Does violent music affect crime? – A Data Study

Crime in London is an issue brought to the forefront of our attention in the past month, with the stabbing of a young man as recently as Thursday this week. Violent crime has seen a sharp increase with the Met police reporting the murder rate up by 44%, and 23% in gun crime and 21% in knife crime. 

 

Tied with this issue is the effect of drill music, the young man killed had recently appeared in a YouTube drill music video and has been reported to have been targeted because of it. In light of this YouTube has recently been asked to remove 60 drill music videos, under pressure from the government.

 

This poses the question does violent music increase violent crime. It is often said that music is the soundtrack of our lives, driving our moods and feelings, can it also dictate our actions. The emotive words used in songs can strike a chord or take us back to distant memory but can it also make us act out.

 

This study, using YouTube views data and Met police crime figures in London found out. Results showed a relationship between the amount of violent videos watched and the number of violent crimes committed in London.

 

Data from the five most popular grime YouTube channels from 2010 were taken (SBTV, GRM Daily, Linkup TV, Tim Westwood TV and JDZ Media), with the total amount of monthly views on these channels used. Not all videos on these channels are violent however, so a relationship is hard to state. Credibility is found by comparing the number of views with the amount of drill videos. The graph below shows views compared with the number of videos on the channel with drill as a keyword.

 

 

The crime data, taken from the Metropolitan police, contained crimes reported to the police from April 2010 to May 2018. The data was filtered by violent and drug offences 1, and by those committed in boroughs with above 30% minorities, a link that is made both due to the major demographic of grime music and higher crime levels in these areas often due to the lower living standards and low investment.

 

The data study found a cointegrating relationship, meaning that crime and the number of views move together over time. In simple terms the more popular the music channels get the more violent crimes are committed and vice versa. To add further evidence a data model 2 then showed cause, in the long run an increase in video views caused an increase in crime, interestingly the same relationship was found the other way. In the short run however, correlation was not found to be strong, hinting that there is more of an issue about the general climate at the time rather than individual videos sighting violence.

 

Drill music is a genre of music categorised by its violent lyrics, often taking about killing or injuring enemies, and its provocative videos often containing masked individuals taunting rivals with signs or weapons. It was first popularised in America but spread to the UK in 2015 and since then become widely popular. With such a recent break it is hard to blame such music for crime increases. The study instead looked at grime music, a genre which can contain violent provocation, however it must be noted this is not always the case with many grime tracks talking about many different topics from relationships to lifestyle.

 

 

As we know crime is caused by many different factors, previous studies have found a strong relationship between crime and average income as well as economic inequality. As such it is silly to think that crime is caused purely or even in most part down to violent videos. In addition the vast majority of people who listen to grime music live normal lives, without any criminal activity. Instead this study just shows that there is a link between the two, one has the ability to make the other increase.

 

In conclusion, violent crime is a sensitive issue due to the major consequences it can have. This study shows a causal link, the evidence that views increases crime shows that some responsibility lies at producers and the people featured in these videos to understand the impact they can have.

When violent music speaks to vulnerable people it may induce behaviour that they see in these videos, where there are people just like them, glamorising the lifestyle and making it look normal.

It may become hard for them to resist the temptation to do the same, especially with the emotions music can invoke, something not hard to believe when you think about the effect listening to a pumped track has when you are driving your car or working out. Conversely, the evidence that crime increases the music popularity indicates that artists produce music to reflect what they are seeing around them, meaning something needs to be done to address the deeper issue as to why the environment is breeding crime in the first place.

 

  1. Crimes included were: Assault With Injury, Common Assault, Handling Stolen Goods, Harassment, Murder, Offensive Weapon, Other Drugs, Other Violence, Possession Of Drugs, Theft from Shops, Theft Person, Wounding/GBH
  2. Vector Error Correction Model
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About Josh Quartey
Josh Quartey is the CEO and founder of the company NyteTime. After studying Economics at the University of Leicester, attaining an award for his data analysis dissertation, he went to work for the business analytics department at advertising agency MediaCom and energy forecasting company TESLA Europe.
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