The main sources of statistics on crime in England and Wales
The two main sources of statistics on crime in England and Wales are Police Recorded crime and the British Crime Survey.
How do these sources differ from one another?
Police recorded crime gives the amount of crimes recorded based on police action. These crimes of course only include the crimes that come to the attention of the police.
The British Crime Survey covers crimes committed against households in the residential areas of England and Wales.
Strengths and weaknesses of these sources in providing an accurate measure of the extent of crime
One major weakness of the Police recorded crime is that it is not easy to determine the number of crimes that go unreported and therefore never come to the attention of the police. Therefore the police recorded crime is limited only to the number of crimes that come to the attention of the police.
Another weakness exhibited by the police recorded crimes is the fact that the police are required to record all crimes reported to them based on the victim’s account, as long as the account amounts to a crime in the law and as long as there is no credible evidence disproving the victim’s account. This approach however does not prove without a doubt the reported crime was an actual crime.
British crime surveys do not cover all crime types and are limited only to crimes committed against households.
The British Crime survey is not limited to the recording and reporting issues that affect police recorded crime.
The British Crime survey always gives a higher count of crimes because it covers some of the police recorded crimes and the crimes that do not come to the attention of the police.
The police recorded crimes are able to cover some of the crimes that are not covered by the British crime survey such as homicides and drug possession.
The most reliable source of crime statistics in England & Wales, and why
The most reliable source of crime statistics is the British Crime Survey because it is not affected by recording and reporting issues affecting police record crimes and is able to cover many crimes that go unreported.
Is crime in England and Wales increasing or decreasing at the current time?
The crime rates have been decreasing since the mid 1990s.
Significant changes between 2010/11 and 2009/10
The rate of violent crimes in 2010/11 decreased by about 8 percent from the violent crime rates reported in 2009/10. However the homicide figures reported in 2010/11 went up by about four percent from the rate reported in 2009/10.The number of use of weapon and firearm offences recorded in 2010/11 was 13 percent less than those recorded in 2009/10.The number of sexual assault cases recorded in 2010/11 showed a four percent increase from those recorded in 2009/10. Acquisitive crime was also seen to have increased by 42 percent in 2010/11 from 2009/10. However these recordings had followed a steadily decreasing rate of these crimes with 2009/10 being the lowest. It is therefore too early to determine whether or not it is a rising trend. Crimes against children were up 12 percent.
In general however, crime rates recorded indicated a decrease in crime between 2010/11 and 2009/10 (Flatley 2011).
The overall trend in crime levels in England and Wales over the past 25 years looking at patterns of crime over the longer term, as indicated by the British Crime Survey (BCS)
Crime during the early 1980s was quite high and continued to rise well into their peak the mid 1990s, and then crime rates began to fall steadily up to date (Hope 2009).
Why this might be
The fall in crime rates can be attributed to improved policing and crime control measures such as CCTV, property security, social change and economic influences.
Individuals or groups that are excluded from the British Crime Survey
The British crime survey does not adequately cover homicides, drug related crimes, sexual offences and fraud.
Implications of such exclusions for the reliability of the BCS in presenting an accurate measure of crime in England and Wales
This implies that there are a significant number of crimes that are not captured by either the police records or the British Crime Survey indicating that the number of recorded crimes is actually lower than the number of actual crimes. This though not likely could lead to misleading findings especially on trends (Home OOffice 2010).
Reasons certain groups of the population may be at higher risk than others with regards to the risk of victimization
Young men compared to women were at a higher risk of being victims of stranger violence. This is because young men are more likely to risk being in crime areas especially at night than women. Women were at a higher risk of being victims of domestic abuse. This especially is a case of wife battery whereby in the case of violence the man is most likely to outdo the woman. Urban households had a higher risk of being victims of household crime compared to rural households. This is because crime rates are always more in urban areas compared to rural areas therefore urban victims are more than rural ones. Higher population densities especially metropolitan areas reported higher crime rates.
Records also indicate that the young population aged between 15 and 29 were reported to be the majority of firearm offences perpetrators. Most criminals were recorded to be among the young population (Maguire 2007).
Why public perception of the trend might be in the opposite direction of that indicated by the British Crime Survey over the past 25 years
The public has shown very low levels of trust in crime statistics and other statistics in general and believe that these statistics are interfered with especially by politicians. The majority of the population believes that crime in general has increased but the majority also exhibited a more realistic view in regards to the crime rates in their residential areas. However the United Kingdom Statistics Authority reported that they could not find evidence of political interference in the statistics communicated to the public. This distrust is believed to stem from the way in which statistics after being released are quoted and used. The levels of distrust in crime statistics tally with the levels in other statistics such as inflation and unemployment. This distrust sometimes stems from the publication of a bulleting of two different sets of statistics on research on similar subjects whose implications seem to be inconsistent. Inevitably the public is bound to question the authenticity of research studies and their findings.
There is also the fear that the media might misinterpret the statistics in order to come up with newsworthy statistics in this case bad news. The analysts also in an attempt to focus on the positive may misrepresent the actual statistics and their implications.