Thursday, February 9, 2006

Historians, world leaders and assorted pundits with Yankee bashing in mind have long cultivated the idea that America is a violent place.

Not so, says Gallup, which released a report yesterday revealing that the nation is not necessarily Dodge City: The impact of crime is lower in the U.S. than in Britain, and in many cases Canada.

“The U.S. is often seen from abroad as a relatively lawless society, with murders and gun-related crimes aplenty. But a series of Gallup surveys in Great Britain, Canada and the U.S. suggest the image is somewhat distorted,” noted David W. Moore of the Gallup News Service.

It’s close, but the United States emerged as the least crime-ridden.

In three polls of 3,025 persons — about 1,000 in each country — 32 percent of the Americans said they or someone in their households had been a victim of crime of some type within the previous year. Among Canadians, the figure was 33 percent; among Britons, 36 percent.

About 71 percent of both Canadians and Britons, compared with 67 percent of Americans, said there had been more crime in their respective countries in the previous 12 months.

Gallup also asked respondents whether they had been mugged, assaulted or had property stolen, among five other unpleasant experiences. Overall, Britain proved the most dangerous, with a quarter of the respondents reporting that they or a family member had been a victim of crime. Canada and the United States were tied at 21 percent.

On specific crimes, 22 percent of the British reported their home, car or property had been vandalized. The figure was 17 percent among Canadians and 15 percent among Americans.

About 7 percent of the Britons said they had been mugged or physically assaulted; the number was 4 percent for both Canadians and Americans. Car theft was higher in Britain as well, with 5 percent reporting the crime, compared with 3 percent of Canadians and 2 percent of Americans.

Americans had experienced the most home computer or Internet-based fraud, with 8 percent reporting it; the number was 7 percent among British respondents and 6 percent among Canadians.

Canadians had the highest incidence of money or property stolen, with 17 percent reporting it. Among Americans, it was 16 percent; among British, 13 percent. The countries tied in sexual assaults (1 percent in all three), strong-arm robbery (2 percent) and home break-ins (4 percent).

Meanwhile, 45 percent of Britons said they lived within a mile of an area where they were afraid to walk alone at night. The figure was 38 percent among Americans and 35 percent among Canadians.

Forty-two percent of British respondents said they had considerable confidence in their police to protect them from violent crime. Among Canadians, the figure was 67 percent; among Americans, 53 percent.

The surveys were conducted between October 13 and December 20 last year.

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