The Commons Environmental Audit Committee has been holding an inquiry into "sustainability in the Home Office". I kid you not. There were hearings at the end of last month that somehow eluded my attention, but thanks to the transcription service at the Palace of Westminster we can now enjoy the wit and wisdom of the committee members and the witnesses they invited to enlighten them.
For example, the commitee invited Ken Pease, professor of crime science at University College London, to take part. Why professor Pease? Well, the suspicious minded among you might draw conclusions from the fact that he has been a Green Party member for 30 years. But what a witness though! Take a look at this:
If you Google climate change, then crime does not tend to come up, and if you Google crime then climate change does not come up.
No s**t Sherlock. But undeterred by this inexplicable lacuna, the good Professor has apparently been devoting his no doubt considerable grey matter to filling it:
I thought it would be nice just to change the vocabulary of crime costs so as to include carbon costs and wrote a pretty basic and crude — because I am not an economist — costing of crime in the hope that people will take up the battle...
Now you would think that the MPs would be rolling in the aisles by this point, but not a bit of it. For example, Mike Kane, the Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, seemed quite taken with the idea:
I was reading a Secured by Design report that said that a conservative estimate of the carbon cost of crime would be around about 6 million tonnes per annum. I suppose my question is: carbon costing of crime, is it in the zeitgeist of crime reduction agencies?
Are the police worrying enough about the carbon cost of crime? I know readers here have been losing sleep over this tricky little question. But fear not! As Mary Calam, the director general of the Crime and Policing Group at the Home Office made clear, the mandarinate is already hard at work:
Perhaps it would be helpful if I just pointed to the Home Office, alongside Secured by Design, we are sponsoring a research project around the carbon cost of crime, which began in April last year. This is quite a difficult issue. How far do you take the parameters when you are trying to calculate the carbon cost? We think that piece of research is really important and when it reaches its conclusions I would very much expect us to use those findings and those judgments to inform future impact assessment.
Really important eh? I can't help but wonder if some people might think that it's not actually very important at all, but it's probably just those who are on the big-oil payroll, who can safely be ignored.
Meanwhile, committee members had moved on to the nitty-gritty details of which crimes have the biggest carbon footprint. Here's Mike Kane again:
In terms of crime itself, I think what they are getting at in the carbon cost of particular crimes is that murder is by far the top of the list, serious wounding second. Serious wounding there is a lot more of so it generates a much bigger carbon footprint. Do you think we will ever get to the day, for instance, where police response times will be analysed not just on the physical and emotional nature of the crime but the carbon nature of the crime? What I am thinking is that the analysis showed that the carbon footprint of crime by non-dwelling is higher than crime by dwelling itself. Do you think we would ever make crime in a non-dwelling a higher response?
Mary Calam subsequently seemed a bit unsure about what the police might do with this information, but suggested that it might lead to changes to operational priorities. Reading between the lines, it might be possible to give a higher priority to high-carbon crimes rather than low-carbon ones.
I think what this would mean is that if you want to get away with murder you should attack your victim in a dwelling: the lower carbon footprint would place it lower down the list of police priorities.
Alternatively you could build yourself a windfarm, of course. But that's another story.
(Tip of the hat to Chairman Al)