomes became relatively higher than people in more deprived areas whose real income decreased. 

As the gap in income between the most and least deprived neighbourhoods widened during that period, more affluent areas moved further away in crime levels.

From 2019/2020 to 2022, in the least income-deprived 20% of London, crime fell considerably below pre-pandemic levels whereas in the most income-deprived 20% it only changed slightly.

Source: Trust for London NB: Each decile comprises 10% of neighbourhoods in London

Crime fell by 12,525 in the least deprived decile and 6,838 in the second least. In the most deprived decile crime fell by 763 and in the second most it increased by 1,016.

The statistics show the relative decrease in crime across the period tended to be larger the less deprived a decile was, with a much greater reduction in the least income-deprived areas.

This meant that the richer people were to begin with, the safer their neighbourhoods were likely to become. 

Overall crime figures are close to what they were before the pandemic in poorer neighbourhoods, suggesting they have returned to normal levels after Covid-19. 

Cost-of-living crisis and income levels

Before 2022 started, the cost-of-living crisis had already begun in late 2021 and has since worsened as people’s real incomes have progressively decreased because of increasing inflation. 

UK Inflation was around the Bank of England target of 2% in 2019 but was up to 8.7% in April 2023.

The need to make more money as it becomes less valuable relative to the price of goods has meant that most people in society must work harder to make ends meet, deepening income deprivation in the capital. 

I asked around Ealing, a borough which had an equivalent median income deprivation ranking relative to the rest of London in 2019. 

Overall neighbourhoods here were directly in the middle of incomes. Yet, here too, there was financial difficulty during the cost-of-living crisis.

Ejaz Chaudhry, a 57-year-old from Perivale, said: “It has become harder to make enough money.”

He added that they are barely getting by and can’t save anything.

Income deprivation and crime

The crime figures per quarter in Perivale reached its highest point for three years at the end of 2022 and has remained at a similar level this year, after real incomes have suffered over the period.

Those in more income-deprived areas are being hit much worse

The majority of the UK public believe that greater poverty will lead to more crime. Presently, around a quarter of Londoners are living in poverty.                                                                                                         

This is likely to make it more difficult to reduce crime levels because, halfway through 2022, City Hall published analysis that showed clear links between income deprivation, poverty and vulnerability to violent crime. 

Last year soaring costs deepened deprivation and poverty, key drivers of violent crime, and violence and sexual offences were reported 117% more in the two most income-deprived deciles compared to the two least income-deprived deciles, with weapon offences recorded 126% more.

People in poorer neighbourhoods are not only struggling more financially, crime is remaining stubbornly high as a result. 

In both years, crime was more prevalent in the most-income deprived areas. In 2019, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Southwark and Islington were four of the top five most income-deprived boroughs.

All made the list for the most dangerous places to live in London at the start of 2023. Overall, 8 of the 10 most dangerous boroughs in January this year were more-income deprived relative to the rest of London in 2019.

Source: Trust for London NB: Each decile comprises 10% of neighbourhoods in London

In 2022, those living in poorer neighbourhoods were least safe as crime levels stayed within 1% of what they were in the year before the first lockdown across the most income-deprived 40% of areas. 

People in the next 40% of areas were slightly safer as total crime dropped by between 2.4% and 3.9% compared to the year before the pandemic. 

By contrast, the second least income-deprived decile had 8.1% less crime and total crime in the least income-deprived was 13.1% lower. 

86% of the fall in crime between the two years came in the least income-deprived 50% of London. 

The data shows that income deprivation is strongly linked to crime as, after income inequality reached a decade-high 11x in London between 2019 and 2022, the reduction in total crime across the years was bigger the higher the income decile because the richest became much better off during this period.

Greater income inequality had a considerable effect on reducing crime levels in the least income-deprived areas because they became relatively wealthier, suggesting that while income deprivation keeps crime high in an area(s), higher incomes tend to reduce it.                                                                                                                                                                                          

The cost-of-living crisis is taking a much greater toll on income-deprived neighbourhoods in London, where crime is remaining rife, as poorer households are being disproportionately affected while the most affluent 5% are earning more money.   

The people who have been combatting crime argue that tackling poverty and income inequality would help to reduce crime levels.

In an interview with MyLondon last year Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said: “We know that those parts of London, the ones with highest levels of deprivation, have the highest levels of violent crime. I’m worried that the government’s failure to address the cost of living crisis could exacerbate some of the drivers of violent crime.”

To create a safer society in the capital the government must address the income inequality at the root of the cost-of-living crisis, reducing poverty and vulnerability to crime in the most income-deprived areas.


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