Time to overhaul crime statistics

Date: 
Wednesday, 10 June, 2015

On this site a couple of weeks ago, Professor Tim Hope called for a major overhaul of the Crime Survey for England and Wales. The current survey, he argued, is 'much better at not measuring crime than it is at measuring crime’s true extent, which is no doubt why policy-makers have come to rely upon it so much'.

The survey methodology needed to 'rebalanced' in favour of victims, he argued, in particular to capture the experience of chronically victimised individuals. Professor Hope pointed to research by Sylvia Walby and colleagues at Lancaster University, which demonstrated that the Crime Survey methdology excluded chronic victims' experiences.

As he explained:

'Usually, an arbitrary "cap" is put on the number of victimizations that victims report in order to ensure that the estimates are not affected by a very small number of respondents who report an extremely high number of incidents and which are highly variable between survey years. But it is precisely these chronic victims that we need to listen to. The consequences are dramatic... When the cap is removed there are 60% more violent crimes. The increase due to removing the cap is concentrated on violent crime against women (70% increase) rather than men (50% increase) and on violent crime by domestic relations (70% increase) and acquaintances (100% increase) rather than by strangers (20% increase).'

Professor Walby presented her research at a UK Statistics Authority event yesterday, It is covered today in the Guardian, Telegraph, Times (£), Daily Mail and by the BBC.

The other main source of crime statistics are those data collected by the police. But should the police be the agency tasked with collecting these data?

Our director Richard Garside, who attended yesterday's event, poses this question in a piece he wrote for this site yesterday. The police have a vested interest in recorded crime falling, he notes. They are therefore not in the best place to compile police crime data.