Has Britain been hit by a ­Romanian crimewave?

28 February 2013

"BRITAIN has been hit by a ­Romanian crimewave with the equivalent of 15 arrests a day by one police force alone." The Express, February 27, 2013

"That is the equivalent of 15 Romanians being held by the police every day. There are only estimated to be 68,000 living in the UK. It puts Romania second only to Poland in the list of countries with the most citizens arrested in London — but there are around half a million Poles in Britain." The Daily Mail. February 27, 2013

With the looming changes to the rights of Romanians and Bulgarians to live and work in the UK proving to be a hot topic of conversation in Westminster and the media, several papers this week claimed that their arrival on these shores could bring with it a concurrent spike in crime.

According to the Express and the Mail, Romania has the dubious distinction of being second on the list of oversees countries in terms of the number of criminal suspects arrested by the police on the streets of our capital. So is this the case?

Regular readers might remember that we took a look at the number of foreign prisoners populating our jails late last year, and found that Romania came fourth on that particular list behind Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland and Poland. However this weeks' claims rest on arrest data that was released by the Metropolitan Police via a Freedom of Information (FoI) request.

Immediately, we need to add a caveat that seems to have been missed by some of the papers: the data published relates to numbers of arrests and not number of arrested individuals. Strictly speaking therefore, it is not the equivalent of 15 Romanians who are arrested every day, but the equivalent of 15 arrests of Romanian citizens.

Both the Express and the Mail also note that the figure is particularly shocking given that just 68,000 ­Romanians reside in the country at present. Poland - the only country to top Romania on the list - by contrast has over half a million (546,000) citizens living in the UK, while there were 35,000 arrests made of Polish nationals.

However is figure of 68,000 doesn't quite tell the whole story: it comes from the 2011 Census and refers to the number of UK residents whose first language is Romanian. Interestingly, Eurostat presents different figures. According to the European Union's statistical arm, there were 94,000 Romanian residents in the UK in 2012.

There is some confusion over whether these figures relate to arrests carried out in London or across the whole country. Both papers seem to suggest that these are London arrests, however the Met's disclosure log presents is as data on the "Number of foreign nationals arrested in the UK over the past 5 years".

We are chasing this up with the Met Police and will update as soon as possible. 

Overall, the figures reported by the Daily Mail and the Express are correct: Romania does seem to find a particularly large proportion of their citizens in the UK arrested by the Met police.

It's worth pointing out that there are still some question marks about the figures presented in this Freedom of Information response. For example, the Met notes that in the past five years they carried out 200 arrests of individuals from Abyssinia, a nation that ceased to exist in 1952, and 1,000 of individuals from Ethiopia, the nation that replaced Abyssinia over 60 years ago. 

We should also remember that not all of these arrests will necessarily have led to a charge, and still fewer would have resulted in a conviction. However when taken together with the prison population figures, it does seem reasonable to conclude that Romania has an unusually high number of its citizens involved in crime given the size of the Romanian population in the UK.


Flickr image courtesy of Gerard Girbes

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.