Crime Trends

Key sources

 1) UK National Statistics[1]

  • ANNUAL CRIME REPORT – The Home Office Statistical Bulletin Crime in England and Wales is published annually around the middle of the calendar year, reporting on findings from a previous 12 month period spanning 2 calendar years. These reports combine findings from the British Crime Survey (BCS), an annual representative household survey of experiences and perceptions of crime, and police recorded crime[2].
  • QUARTERLY UPDATES – Crime in England Wales: Quarterly Updates provide data on rolling 12 month periods. They are usually published 3 times each year, around 3 months after the end of the 12 month period on which they report.
  • SUPPLEMENTARY VOLUMES – Three supplementary volumes are usually published each year, treating specific subjects in depth.
  • User Guide to Home Office Crime Statistics (Home Office, 2011)[3] – This volume was most recently updated in October 2011, and provides detailed information on how the data are collected and analysed.

2) Review of Crime Statistics

  • National Statistician’s Review of Crime Statistics (Matheson, 2011)[4]
  • Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics: England and Wales (UK Statistics Authority, 2010)[5]

3) International Comparison

  • Eurostat[6]  provides crime statistics for the European Commission.
  • The US Bureau of Justice Statistics[7] provides access to US recorded crime data, and the National Crime Victimisation Survey.

4) Local crime data websites

  • The Local Crime and Policing Website for England and Wales[8] enables the public to view counts of crime types at street and neighbourhood level, for each month from April 2011.
  • The Crime and Policing Comparator[9] enables comparison of recorded crime and anti-social behaviour by police forces in England and Wales.
  • UKCrimeStats[10] enables searches on police recorded crime data by a range of variables, including crime type, police force and parliamentary constituency. Rankings by neighbourhood, street and constituency have been published in 2011.

Key points

1)    Results of Crime Statistics Reviews

  • Presentation of data needs to be improved.
  • Changes impacting on trends to be transparent.
  • Office for National Statistics (ONS) to assume responsibility for crime statistics reporting and publication. Police crime data reporting and validation to stay at the Home Office. (UK Statistics Authority, 2010; Matheson, 2011)

2)    Overall crime

  • Following consistent falls in overall crime since 1995, the trend is now flattening. There was no statistically significant change in overall BCS crime between either the 2010 and 2011 annual reports (Home Office, 2011b)[11], or the quarterly update to June 2011 compared to the year ending June 2010 (Home Office 2011c)[12] .
  • The falling trend of overall crime has mirrored that seen across the developed world[13].  The causes are unknown. There is broad support for an impact of improved vehicle and household security, but there is no general agreement on the impact of other factors, such as imprisonment (Home Office, 2011b).
  • Data due January 2012 will include time period of August 2011 riots.

3)    Violence[14]

  • There were 24 more homicides in 2010/11 than the previous year: a rise of 4% (Home Office, 2011b). This followed a fall of 14% in the previous year. Homicide data involve (relatively) small numbers, and fluctuate from year to year.
  • There was a rising trend of homicide from the 1960s to the end of the century. Since 2000, there has been a falling trend, taking numbers down to those seen in the mid-1990s.
  • As in previous years: victims were most likely to be male; the most common method of killing was with a sharp instrument; female victims, and victims under 16, were more likely than males to know the main suspect than male victims (76% and 75%, compared to 50%) (Home Office, 2011d)[15].
  • Crimes involving firearms have continued on a downward trend since 2005/06. There is also some evidence for a fall in knife crime (Home Office, 2011b).

4)    Acquisitive Crime

  • Despite expectations of increasing acquisitive crime in a recession, the 2010/11 annual statistics show ‘no consistent trend of upward pressure across the range of acquisitive crime’ (Home Office, 2011b, p.19). Despite recent increases in burglary and other household theft, the quarterly update (to June 2011) suggested, ‘it is still too early to be confident that there has been a real change in the medium-term trend for BCS burglary, which has been relatively  stable since 2004/5′ (Home Office, 2011c, p.4)
  • Measurement of fraud is not adequately covered by either BCS or police data. From UK Cards Association data, combined with new BCS supplementary questions, plastic card fraud appears to have stabilised and more recently fallen (Home Office, 2011a, p.19).

5)    The local picture

  • Police data have been made available on websites during 2011.
  • Analyses based on police data – except in the case of murder and some serious violent offending – provide only a partial picture of crime levels. This is because a large proportion of crime goes undetected, and so is more accurately estimated via victimisation surveys (such as the BCS). Also, police recorded crime is influenced by both national and local policing priorities, which may not themselves reflect prevalence.
  • UKCrimeStats have published reports league tables of high and low crime streets, neighbourhoods and constituencies, including an annex on problems with the data (UKCrimeStats, 20011a & 2011b)[16].

6)    Perceptions

  • People’s perceptions of rising crime tend not to reflect the historical trend[17]. Despite falling levels of crime up to 2005/06, high proportions of people continued to think crime was rising.
  • People continue to be more likely to think crime has risen nationally than locally[18] [19].
  • Perceptions about rising local crime levels, although exaggerated, do follow the geography of actual recorded crime. This means that people living in high crime areas are more likely to perceive increased crime levels than people living in low crime areas[20].
  • Perceptions about increasing national crime levels do not reflect where people live. This means the perception gap on national crime levels is biggest for people in low crime areas.
  • Despite recent public access to local crime data, the news media appear to still influence perceptions more strongly[21].

In the pipeline

1)    Rising crime levels?

Prediction and speculation about rising crime in a recession has run ahead of the supporting quantitative evidence for the UK. European data shows that in some southern European countries, rising crime levels have now replaced previously falling trends. The quarterly update of Crime in England and Wales (due early in 2012) will be the first report to provide coverage for the dates of the August 2011 riots.

2)    Changes for crime statistics

The reporting of crime data will move to the ONS. This move is intended to increase public confidence in the independence of the statistics.

Local availability of police data is likely to lead to increased local analysis, although data quality caveats still remain.

The Home Office is currently consulting about changes to the BCS sample design, following a cut of 23% in spending up to 2014/15[22].