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Crime Of The Century - A Chilling Look At Crime Statistics In The UK


The BCS interviews over 40,000 people each year about their experience of being a victim and then uses the survey findings to estimate national crime rates. The BCS provides a reliable means of estimating aspects of household and personal crime. However, its coverage is restricted to ‘normal’ households and adults, and it does not capture crimes committed against other victims – including corporate victims, those under 16 years of age and individual adult victims residing outside ‘normal’ households.


The advantages of the BCS are that it overcomes the reporting and recording problems of police recorded crime (and so gives a better estimate for those crimes that it covers), it explores the experience of crime for victims and provides a very important means of carrying out research into crime and victimisation. The disadvantages of the BCS are that it only covers a limited range of crimes and victims and cannot be used to measure crime at local neighbourhood level.


Both the BCS and police recorded crime statistics contribute to building up the national picture of crime trends. The two approaches measure different things (victimisation on the one hand, reported and recorded crime on the other) and each has its strengths and weaknesses. Together they are currently the best sources to provide a picture of what is happening to trends in crime, but there remains a range of crimes not captured by current national statistics.


There are a number of crimes that are known to be inadequately reported to the police and therefore inadequately recorded. Some crime – often referred to as ‘victimless crime’ – is rarely reported. Indeed some crimes, for example drug possession, are only known about if the police proactively seek to identify them. Some crime is known about but not reported to the police or to the Home Office: in particular, some forms of fraud against financial institutions are not reported beyond the institution because the information is regarded as commercially sensitive. Similarly, crimes involving sex, race and crime within the family are often unreported. Some crime is known about by other government departments but is largely not reported to the police: e.g. benefit or VAT fraud. Some crime – such as shoplifting – is largely left to the private sector to deal with and so remains underreported to the police.


In addition, new forms of crime emerge all the time as offenders respond to new opportunities and new technologies. Recently, for example, there has been concern about e-crime, counterfeiting, theft of identity and people trafficking. Sometimes new legislation is required to bring new crimes clearly within police recorded crime (e.g. e-crime) but very often the extent of recording depends on how effectively the police can discover such crime or persuade people to report it to them. Credit card fraud, for example, is often not reported to the police because victims know that credit card companies will usually deal directly with any loss.


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