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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

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

Violent crime down

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Perhaps the most pleasing finding of this ONS report is that the decrease in the number of violent crimes has been influenced more by a fall in repeat victimisation than a fall in one-off victimisation.

Steady decline

A recent (12 February 2015) report from the Office for National Statistics on violent crime and sexual offences draws on both the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police records (see this recent post for the difference between these two main sources for crime figures). This post deals with the findings relating to violent crime (I’ll blog on the findings relating to sexual offences next week).

The most recent CSEW shows a continued steady decline in violent crime. The figures are pretty astonishing:

Between the 1995 and the 2013/14 surveys, the number of violent crime incidents has fallen from 3.8 million in 1995 to 1.3 million in 2013/14.

This contrasts with police figures which show an increase of 6% in violence against the person offences compared to the previous year. However, researchers appear confident that this increase is more to do with police forces getting their act together and complying with proper recording procedures than any actual rise in violence (see Why can’t we record crime accurately?).

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The nature of  violent crime

However, the most interesting sections of the report look at much more detailed information on the circumstances of these violent offences. Here are some of the key findings:

  • 42% of offences were perpetrated by a stranger, 37% by an acquaintance, and the remaining 21% were categorised as domestic violence.
  • Men are more likely to be victims of violent crime from a stranger (1.4% males compared with 0.4% females)
  • Women are more likely to be victims of domestic violence (0.4% females compared to 0.2% males)
  • Adults aged 16-24 were more than twice as likely to be a victim of violent crime than any other age group.
  • Adults who were single were more likely to be a victim of violent crime (3.8%) than adults who are married (0.9%).
  • The location of violent crimes varied according to whether they were committed by a stranger, an acquaintance or were categorised as domestic violence:

location violent crime

 

Perpetrators of violent crime

An interesting feature of the CSEW is that victims are asked about the perpetrator of the crimes against them. It’s no surprise that, as with victims of crime, perpetrators are most likely to be 16-24 year old men. According to the 2013/14 CSEW, victims believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of alcohol in around half (53%) of all violent incidents, or an estimated 704,000 offences. In nearly a quarter (23%) or an estimated 304,000 violent incidents, the victim believed the offender(s) to be under the influence of drugs.

Perpetrators used a weapon in 19% of violent incidents. This is a fall of seven percentage points since 2004/5 although the level of incidents involving a weapon has remained fairly stable since 2008/9.

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Conclusion

Perhaps the most pleasing finding of this ONS report is that the decrease in the number of violent crimes has been influenced more by a fall in repeat victimisation than a fall in one-off victimisation.

In 1995, 69% of violent crime incidents were experienced by repeat victims compared with 54% last year.

Tackling domestic violence more effectively would enable us to cut this repeat victimisation level further.

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