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Have smartphones caused a reduction in vandalism?

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The Crime Survey of England and Wales has shown that incidents of vandalism have fallen by 37% since March 2007, which may be a surprise to anyone who was caught up in any of the Summer 2011 riots. If you’ve been a recent victim of such anti-social behaviour, you might not believe your eyes that the situation appears to be improving. But why is it?

Apparently (well, according to the BBC), Criminologists are at a complete loss to explain this behaviour, and top theories include:

  • People have stopped reporting the crimes – This can be eliminated as the survey was based upon interviews with random members of the public, rather than relying upon reported figures.
  • More robust street furniture – Significant improvements have been made to many objects that are prime targets for vandals, such as bus shelters, but while these are harder to damage, it is no more difficult to spray paint them or adhere stickers to them, so this seems an unlikely reason.
  • ASBOs work – Unlikely, seeing that the government is looking to replace them.
  • Young people are drinking less – This could be causing a small reduction, but is the majority of vandalism and graffiti carried out by intoxicated teenagers? I suspect not.
  • Reduction in leaded petrol – A little ‘left-field’ but a reduction in lead pollution has been shown to increase IQ levels and behaviour. This didn’t happen overnight though so seems unlikely to tie in with a reduction in vandalism starting in 2007.

What has really taken a grip since 2007 though, is the availability of cheap, feature-rich smartphones to anyone that wants them. No teenager would be seen dead using a Nokia brick to text their mates – the latest and greatest smartphone is an essential. This has moved on from when I was at school, whereby the essential item of choice was a pair of Adidas, Tesco Greenflash was our equivalent of the dumbphone.

With instant access to facebook, Twitter, or any other of the many social networks that are in vogue with today’s youth, combined with instant messaging services such as BBM, Whatsapp and Kik, the modern teenager has less opportunities to be ‘bored’, than those of previous years.

In reality, the reduction in vandalism is likely due to a number of causes, but for me, the combination of cheap smartphones, social networks and instant messaging seems to be the strongest candidate, although I’m sure this won’t prevent our politicians claiming all the kudos for their social and policing policies!

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