On 4th June 2018, Reporting Scotland gave quite an extended, headlined, report, with 24 long, compound, sentences on organised crime. Despite, the length, they failed to mention the researchers’ own repeated warning against generalising the findings beyond their small sample to the national situation in Scotland. Reporting Scotland began with:
‘A new focus is needed in the fight against organised crime in Scotland. An 18-month research study says crime gangs rely on vulnerable people to develop their businesses.’
Later, they say:
‘It’s insidious affecting ordinary communities across Scotland.’
Statements like these and the failure to qualify them at any point, suggest a crime problem of some scale and intensity across the country yet the researchers are careful not to say that. As early as page 3 in the report, ‘Community Experiences of Serious Organised Crime in Scotland’, we see this:
‘188 individuals participated in the study, which mostly involved semi-structured qualitative interviews, but also a small number of focus groups, unstructured interviews and observational research.’
So, this is a small-scale piece of qualitative research. Such research can be very useful in explaining the complexity of social situations and, in particular, helping professionals, such the police, to develop effective strategies. However, such research, cannot be used to tell us how common something is or how widespread it is. For that, you’d need a much bigger sample, randomly selected and spread across the country. The researchers are not to blame for Reporting Scotland’s misuse of their findings. On page 3 and again on page 25, in the methods section, they say:
‘While the case study areas had traits that were similar to other communities in
Scotland, however, it should be noted that these findings should not be read as a generalised picture of SOC-community relations in Scotland.’
Further, they say:
‘It is notable, however, that connections between street crime and organised crime were often based on informed perception rather than direct experience.’
So, the researchers remind us that their findings cannot be generalised and that they are often based on what the people they interviewed had heard was happening to others as opposed to things they had experienced themselves.
Now, Reporting Scotland did not directly say that these crimes were affecting large numbers of people, but they left their audience thinking that they were because, well, the BBC was reporting it, so it must be ‘big’, and because the BBC said nothing to suggest it wasn’t happening to large numbers of people.
Given their prominence in the report, it’s difficult to explain the failure to mention the declared limitations on interpreting these results, as other than deliberate and then we’re left to wonder why.
This is only the latest in a sequence of reports on crime in, or indeed, not in Scotland, by BBC Scotland. This tendency or agenda is likely to be undermining public confidence and, by association, weakening the reputation of the Scottish Government. I’ve already complained about these and will do it again on this latest example.
Here are links to the earlier cases:
BBC Scotland lie and distort to try again to spread violent crime crisis into Scotland despite it having only 3.5% of the gangs for 8% of the population, falling levels of violent crime and because of falling levels of fear of crime?