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


Another area where counting crime is difficult is drug offending. We know that the proactivity of the police in tackling such offences is a major factor in the numbers of drug offences they record. However, it is likely a substantial amount of drug offences do not come to the attention of the police. While the BCS does ask questions on illegal drug usage via a self-report questionnaire this does not provide a complete measure of levels of offending in this area (e.g. in the supply of drugs).


It also should be acknowledged that the BCS has until recently only provided a picture of crime for those aged over 16 resident in households. Recently experimental statistics were released for user consultation (Millard and Flatley, 2010). Based on interviews in the year ending December 2009, this estimated between 400,000 and 2.2 million incidents of personal crimes (ranging from victim perceived to the broadest ‘all in law’ measure) against children aged 10 to 15. There are no trend data for these figures, and it is acknowledged that many of these incidents would be considered very minor (only 11 per cent were said to have been reported to the police). These results do, however, illustrate that patterns of offending and behaviour that can lead to significant personal distress are not fully captured in the police recorded crime or the current BCS main series.


In considering crime trends, particularly trends for offences against the person, it is worth noting that the recording of incidents that fall short of crime has not been fully developed.


The National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) has undertaken collection of incident data from the police and reported in 2009 that there had been 3.7 million recorded incidents of antisocial behaviour (ASB) in 2008/095, which compares with 4.7 million recorded crimes over the same period.


Measurement of incident data is inherently difficult, particularly given that often it is not possible to corroborate details as is normal when a crime is recorded (police incident data does not have the National Statistics designation that applies to crime). It should also be noted that much ASB be may reported to the local authority (e.g. noisy neighbours) and may therefore not come to the attention of the police. There may also be multiple reporting of the same incident to different authorities (e.g. both police and local council). The BCS has something to offer in terms of public perceptions of ASB but it is certainly the case that our knowledge of the nature and impact of these incidents is not as well understood as for crime.


The UK Statistics Authority in their recent report on Overcoming Barriers to Trust in Crime Statistics (UK Statistics Authority, 2010) recommend the development of a conceptual framework for crime and criminal justice statistics which will address gaps, discrepancies and discontinuities in coverage.


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