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


police recorded crime figures increased more than 70-fold; this will not simply reflect possible changes in levels of offending but will be substantially affected by a range of factors including changes in public reporting, police recording and coverage of new offences as well as increases in population size.


The most striking new finding is that both the 2009/10 BCS and police recorded crime are consistent in showing falls in overall crime compared with 2008/09. Overall BCS crime decreased by nine per cent (from 10.5 million crimes to 9.6 million crimes), and police recorded crime by eight per cent (from 4.7 million to 4.3 million crimes).


These results may be seen as surprising given there were expectations that crime, particularly property related crime, could rise in a period of recession. However, neither source shows an increase in levels of property crime during this period (though the full effects will not show through with the BCS until next year) and indeed there have been some notable falls. For example, both sources are consistent in showing marked falls in vehicle crime (BCS vehicle-related theft down 17% and police recorded vehicle crime down by 16% compared with the previous year). In addition, while the 9% fall in domestic burglary from the BCS was not statistically significant it is broadly in line with the 6% reduction recorded by the police.


This is also the first time in recent years in which the UK Cards Association have reported a reduction in levels of credit card fraud with a two per cent reduction in the number of fraudulent transactions (down to 2.7 million in 2009 compared with the 2.8 million recorded in 2008) and a 16 per cent fall in UK fraud losses. A supplementary set of questions has been included in the BCS since 2005/06. In line with the UK Cards Association data, these have shown steady rises in the proportion of plastic card users who had been victims of fraud in the last 12 months (up from 3.4% in 2005/06 to 6.4% in 2008/09). However, the latest figures from the 2009/10 BCS are the first to show no increase. It is too early to say whether or not these findings represent a change in recent trends but they are notable nonetheless.


Gaps in coverage of crime statistics


In some respects gaps in the BCS or police recorded crime are complementary and, to some extent, each covers gaps in the other source. For example, the BCS includes crimes experienced by the population resident in households that are not reported to the police. In contrast, while the BCS does not cover homicide, we believe few of these offences are not recorded by the police. However, in some respects neither series provides full coverage.


A key question that arises is whether new forms of offending are adequately captured within the BCS and police recorded crime series. An example where police recorded crime and the main BCS crime count are deficient is plastic card fraud. While the police recorded 27,139 plastic card fraud offences in 2009/10, we know this represents only a small fraction of criminal activity in this area (as described above).


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