The Crime Survey of England and Wales for 2011/12 has been published, and it makes interesting reading. The CSEW is the new name for the British Crime Survey, as it no longer includes Scotland.
It’s particularly useful as a measure of crime because, year after year, it asks thousands of people about their own experiences of crime. That makes it far less likely to hit the problems that official crime figures have where the numbers can go up or down just because more, or fewer, people are reporting crimes.
The CSEW does have some limitations. Until recently it only asked people over 16; and it doesn’t capture murders (as asking people “Have you been murdered in the last 12 months” tends not to give the accurate response you might hope for). However, it’s proved to be a really valuable source of information, especially when taken together with the reported crime figures.
The headlines on the latest CSEW is that crime’s down again – the fall that started in 1995 continues and overall crime is back to levels last seen in the early 1980s. Murders (unless a lot are suddenly going unreported) are also down to their lowest levels for 30 years.
But digging through the data reveals some other interesting trends (note, I report the data – no causality should be assumed).
- Young people aged 16-24 are four times more likely to be a victim of crime than elderly people (75+). For personal crime (e.g. robbery/mugging) the gap is even more pronounced – young people are nine times more likely to be victims that those aged 75 and over.
- People from ethnic minorities are a little more likely to be victims of crime than white people.
- People who cohabit are 50% more likely to be victims of crime than married people.
- Wealthier people are slightly more likely to be victims of crime than poorer people, though the difference isn’t great.
- Boys aged 10-15 are about 50% more likely to be victims of crime than girls of the same age – and more than twice as likely to be victims of violent crime.
- People who visit bars or pubs at least weekly are twice as likely to be victims of crime than those who never go to the pub. People who visit nightclubs at least weekly are more than four times as likely to be victims of violent crime than people who never go to nightclubs.
- Most people who were victims of crime experienced it just once in the year. Those most likely to be victims of the same type of crime twice or more are – sadly, but perhaps predictably, victims of domestic violence, with about a third having two or more incidents.
- With the exception of bicycle theft, people are reporting the same or higher proportion of crimes to the police. It’s especially encouraging that the proportion of domestic violence crimes being reported has nearly doubled since 1981 (from just one in five to two in five). Where crimes were not reported to the police, it’s normally because people felt they were too trivial, there was no loss, or the police would not be able to do anything.
- 0.2% of men and 3.8% of women have been raped since the age of 16
- As far as the CSEW can tell, there’s been no significant change in the number people being raped or sexually assaulted over the last decade.
- Incidents of non-sexual partner abuse (non-physical abuse, threats or force) and stalking have fallen significantly over the last seven years.
- The number of people killed by guns has fallen from 96 in 2001/2 to 39 in 2011/12. Victims of gun violence often get a lot of attention in the media, so it’s difficult to tell, but this is a really impressive drop. Overall firearm offences have fallen by over 40% in the last decade, another impressive drop.
- Single people are more than four times as likely to be victims of violent crime than married people. People who cohabit are nearly three times more at risk than married people (both these will simply reflect to some extent the fact that married people are likely to be older and single/cohabiting people likely to be younger).
- Most people think there’s more crime nationally (which is untrue) but most think there’s less crime locally too. This is most likely due to people’s perception of national crime levels being heavily influenced by the media.
- Those who read The Star or the Daily Mail are most likely to (wrongly) think crime is on the rise nationally. In general, tabloid readers are more likely to think crime is increasing, and broadsheet readers less likely. Only those who read The Guardian generally have the correct view.
- Although elderly people are the least likely to be victims of crime, they are the most likely to believe crime is on the increase nationally. Poorer people are also more likely than richer people to believe crime is increasing, and people with lower educational attainment are more likely to believe it than those with degrees.
- However, when people are asked whether they think they themselves are likely to be victims of burglary, car crime or violent crime, far fewer people say yes than a decade ago. People’s perception of whether they think they are likely to become a victim of crime varies far less (e.g. by paper they read, level of education or wealth), though there are still significant differences.
- When asked whether they worry about crime, tabloid readers worry far more than broadsheet readers. People who perceive a high level of anti-social behaviour in their area worry far more than those who don’t (which supports the police focus on tackling ASB). Single parents worry more about crime than families with two parents or adults without children.
- Young adults and – curiously – Guardian readers – are significantly more likely to have actually experienced anti-social behaviour than most other groups.
- The percentage of people who think the police do a good job and treat people fairly and with respect has steadily increased over the last 6 years.
- Significantly more people think the criminal justice system as a whole is effective and fair now than five years ago. Slightly surprisingly, young adults have more faith the criminal justice system than anyone else except the over-75s.
Those are some bits of information that struck me looking through the data – the summary and the more detailed dataset are below so you can take a look yourself.