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The 1996 Scottish Crime Survey: First Results - Research Findings

DescriptionCrime surveys are a well established means of collecting information about the nature and extent of certain crimes experienced by individuals and households during the previous year.
ISBN0 748 66038 0
Official Print Publication Date
Website Publication DateDecember 29, 1998
Crime and Criminal Justice Research Findings No 16 (1997)
The 1996 Scottish Crime Survey: First Results

The MVA Consultancy

ISBN 0-748-66038-0Publisher The Scottish OfficePrice £5.00
The 1996 Scottish Crime Survey (SCS) was the fourth in a series of national surveys carried out in Scotland. Crime surveys are a well established means of collecting information about the nature and extent of certain crimes experienced by individuals and households during the previous year. By asking people directly about their experiences they can provide additional information which is not available from other sources, such as whether or not the crime was reported to the police, and offer an important complement to information from statistics of crimes recorded by the police.
Main findings
  • Estimates derived from the 1996 SCS suggest that in 1995 just under 1 million crimes were committed against individuals and private households in Scotland. This was 8% less than the number of crimes estimated in the 1993 SCS. Approximately 70% of crimes were against property and of these about half involved motor vehicles.
  • The estimated number of crimes for each offence category returned to a level close to, or below, 1981 estimates.
  • For all types of crime in the SCS, rates of victimisation were lower in Scotland than those recorded in England and Wales by the 1996 British Crime Survey (BCS) conducted at the same time.
  • Roughly 9 in 10 respondents saw crime as a 'serious' problem in Scotland. However, since 1993 there has been a decrease in the proportion of people who were worried about becoming a victim of specific types of crime such as housebreaking or assault.
  • For those types of crime that can be compared, only an estimated 37% of SCS crimes ended up in the police statistics on recorded crime. This was similar to the proportion in 1992.
  • Survey estimates suggest that the number of violent crimes decreased slightly between 1992 and 1995. There was a sharp drop in the estimated number of acquisitive crimes, but a slight increase in vandalism.
  • Since the 1993 survey, there has been a small increase in public satisfaction with police performance. Seventy two per cent of respondents in central and southern Scotland said that the police in their area did a 'very good' or 'fairly good' job. About two-thirds of those who reported incidents to the police in 1995 said they were 'very' or 'fairly' satisfied with the way the police handled the matter.
Introduction
This paper presents key findings from the 1996 Scottish Crime Survey (SCS). This is a large scale household survey of public experiences and perceptions of crime, based on interviews with 5,045 adults (aged 16 or over) throughout Scotland. As with all previous surveys, the 1996 SCS relates to crimes reported to have happened during the previous year.
This is the fourth in a series of crime surveys in Scotland. In 1982 and 1988, Scotland participated in sweeps of the British Crime Survey (BCS), co-ordinated by the Home Office. Data collection was restricted to southern and central Scotland. The 1993 SCS, commissioned by The Scottish Office, was the first to cover the whole of mainland Scotland together with the larger islands. The 1996 SCS had the same geographic coverage.
To allow meaningful comparisons with earlier crime surveys, data showing trends are based on the subset of interviews carried out in the same areas of Scotland covered prior to the 1993 SCS. This is necessary because lower rates of victimisation in Grampian and, particularly, the Highlands and Islands would otherwise tend to depress estimates of crime relative to earlier surveys. A total of 4,290 interviews were conducted in the restricted survey area in 1996. Statements about the nature or extent of crime in Scotland as a whole, or comparisons with the 1993 SCS only, are based on the full geographic area covered.
Throughout this paper, the term 'crime' is used to refer to any incident of victimisation recorded by the survey. No technical distinction is made between 'crimes' and 'offences', as in the police recorded crime statistics.
Why crime surveys?
It is widely accepted that victimisation surveys provide an important complement to the statistics compiled by the police. Not all crimes are reported to the police and, of those that are, not all are subsequently recorded. Thus, by asking the public directly about their experiences, crime surveys provide a fuller picture of the extent of and trends in most types of victimisation. Crime surveys also allow the opportunity to explore issues related to crime, such as the impact on victims, fear of crime, and attitudes towards the police.
Limitations of the Data
The SCS cannot provide a complete picture of crime in Scotland. As a sample of adults in household units, the SCS does not collect information about crimes committed against public or corporate bodies, individuals not resident in households and those aged less than 16.
A further limitation is that the SCS is dependent on the willingness of respondents to take part in the survey and to remember incidents and report them accurately.
The SCS results, like those of any sample survey, are also subject to sampling error and the findings should therefore not be seen as exact measures but as indicators set within margins of error.
The four Scottish sweeps were carried out in essentially the same way. However, when comparing survey results, the possibility should be recognised that public perceptions of crime and victimisation may have changed since 1981, and that this may affect recall and the nature of how matters are reported.
The SCS does not claim, therefore, to measure the 'true' level of crime in Scotland. For many kinds of crime, however, including the most prevalent, it provides a better indicator of levels and trends in victimisation than police recorded crime statistics.
How much crime?
Estimates of crime in Scotland can be calculated by multiplying the SCS victimisation rates by the total number of households and adults in Scotland. From the 1996 SCS, it is estimated that just under 1 million crimes were committed against individuals and households during 1995. This is a fall of approximately 8% from the number of crimes estimated to have been committed in 1992.
Figure 1 shows that just over 70% of the crimes recorded by the survey were committed against property and a third of all crimes involved motor vehicles.
Figure 1 Proportions of SCS crimes in each Aggregated Crime Category
Figure 1 Proportions of SCS crimes in each Aggregated Crime Category
Source: 1996 SCS (All Scotland)
Crimes involving violence (robbery and assault) were proportionally few, accounting for 16% of the total. This proportion is the same as that recorded in the 1993 SCS (16%).
Approximately 1 in 4 people had been the victim of at least one crime covered by the survey during 1995. One in 10 had been victims on two or more occasions. Certain groups of people were at more risk than others for certain types of crime. For example, those most at risk from violent street crime were young men, and those least at risk were the elderly. A full analysis of differential risks will be included in the overview report of the survey.
Comparison with police recorded crime statistics
Because not all crimes are reported to the police and, of those that are, not all are subsequently recorded by them, there is a sizeable gap between SCS estimates of crime and those of the police recorded crime statistics.
Only certain categories of crime are directly comparable between the SCS figures and the police statistics: vandalism, housebreaking, theft of a motor vehicle, theft of a bicycle, robbery and assault. These categories are collectively referred to as the 'comparable sub-set' of crimes. This sub-set accounts for 54% of all crimes reported in the survey. Figure 2 shows, for each category, the number of crimes estimated in the SCS and the number recorded by the police.
Figure 2 Levels of recorded and unrecorded crime
Figure 2 Levels of recorded and unrecorded crime
Source: 1996 SCS (All Scotland), police recorded crime statistics
The number of comparable crimes recorded by the police in 1995 is only 37% of the total number of crimes estimated by the SCS. This proportion was similar to that recorded for 1992.
Reporting to the police
Victims of crimes were asked whether the incident had been reported to the police. The earlier surveys showed a sizeable increase in reporting between 1981 and 1992, as shown in table 1. The results of the 1996 SCS show that this steady increase has tailed off, with half of all crimes in central and southern Scotland being reported to the police in 1995.
Table 1: Trends in reporting crime to the police 1981 - 1995

% of crimes reported to the police

1981

1987

1992

1995

38

44

55

50

Source: 1982 & 1988 BCS; 1993 & 1996 SCS (central and southern Scotland only)
Across Scotland as a whole, the crimes most likely to be reported in 1995 were theft of a motor vehicle (100%), housebreaking (71%), theft from a motor vehicle (58%) and bicycle theft (54%). Crimes such as theft in a dwelling (11%) and other personal theft (26%) were less likely to be reported. Where crimes had not been reported to the police, the most common reasons were that the incident was 'too trivial' or 'the police could have done nothing' according to the victims.
Trends in reporting rates have been similar in England and Wales to those in Scotland, with an increase in reporting up to 1991 and then tailing off in more recent surveys. However, as Figure 3 shows, crime surveys have consistently shown reporting rates to be higher in Scotland than in England and Wales.
Figure 3 Percentages of survey incidents reported to the police
Figure 3 Percentages of survey incidents reported to the police
Source: 1982, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1996 BCS; 1993 & 1996 SCS (central and southern Scotland only)
One factor which may be associated with the likelihood of reporting an incident is insurance cover. Of those incidents of theft or damage where an insurance claim was made, 91% had been reported to the police. But only 42% of incidents where no insurance claim was made were reported.
Change in the level of insurance cover of victims may be a possible explanation for changes in reporting rates over time. For example, insurance cover among victims of housebreaking rose from 50% in 1987 to 60% in 1992. Insurance cover in incidents of housebreaking has, however, fallen to 54% in 1995. This may be a contributing factor to the decline in reporting rates for housebreaking and other thefts.
Is crime rising?
Between 1981 and 1992, police statistics showed a steep rise in the level of crime in Scotland followed by a drop between 1992 and 1995. When these trends are examined alongside SCS crime trends and rates of reporting to the police, it is evident that police recorded crime statistics may more accurately reflect shifts in reporting patterns than actual changes in underlying crime rates.
Figure 4 shows trends in crime for the comparable subset with figures for 1981 indexed at 100.
Figure 4 Indexed trends in crime 1981-1995
Figure 4 Indexed trends in crime 1981-1995
(Comparable crime types only; 1981 figures=100)
Source: police recorded crime statistics; BCS (Scotland) 1982, 1988; SCS 1993, 1996 (central and southern Scotland)
The total number of comparable crimes recorded by the police rose by 52% between 1981 and 1992. Crime survey findings, however, showed an increase of just 5% between these years. This difference appears to be largely a result of the sharp increase in the level of reporting up to 1992.
The number of comparable crimes recorded by the police shows a 13% decrease in southern and central Scotland between 1992 and 1995, which is broadly in line with the fall in SCS crimes (10%) over this period. However, the pattern in trends varied considerably between different types of crime, as Figure 5 shows. It is interesting that for each of the 3 broad offence groups shown in Figure 5, SCS estimates for 1995 were similar to the 1981 levels.
For acquisitive crime, survey trends are broadly in line with police statistics since 1981, but with a sharper rise between 1981 and 1992, and a sharper drop between 1992 and 1995. Survey estimates of violent crime rose between 1981 and 1987 but fell back in 1992 and 1995, while the police statistics continued to rise. Police statistics suggest very little change in the number of incidents of violence between 1992 and 1995 while SCS estimates show a drop of 8% in incidents of violence in central and southern Scotland. SCS estimates of vandalism fell between 1981 and 1992, but rose in 1995. The police statistics on vandalism, by contrast, show a considerable increase between 1981 and 1992, but a decrease between 1992 and 1995.
In Scotland as a whole, Table 2 shows, for the comparable subset of crimes, that police recorded crime fell by 11% and crime survey estimates fell by 7% between 1992 and 1995. The rather bigger drop (9%) in the rate of reporting to the police is consistent with the fact that police recorded crime shows a larger drop than SCS crime.
Within each crime category, however, changes in police recorded crime were somewhat different to estimated changes in SCS crimes reported to the police. This was particularly true for vandalism which showed an increase in survey estimated crimes and also a sizeable increase in reporting rates. This resulted in a large increase in the estimated number of vandalism incidents reported to the police. However, police statistics suggest a slight drop in vandalism.
Figure 5 Indexed trends in different offence groups
Figure 5 Indexed trends in different offence groups 5 a Acquisitive

Figure 5 Indexed trends in different offence groups 5 b Violence

Figure 5 Indexed trends in different offence groups 5 c Vandalism
Source: police recorded crime statistics; BCS (Scotland) 1982, 1988; SCS 1993, 1996 (central and southern Scotland)
Acquisitive crime: Housebreaking, theft of a motor vehicle and bicycle theft
Violence: Petty and serious assault and robbery
Vandalism: Vehicle and property vandalism
Table 2: Trends in crime 1992 - 1995

% change in crime 1992 - 1995

Crimes
Recorded
by the
police

Total
Survey
crimes

Survey
crimes
reported to
the police

Aquisitive

-22

-30

-38

Violence

2

-5

-21

Vandalism

-4

11

70

Total

-11

-7

-9

Sources: Adjusted police recorded crime statistics; 1993 and 1996 SCS
Comparisons with England and Wales
In 1981, crime survey victimisation rates in Scotland were similar to those in England and Wales. By 1987, Scotland was showing lower rates for most types of crime. The 1993 SCS showed that, when compared to the findings from the 1992 BCS in England and Wales, the gap had widened further and that Scottish victimisation rates were lower for all categories of crime 1.
The findings of the 1996 SCS show that the difference in crime rates between Scotland and England and Wales found in previous crime surveys has increased further for all types of crime. Some of this difference may be due to differences in survey administration and design between the two surveys, since even slight differences can effect comparability. A number of design differences may have inflated the figures for England and Wales relative to those for Scotland, although it is unlikely that these would account for the overall difference.
Table 3: Comparison of victimisation rates for Scotland and England and Wales 1996 SCS and BCS
Offence Category

Scotland

England and Wales

Housebreaking

386

829

All vehicle thefts

1,033

2,039

Thefts from vehicles

641

1,192

Theft of vehicle

107

236

Attempted vehicle thefts

285

610

Bicycle thefts

119

312

Thefts from person*

41

163

Vandalism

1,105

1,614

Vehicle vandalism

559

875

Household vandalism

546

739

Assault*

345

894

Robbery*

42

76

Other household thefts

568

1,071

Other personal thefts*

273

504

Total household offences

3,211

5,865

Total personal offences*

701

1,637

Sources: 1996 BCS and 1996 SCS
The rates are per 10,000 households those indicated (*) where the rates are per 10,000 adults aged 16 or over.
Public perceptions of crime
When presented with a range of social problems 'in Scotland today', most (90%) identified crime as an 'extremely' or 'quite' serious problem. However the proportion who said it was an 'extremely serious' problem (44%) was lower than in the 1993 SCS (50%). As in 1993, half of all respondents said that they worried that they or someone they lived with would become a victim of crime.
The proportion of respondents feeling unsafe walking alone in their area after dark fell from 39% in 1993 to 35% in 1996. Women and the elderly were the most likely to feel unsafe.
Figure 6: Percentage of respondents feeling 'a bit' or 'very' unsafe walking alone after dark
Figure 6: Percentage of respondents feeling 'a bit' or 'very' unsafe walking alone after dark
Source: 1996 SCS
There was a small decrease in the proportion of respondents who were worried about specific types of crime between 1993 and 1996. For example, the proportion of respondents who were 'very' or 'fairly' worried about becoming a victim of housebreaking fell from 59% in 1993 to 52% in 1996. A similar drop was observed for other types of crime.
Other forms of victimisation
The SCS also elicited information about a number of types of harassment to which respondents may have been subject but which may not have been regarded as a crime.
Fourteen per cent of respondents said that since the beginning of 1995 they had been annoyed, upset or frightened when they were out by people following them on foot, following them by car, indecently exposing themselves, or making abusive or offensive comments. Young people were the most likely to have experienced harassment. Of those aged 16-24, 34% had experienced at least one of these types of harassment compared to only 5% of those aged 65 or over.
There was a drop in the number of nuisance telephone calls between the 1993 and 1996 SCS. Eleven per cent of households in the 1993 SCS and 8% of households in the 1996 SCS had received at least one offensive telephone call. Of those who had received any offensive telephone calls, 47% had received three or more such calls in the 1993 survey. This rose to 57% in the 1996 SCS.
Satisfaction with the police
The SCS included questions about respondents' views on the general performance of their local police. As Table 4 shows, overall views were slightly more positive in 1996 than in 1993, with a higher proportion of respondents saying that the police in their area did a 'very good' or 'fairly good' job.
Table 4: Satisfaction with the police

Would you say that the police in this area do a good or a poor job?

1982

1988

1993

1996

Very good

27

16

16

18

Fairly good

44

54

52

54

Fairly poor

7

12

12

11

Very poor

4

4

8

5

Don't know

18

14

12

12

Sources: 1982 & 1988 BCS and 1993 & 1996 SCS (central and southern Scotland only).
Attitudes towards the police varied according to the age of the respondent, with only 9% of 16-24 year olds saying the police did a 'very good' job, compared to 29% of those aged 65 or over.
Of those victims who had reported incidents to the police, roughly two-thirds said they were 'very' or 'fairly' satisfied with the way that the police handled the matter. The findings of the 1988 and 1993 surveys were virtually the same.
Appendix
Survey estimates of crimes in central and southern Scotland 1981-1995 and comparison of survey estimates for 1992 and 1995 with police recorded crime statistics
Central and Southern ScotlandAll ScotlandPolice
Figures in 000s19811987199219951992199519921995
Comparable with recorded crime
Vandalism

228

178

172

201

212

234

65

62

Aquisitive crime

105

157

170

106

186

130

104

81

Housebreaking

65

108

115

67

124

82

56

45

Theft of motor vehicle

25

24

33

21

36

23

36

25

Bicycle theft

15

25

22

18

26

25

11

11

Violence

146

170

153

140

168

159

50

50

Assault

133

160

140

126

155

142

44

46

Robbery

13

10

13

14

13

17

6

4

Total comparable crimes

478

506

495

447

566

523

218

194

Other survey crimes
Theft from motor vehicle

133

151

135

121

151

136

*

*

Other household theft

131

139

182

155

208

181

*

*

Theft from the person

46

29

18

14

20

17

*

*

Other personal theft

155

112

94

93

111

112

*

*

All survey crimes

942

938

924

830

1055

969

*

*

Notes
1. Sources: 1982 and 1988 BCS (Central and Southern Scotland), 1993 and 1996 SCS, 1992 and 1995 police recorded crime statistics.
2. Acquisitive crimes: housebreaking, theft of a motor vehicle and bicycle theft. This definition differs from that of the BCS in England and Wales in that it excludes theft from a motor vehicle and theft from the person. This is because comparable Scottish Police statistics are not available for these categories.
3. Violence: petty and serious assault and robbery.
4. Survey estimates of the total number of crimes were derived by multiplying unrounded victimisation rates by the relevant multiplier for households and personal offences.
5. The category 'other household theft' includes attempted thefts of and from vehicles and theft in a dwelling.
6. Police recorded crime statistics have been adjusted to improve comparability with the SCS. For example crimes against those aged under 16 are excluded, as are incidents of vandalism against public and corporately owned property. The police recorded crime statistics shown here are for Scotland as a whole.
7. Rates of vandalism for 1992 are slightly different to those previously published. This is due to a previous error in calculation.
*No comparable police statistics on recorded crime available.
1 The expansion of the survey area in 1993 to include Grampian and the Highlands and Islands lowered the victimisation rates for Scotland, and contributed to the widening of the gap between Scotland and England & Wales, providing a truer picture of the difference.
The 1996 Scottish Crime Survey was based on face to face interviews throughout Scotland with a representative sample of 5,045 adults aged 16 or over. Interviews were carried out between February and April 1996 by representatives of The MVA Consultancy. Addresses for the survey were drawn at random from the small users Postal Address File. The survey had a response rate of 77%. Further methodological details can be found in the survey Technical Report.
A full report on the results from the 1996 SCS will be published in due course This will include more detailed results on a range of topics, including public satisfaction with the police, the impact of crime on both victims and non-victims, experiences of domestic violence and young people and crime.

The report can also be ordered online from:www.thestationeryoffice.co.uk

Further copies of this research findings may be obtained from The Scottish Office Central Research Unit,
Room J1-0,
Saughton House,
Broomhouse Drive,
Edinburgh EH11 3XA (Tel: 0131 244 2114).