2010/11 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Main Findings

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2 The Extent of Crime in Scotland

2.1 Chapter summary

Estimates of crime

One of the main purposes of the SCJS is to provide an estimate of the extent of crime among the adult population living in private households in Scotland. There were 874,000 crimes as measured by the SCJS in 2010/11, including:

  • Approximately 654,000 property crimes (75% of crime) involving theft or damage to personal or household property (including vehicles);
  • Approximately 220,000 violent crimes of assault or robbery (25% of crime).

The number of crimes has fallen by 16% in the two years between 2008/09 and 2010/11, from 1,045,000 crimes in 2008/09 to 874,000 crimes in 2010/11. This fall is significant at 95% levels.

Proportion of SCJS crime in aggregated crime groups

Breaking down the proportions of property crime and violent crime further:

  • 32% of crime in 2010/11 was vandalism; 19% was other household theft (including bicycle theft); 14% per cent was personal theft (excluding robbery); 7% were all motor vehicle theft related incidents and 3% was housebreaking;
  • 24% of crime in 2010/11 was assault (including 2% which was serious assault and 22% which was minor assault) and 1% was robbery.

The risk of crime

The 2010/11 survey estimates that around one in six (17.8%) adults aged 16 or over were the victim of at least one crime.

  • 15.9% of adults were estimated to have been a victim of property crime;
  • 3% of adults had been a victim of violent crime;

The risk of being a victim of a crime has fallen from 19.3% in 2009/10 to 17.8% in 2010/11. This change is statistically significant at 95% levels. The risk of crime is lower in Scotland than in England and Wales where the victimisation rate was 21.5% in 2010/11.

2.2 Introduction

An important objective of the SCJS is to measure the extent of crime in Scotland. This chapter provides an overview of the total number of crimes in Scotland and the proportion of different types of crime within that.

Interpretation of survey results is aided by contextual information. In this chapter, three sets of comparative data are used to provide context for the SCJS estimates:

  • Previous Scottish crime survey data (although limited conclusions can be drawn from surveys prior to the first wave of the SCJS in 2008/09); [11]
  • Police recorded crime statistics, examining crime reported to the police;
  • British Crime Survey ( BCS) data collected in 2010/11 covering England and Wales, allowing comparisons of the incidence rates of different types of crime (Chaplin, 2011).

Finally, this chapter examines the risk of becoming a victim of crime ( prevalence or victimisation rate).

The estimate of the total number of crimes is broken down into various groups. The principal groups are property crime and violent crime. Box 2.1 below provides further information on the crime groups used in this report. [12]

Box 2.1: Aggregated crime groupings used in this report

In this report, overall crime measured by the survey has been split into two exclusive groups, property crime and violent crime. As well as being associated with differing levels of risk (section 1.7.3), crimes experienced in these two groups exhibit different characteristics and victims experience and perceive them differently ( Chapter 3).

Property crime includes the following exclusive groups:

  • Vandalism (including motor vehicle and property vandalism);
  • All motor vehicle theft related incidents (including theft and attempted theft of and from a motor vehicle);
  • Housebreaking (termed burglary in England and Wales);
  • Other household thefts (including bicycle theft);
  • Personal theft (excluding robbery).

Violent crime includes:

  • Assault;
  • Robbery.

Individual offence codes are allocated to each Victim Form as part of the offence coding process ( Annex 3) - for example "Vandalism to a motor vehicle". These offence codes can be grouped in a variety of other ways from those shown above. For example, for comparisons with police recorded crime, the group 'acquisitive' crime which includes housebreaking, theft of a motor vehicle and bicycle theft is used.

Vandalism, acquisitive crime and violent crime are comparable with police recorded crime, and these are examined in section 1.5.

The SPSS data files available from the UK Data Archive contain variables for the groups used in the report as well as a variety of other groupings and the offence code allocated to each incident.

Annex 3 provides further detail of the breakdown of crime groups used in this report.

2.3 Estimates of crime

The SCJS provides an estimate of the number of crimes (or incidence) occurring within Scotland. The numbers from the survey are then weighted and grossed to an estimate among the total adult population resident in private households in Scotland. The figures reported below are rounded to the nearest 1,000 crimes.

The SCJS 2010/11 estimates that there were approximately 874,000 crimes against adults resident in private households in Scotland. Of those crimes, the SCJS estimates that:

  • Approximately 654,000 were property crimes involving theft or damage to personal or household property (including vehicles);
  • Approximately 220,000 were violent crimes of assault or robbery.

As the estimates originate from a sample survey, they are subject to survey error. To supplement the estimates, a range of values was calculated, known as the confidence interval, which is likely to include the 'true' value for the number of crimes 95 times out of 100 if the survey were to be repeated.

These calculations show the actual number of crimes based on the 2010/11 SCJS to be in the range of 813,000 to 935,000. Within this the number of property crimes is estimated to be between 607,000 and 700,000 and the number of violent crimes between 185,000 and 256,000. [13]

2.3.1 Percentage of SCJS crime in aggregated crime groups

Figure 2.1 provides an additional breakdown of the overall estimate, showing the proportion of crime measured by the SCJS in 2010/11 in aggregated crime groups (Box 2.1).

75% of crime was property crime. Breaking this down further:

  • Around one in three (32%) crimes were incidents of vandalism (17% was vandalism to vehicles and 15% was vandalism to property);
  • 7% was all motor vehicle theft related incidents (including attempted and actual thefts of and from a motor vehicle);
  • 3% of crime was housebreaking and 19% was other household theft (including bicycle theft);
  • 14% of crime was personal theft (excluding robbery).

Violent crime in the SCJS 2010/11 included actual and attempted serious assault, minor assault and robbery. 25% of crime was violent, broken down as follows:

  • Assault accounted for 24% of crime (2% was serious assault and 22% was minor assault);
  • 1% of all SCJS crime was robbery.

Figure 2.1: % of SCJS crime in each crime group [14]
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: All SCJS crime (base: 3,048).
Variable name: incidence variables. [15]

Figure 2.1: % of SCJS crime in each crime group

2.4 Comparing crime over time

Data from previous surveys are presented in the following sections alongside the 2010/11 data. Care needs to be taken with the comparison of estimates from the 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 surveys with those from previous Scottish crime surveys due to the change to the survey methodology in 2008/09 and the wider confidence intervals associated with estimates from previous surveys.

The number of crimes has fallen by 16% or 171,000 in the two years between 2008/09 and 2010/11, from 1,045,000 crimes in 2008/09 to 874,000 crimes in 2010/11. This fall is significant at 95% levels. (Table 2.1)

Crime levels fell by 8% or 71,000 between 2009/10 and 2010/11 but that change is not statistically significant at 95% levels.

Table 2.1: Estimates of numbers of all SCJS crime
SCJS 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11.
Base: 2008/09 (16,003); 2009/10 (16,036); 2010/11 (13,010)
Variable name: incsurveycrime.

Survey year:All SCJS crime best estimateLower estimateUpper estimateConfidence interval
2010/11874,142813,214935,07060,928
2009/10945,419879,3071,011,53166,112
2008/091,044,809973,8491,115,76970,960

This decrease was not uniform across all groups of crime. Table 2.2 shows the change in crime as a percentage change from the 2009/10 and the 2008/09 survey. Changes which are statistically significant at 95% levels are shown in bold and italics.

Latest figures show that overall crime has shown no change between the 2009/10 and 2010/11 surveys (the apparent 8% decrease was not statistically significant), following a statistically significant fall of 10% between 2008/09 and 2009/10 surveys.

Similarly there was no statistically significant change between either property crime or violent crime between 2009/10 and 2010/11. In the two years between 2008/09 and 2010/11 there was a statistically significant fall of 10% on property crime levels and a 30% fall on violent crime levels.

Table 2.2: % change in estimates of numbers of all SCJS crime by crime group
SCJS 2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11.
Base: 2008/09 (16,003); 2009/10 (16,036); 2010/11 (13,010)
Variable name: incsurveycrime.

% change
2008/092009/102010/112009/10 to 2010/112008/09 to 2010/11
ALL SCJS CRIME1,044,809945,419874,142-8%-16%
PROPERTY CRIME728,219679,301654,007-4%-10%
Vandalism350,376303,010275,387-9%-21%
All motor vehicle theft related incidents69,70964,23157,814-10%-17%
Housebreaking25,48528,85328,144-2%10%
Other household theft (inc. bicycles)172,856153,094169,11010%-2%
Personal theft (excl. robbery)109,793130,113123,551-5%13%
VIOLENT CRIME316,590266,119220,136-17%-30%
Assault296,893247,244208,109-16%-30%
Robbery19,69718,87512,027-36%-39%

Note: changes which are significant at 95% levels are shown in bold and italics.

2.4.1 Trends in numbers of crimes since the early 1990s

Figure 2. shows the total number of crimes as estimated by crime surveys conducted in Scotland since 1993. Confidence intervals, which show the range within which the true estimate is likely to lie, are included for the 2006, 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 surveys to indicate the reliability of the estimates shown. [16] The smaller confidence intervals in 2008/09 ,2009/10 and 2010/11 for the SCJS are due to the larger sample size in these surveys which produces an estimate that is statistically more reliable than previous estimates. The shifts in the estimates between previous surveys prior to the 2008/09 survey is within the range of values likely to include the 'true' number of crimes and so could have occurred by chance. As a result, no clear trend could be detected for changes to the numbers of crimes as a whole measured by the various Scottish crime surveys conducted since 1993.

Figure 2.2: Total number of crimes over time
Scottish crime survey estimates.
Base: SCS 1993 (5,030); 1996 (5,045); 2000 (5,059); 2003 (5,041); SCVS 2004 (3,034); 2006 (4,988); SCJS 2008/09 (16,003); 2009/10 (16,036), 2010/11 (13,010). [17]
Variable name: incsurveycrime.

Figure 2.2: Total number of crimes over time

Note: The dashed line indicates a break in the survey methodology, moving to a rolling reference period, increased sample size and continuous fieldwork ( section 1.1).

2.4.2 Number of crimes (grouped) over time

Figure 2.4 breaks down the overall number of crimes into groups and provides estimates for them from the crime surveys conducted in Scotland since 1993. The small sample size of surveys prior to 2008/09 and the associated wide confidence intervals prevent detailed examination of trends, though some patterns do emerge for some crime groups.

Figure 2.4 suggests, among groups of property crime:

  • An apparent rise in vandalism since the early 1990s to 2008/09, followed by a steady decline between 2008/09 and 2010/11; [18]
  • A decrease in all motor vehicle theft related incidents and housebreaking since the early 1990s;
  • Personal theft (excluding robbery) appears to have stayed at a broadly similar level over the whole period;
  • There is no clear trend apparent for other household theft (including bicycle theft).

Among groups of violent crime:

  • There was an apparent rise in assault since the early 1990s to 2008/09; followed by a steady decline between 2008/09 and 2010/11;
  • Robbery appears to have stayed at stable, low, levels over the whole period.

Figure 2.3: Number of crimes (grouped) over time
Scottish crime survey estimates.
Base: SCS 1993 (5,030); 1996 (5,045); 2000 (5,059); 2003 (5,041); SCVS 2004 (3,034); 2006 (4,988); SCJS 2008/09 (16,003); 2009/10 (16,036); 2010/11 13,010). [19]
Variable name: incidence variables. [20]

Figure 2.3: Number of crimes (grouped) over time

Note: The dashed line indicates a break in the survey methodology, moving to a rolling reference period, increased sample size and continuous fieldwork ( section 1.1).

2.5 Police recorded crime statistics

In this section the estimates of crime as measured by the SCJS 2010/11 are examined in the context of police recorded crime from 2010/11.

2.5.1 Police recorded crime and comparisons with SCJS

When comparing crime estimates from the SCJS and crime recorded by the police (section 2.5.2) the following differences need to be kept in mind:

  • Reference periods for police recorded crime (2010/11) and the SCJS (2010/11): SCJS 2010/11 estimates are based on interviews carried out between 01 April 2010 and 31 March 2011 and incidents experienced by respondents in the 12 months before their interview. The centre-point of the period for reporting crime is March 2010 which is the only month to be included in all respondents' reference periods. Averaging over the moving reference period of the SCJS generates estimates that are most closely comparable with police recorded crime figures for the 12 months to the end of September 2010 (about 6 months behind the 2010/11 recorded crime figures reported here). The police recorded crime statistics relate to crime recorded by the police in the financial year 2010/11;
  • Reporting rates and how crimes against business and people aged 15 or younger are reported: A set of crimes from police recorded crime were selected which best match the categories in the SCJS comparable subset. The count for the comparable police recorded crime includes crimes committed against businesses and under 16 year olds, both of which were excluded from SCJS measures of crime. Previously, the comparable police recorded crime was adjusted to remove the estimated number of crimes committed against businesses and against victims under 16 years olds using work carried out by Strathclyde Police in 2002. In the SCJS 2008/09, 2009/10 and 2010/11 this adjustment was not carried out, which is consistent with practice on the BCS, and due to the lack of an available source that was up-to-date and nationally representative;
  • Police recording practice. Details of the Scottish Police Recording Standard are available from the policies section of the Association of Chief Police Officers Scotland ( ACPOS) website: http://www.acpos.police.uk/Policies.html.

The statistical bulletin for police recorded crime in Scotland for 2010/11 is available from the Scottish Government website: http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2011/09/02120241/0.

A subset of all SCJS crime can be compared with police recorded crime statistics. This comparable subset includes vandalism, acquisitive crime and violent crime. [21] 64% of crime estimated by the SCJS was classed as comparable with police recorded crime statistics.

2.5.2 Comparisons with police recorded crime statistics 2010/11

The SCJS 2010/11 estimated that there were 556,274 crimes in the comparable subset. In 2010/11, the police recorded 183,117 crimes in the comparable subset of crime ( section 2.5).

Figure 2. shows a comparison of the proportion of comparable crime recorded by the police in 2010/11 and comparable crime estimated by the SCJS in 2010/11, broken down by vandalism, acquisitive crime and violent crime as defined by the SCJS. [22]

Figure 2.4: % of comparable SCJS crime and police recorded crime
SCJS 2010/11; police recorded crime 2010/11.
Base: Comparable subsets of crime; SCJS 2010/11 (1,450 incidents); police recorded crime statistics 2010/11 (183,117 incidents).
Variable name: incidence variables. [23]

Figure 2.4: % of comparable SCJS crime and police recorded crime

2.5.3 Reporting comparable crime

Not all crime is reported to the police. The SCJS 2010/11 estimated that 46% of comparable crime was reported to the police. [24] This is higher than the 41% reporting rate estimated for England and Wales in 2010/11 (Osborne, 2010). Within crime measured by the SCJS in 2010/11, the proportion of comparable crime reported to the police varied by type and included:

  • 40% of vandalism;
  • 51% of acquisitive crime;
  • 51% of violent crime.

Reporting incidents to the police is explored in more detail in Chapter 5.

2.6 Comparison of total number of crimes in Scotland with England and Wales

Changes to the SCJS with regard to the reference period and the continuous fieldwork mean it is now very similar to the method used in the BCS which measures crime in England and Wales. [25] The BCS 2010/11 provides useful context for the SCJS 2010/11 results, although care needs to be taken when comparing crime estimates between the two sources as the coding of a small number of offences differs between the surveys, primarily reflecting the differing legal systems. [26]

The incidence rates (the number of crimes as measured by the BCS 2010/11 and the SCJS 2010/11 per 10,000 adults or households) were compared for the various crime groups ( Figure 2.6). [27]

The comparison showed that among groups of property crime:

  • The incidence rates for all motor vehicle theft related incidents and housebreaking were lower in Scotland than in England and Wales;
  • The incidence rates for other household theft and personal theft were similar in Scotland and in England and Wales;
  • The incidence rate for vandalism was higher in Scotland than in England and Wales.

The comparison among groups of violent crime showed that:

  • The incidence rate for robbery was lower in Scotland than in England and Wales;
  • The incidence rate for assault in Scotland was similar to that of England and Wales. [28]

Figure 2.5: Comparison of incidence rates in Scotland with England and Wales
SCJS 2010/11, BCS 2010/11 (incidence rate per 10,000 households / adults).
Base: SCJS 2010/11 (13,010); BCS 2010/11 (46,728).
Variable name: incidence variables. [29]

Figure 2.5: Comparison of incidence rates in Scotland with England and Wales

Comparison of the proportion of crime made up by the different crime groups in Scotland and in England and Wales showed 75% of crime in Scotland was property crime compared with 77% of crime in England and Wales (Chaplin, 2011). Within that:

  • 32% of crime in Scotland was vandalism compared with 22% in England and Wales;
  • 7% of crime in Scotland was motor vehicle theft related incidents compared with 12% in England and Wales;
  • 3% of crime in Scotland was housebreaking, compared with 8% in England and Wales; [30]
  • 19% of crime in Scotland was other household theft and 14% was personal theft (a combined 33%). In England and Wales 35% were other thefts, which incorporated these two categories.

25% of crime in Scotland was violent crime. This compares with 23% of crime measured by the BCS in England and Wales being violent crime (Chaplin, 2011).

2.7 The risk of crime

As well as estimating the number of crimes, the SCJS measures the percentage of households or adults who were victims of crime in the 12 months before interview. This identifies the overall risk of being a victim of crime and is known as the crime victimisation rate or prevalence.

The SCJS is used specifically to monitor one of the national indicators in Scotland Performs: [31]

' reduce overall crime victimisation rates by two percentage points by 2011' which contributes to the achievement of the outcome 'we live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger'.

It is defined as the percentage of adults aged 16 or over in private households who have been the victim of a crime as measured by the SCJS. The SCJS 2008/09 was the baseline for the national indicator and changes in the data since then are explored in section 2.7.2.

2.7.1 Overall risk of being a victim of crime

The SCJS estimates that around one in six (17.8%) adults aged 16 or over was the victim of at least one crime as measured by the SCJS in 2010/11. Confidence interval calculations show the actual risk of victimisation to be in the range of 17.0% to 18.6%. [32]

The equivalent rate for crime victimisation in England and Wales was 21.5%.

Within the overall victimisation rate, different types of crime have different risks associated with them. The risk of being a victim of property crime was 16% compared with a 3% risk of being a victim of violent crime.

Further detail about the nature and impact of victimisation is provided in chapters 3 and 4.

2.7.2 Risk of being a victim of crime: comparison over time

The risk of being a victim of a crime has fallen from 19.3% in 2009/10 to 17.8% in 2010/11. This change is statistically significant at 95% levels.

The SCJS 2008/09 was the baseline year for the Scotland Performs national indicator relating to crime victimisation rates. [33] Comparing the 2010/11 estimate with the 2008/09 estimate, the risk of being a victim of a crime has fallen from 20.4% in 2008/09 to 17.8% in 2010/11. This is a statistically significant decrease of 2.6 percentage points from the baseline year.

2.7.3 Risk of being a victim of different crimes (grouped)

As measured by the SCJS in 2010/11 there was a one in six (17.8%) risk of an adult being a victim of one or more crimes of any type. Figure 2.7 shows the victimisation rate for the broad categories of property and violent crime and for the different crime groups which make up those larger categories.

There was a 15.9% risk to an adult of being a victim of property crime. [34] Within the broad group of property crime, vandalism was the most commonly experienced crime with 7.2% of households experiencing it in the last year while housebreaking was the least common crime being experienced by 1.1% of households.

There was a 3% risk of being a victim of violent crime. Within that category 2.8% of Scottish adults had been the victim of an assault (though the risk of serious assault was only 0.3%) and 0.2% of adults had been the victim of robbery.

Figure 2.6: Risk of being a victim of different crimes (grouped)
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Households / adults (13,010).
Variable name: prevalence variables. [35]

Figure 2.6: Risk of being a victim of different crimes (grouped)

2.7.4 Risk of card and identity fraud

This section looks at card and identity fraud, which there has been growing concern about in recent years. The SCJS does not ask specific questions on fraud in the victim form as there are a number of issues with measuring this problem (discussed in the following section) and therefore fraud is not included in any of the SCJS crime statistics.

There are a number of difficulties in measuring card and identity fraud:

  • Where a card is not physically stolen, adults may be unaware that a fraud involving their personal or financial details has taken place;
  • Adults whose details are used fraudulently may not suffer loss or harm and may not consider themselves to be the victim of a crime;
  • Where a card or personal documents are physically stolen, details may be given by adults in the victim form, though this may not be the case in other kinds of identity fraud.

However, there is currently no consistent measure for this type of fraud and there are difficulties with using survey data or police statistics to assess how much of this type of fraud there is (Box 2.3 and Murphy and Eder, 2010).

Box 2.2: Card and identity fraud

Currently there is no comprehensive measure of card and identity fraud. The Home Office (Murphy and Eder, 2010) considers data from the UK Cards Association as a good source of information on the rate of plastic card fraud within the UK. However, UKCA data is not available separately for Scotland and does not include details about other types of identity fraud not involving plastic cards.

Based on BCS definitions (Hoare and Wood, 2007), card and identity fraud measured in the SCJS (but not included in the crime statistics) includes:

  • Credit or bank cards being stolen and subsequently used to obtain money, good or services;
  • Credit or bank card details being used to obtain money, goods or services;
  • Personal details being obtained and used to open bank accounts or get credit cards, loans, state benefits or official documents such as national insurance numbers, drivers licenses, birth certificates and passports.

The SCJS 2010/11 estimated that:

  • 4.5% of adults had experienced card fraud in the 12 months prior to interview;
  • 0.5% of adults had been a victim of identity theft, where someone had pretended to be them or used their personal details fraudulently.

For card fraud, there were roughly the same instances of cards themselves being used without permission (2.4%) and just the card details being used (2.2%).

As well as measuring the extent of fraud, questions were also asked about the extent adults worried about card and identity fraud happening to them and the likelihood they believed it would happen, in the context of other types of crime. Section 6.6 of Chapter 6 provides further discussion about this in comparison to the actual risk reported here.