Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Crime down again – by 11%

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The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) found that crime in the year ending September 2014 was 11% down on the previous year and the lowest estimate since the CSEW began in 1981. There was an estimated 7 million incidents of crime against households and resident adults in England and Wales.

Crime Survey for England and Wales

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) found that crime in the year ending September 2014 was 11% down on the previous year and the lowest estimate since the CSEW began in 1981. There was an estimated 7 million incidents of crime against households and resident adults in England and Wales.

This contrasts with the police recorded crime figures which show no overall change from the previous year with 3.7 million offences recorded. The CSEW researchers attribute this difference to two factors:

  1. Renewed focus on quality of crime recording has probably meant that more police forces are complying with national crime recording standards
  2. Victims appear more willing to report certain types of crime, particularly rapes and other sexual offences


Crime Survey v Police records

If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between CSEW figures and police records, below is a handy infographic developed by the Crime Survey bods to explain. I always think that CSEW figures are more important because they include crimes that don’t come to the attention of the police and focus on crimes which the majority of us are most concerned about – the ones we are victims of.



Main findings

It’s amazing that such a large drop in crime which has taken place in the context of a continuing fall did not attract more media headlines. Here are some of the details:

  • Violent crime down 11% from the previous year
  • Domestic burglary down 8% and 40% lower than 2003/4
  • Vehicle related theft down 15%
  • Theft of personal property down 9%
  • Robbery down 27% – but the CSEW urges caution over this as these represent a small number of victims and can fluctuate year on year

Just how much crime has fallen over the last twenty years is clearly shown below:

csew trend

Given these figures, why am I so confident that politicians will spend the next few months up to the general election preaching the need to be tough on crime?

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2 Responses

  1. Hi Russell

    For the first time in over 20 years crime actually feels like it is going up. In the 1980s and early 1990s crime/addiction were clearly visible in our communities,and this is beginning to emerge again. I have no evidence for this, just my own perception.

  2. Well, there you have it, Martin ‘feels’ crime is going up, even though it isnt.

    I suggest two reasons why fear of crime seems (as research shows) to vary largely independently of actual risk of being a victim.

    The first is fear of crime is in part an expression of wider personal and social anxieties. Jan van Dijk did some research on this in the 80s showing I think I recall that FoC correlates with for example worries about immigration. The elderly fear crime because they feel vulnerable and maybe adrift in a strange and changing world, the young are much more likely to be victims, but feel confident that they can cope – same reason they speed.

    Second is fear sells papers and gives politicians power over you. I once did a survey of dailies on the day after a big fall in crime was announced: no coverage in most tabloids and the Torygraph managed to find some crime that was going up and trumpeted that. I think the Mail dug up an old murder and made do with that . Politicians need something to frighten people with. Crime, immigration are perfect. Significant no politician has announced falling crime is good news and we can all relax a bit, or even tried to claim credit. In Opposition Grayling denounced the Crime Survey as falsely reporting falling crime when in fact he (like Martin) was sure it was really rising. I recall Sir Thomas Scholar the stats supremo had to tell him off. .

    Of course its not just falling crime. Drug abuse, public disorder and I think alcohol abuse have reduced. We are becoming nicer people says Pinker or at least more passive (good thing?), we haven’t a clue why, any more than we knew why crime soared in the 70s and 80s (criminologists spun their pet theories, but they really know nothing – they were all promising a hell of a crime wave during the recession, do you remember, what a disappointment), and yet we just cant bear the good news, we just cant make sense of it. Give us back our crime!

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