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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Crime figures hit (another) new low

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The latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed that there were an estimated 6.8 million incidents of crime in the year ending March 2015. This is a 7% decrease compared with the previous year’s survey, and the lowest estimate since the CSEW began in 1981.

Total crime 7% down

The latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) showed that there were an estimated 6.8 million incidents of crime against households and resident adults (aged 16 and over) in the year ending March 2015. This is a 7% decrease compared with the previous year’s survey, and the lowest estimate since the CSEW began in 1981.

The decrease in all CSEW crime was driven by a reduction in theft offences (down 8%). Within the thefts category, there were big falls in the sub-categories of theft from the person (down 21%) and other theft of personal property (down 22%). However, there was no significant change in other sub-categories such as domestic burglary and vehicle-related theft.

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But more violent offences recorded by police

In contrast to the CSEW, there was a 3% increase in police recorded crime compared with the previous year, with 3.8 million offences recorded in the year ending March 2015.

The rise in the police figures was driven by increases in violence against the person offences (up by 23% compared with the previous year). However, this increase is thought to reflect changes in recording practices rather than a rise in violent crime. The CSEW estimate for violent crime showed no change compared with the previous year’s survey, following decreases over the past 4 years.

Offences involving knives and sharp instruments increased by 2% in the year ending March 2015. This small rise masked more significant changes at offence level with an increase in assaults (up 13%, from 11,911 to 13,488) and a  decrease in robberies (down 14%, from 11,927 to 10,270). In addition, the related category of weapon possession offences also rose by 10% (from 9,050 to 9,951). Such serious offences are not thought to be prone to changes in recording practice.

Sexual offences recorded by the police rose by 37% with the numbers of rapes (29,265) and other sexual offences (58,954) being at the highest level since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard in 2002/03. As well as improvements in recording, this is also thought to reflect a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes. In contrast, the latest estimate from the CSEW showed no significant change in the proportion of adults aged 16-59 who reported being a victim of a sexual assault (including attempted assaults) in the last year (1.7%).

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Is theft moving online?

While other acquisitive crimes recorded by the police continued to decline there was an increase in the volume of fraud offences recorded by Action Fraud (up 9%) largely driven by increases in non-investment fraud (up 15%) – a category which includes frauds related to online shopping and computer software services.

This is the first time a year-on-year comparison can be made on a like for like basis. It is difficult to know whether this means actual levels of fraud rose or simply that a greater proportion of victims reported offences to Action Fraud. However, other sources also show year on year increases, including data supplied to the National Fraud Investigation Bureau from industry sources (up 17%).

I think we can confidently expect this category to grow (perhaps exponentially) over the next few years.

The ONS provides a helpful infographic which summarises the latest findings:

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2 Responses

  1. Another interesting post Russell. This continuing reduction of crime correlates with unfavourable social and economic conditions for reducing crime and while there are caveats, I’m sure the figures are reliable, they also appear rather consistent across the world (regardless of social and economic conditions or interventions) and everything including removing lead in petrol has been attributed. I’ve yet to read any robust research which considers the impact of modern forensics and technology which supports earlier detection, prevention and prosecution. Virtually nobody “gets away with murder” these days and multiple offences of other crimes can be much more easily linked to one individual. There is a sound argument that increased prosecution and supervision for people who are at the highest risk of re-offending, has an exponential impact on crime, similarly more serious offenders are dis-empowered when they are caught . I’d be interested in any robust research which unpicks this attribution of forensics and technology to reducing crime.

  2. Hi Richard

    Thanks very much for your comment. My own views on technology is that it’s an arms race between law enforcement and criminals which has been going on since the invention of fingerprints with one side or the other jumping ahead and then having to adapt to the other’s advances.

    The Brennan Centre did an interesting but far from conclusive study on why crime rates are falling (summarised on my site: http://test18.russellwebster.com/why-has-crime-fallen/ ).

    It does seem pretty sure that it’s not attributable to locking up even more people.

    Best Wishes

    Russell

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