Part Two: Dissemination of Recorded Crime Statistics
Part Two of the consultation sought users' views on the way both the annual National Statistics and monthly Official Statistics on recorded crime in Scotland are presented and disseminated. This included questions on the content of these publications, their frequency and any potential analytical developments.
Annual National Statistics on Recorded Crime
The most recent National Statistics annual bulletin was published on 28 September 2021: Recorded Crime in Scotland, 2020-21. The bulletin provides in-depth commentary, including comparisons with findings from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) and presents tables within the document as well as in Excel format. The 2020-21 edition of the annual bulletin included a new cyber-crime chapter, presenting the latest available information on recorded cyber-crime in Scotland.
Where an opinion was expressed, respondents were all supportive of the commentary for the annual statistics as a valuable way of understanding and contextualising the findings. While some were in favour of reducing the length of the bulletin, with more background information being provided in a separate User Guide, others retained a preference for a comprehensive commentary.
Where an opinion was given, users found the information on cyber-crime in the 2020-21 bulletin useful. Many also expressed interest in the potential development of reports that rotate around certain themes, alongside a more general summary of long term trends on recorded crime. It was however highlighted that some form of consistency in the way topics are chosen, and discussion with users, should be taken into account.
Most respondents were also in favour of having Excel format tables, and removing them from the bulletin. It was noted it would be important to replicate the current table layout to ensure continuity and that different accessibility requirements for different people should be considered when assessing possible formats. One additional comment noted that it may be useful to identify new ways of reaching out to people, highlighting to users what is available in the data and what it means to them and organisations across Scotland.
The clear majority of respondents who provided an opinion on analysis comparing police recorded crime statistics with the SCJS said that they found this useful. Some noted this helps them understand the level of crime that is not reported to the police and it adds value to any conclusions on trends in criminal activity. The table showing the comparative strengths and limitations of the two sources was highlighted as a useful tool by one respondent.
Monthly Official Statistics on Recorded Crime
To inform users about the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the type and volume of crime recorded by the police in Scotland, the Scottish Government began publishing an associated monthly Official Statistics bulletin from April 2020. The most recent edition relates to February 2022, and is available at: Recorded Crime in Scotland - Monthly Official Statistics.
Where a preference was expressed, respondents were in favour of reducing the frequency of the monthly statistics publications, suggesting quarterly releases would best suit their needs. One attendee at a user event noted that it may be useful to monitor recorded crime on a monthly basis during the recovery period following the pandemic.
Recorded Crime Statistics User Guide
The User Guide provides detailed information on the recorded crime bulletin. It is designed to be a useful reference guide with explanatory notes regarding the updates, issues and classifications which are crucial to the production and presentation of crime statistics in Scotland.
Of those respondents who provided an answer on the use of the User Guide, they referred to this as a useful document which complements the statistical bulletin, especially for information on changes to long established reporting formats.
Part Two of the consultation also asked users their views on the potential development of a range of analytical pieces of work which would accompany the recorded crime statistics. These could include:
- Individual level data and demographic characteristics
- Additional levels of geography
- Open data and interactive data exploring tool
- Crime severity score
There was general agreement amongst respondents that the demographic characteristics of those involved in crime would be a helpful addition. This was seen as a possible development to explore after the roll out of the new Police Scotland National Crime Management System. Some respondents noted that if this type of data was made available, metadata and contextual information would need to be provided to ensure it is used in a suitable and responsible manner.
In terms of geography, the clear majority of respondents were in favour of the current level of disaggregation offered for these statistics (i.e. national and local authority levels). Feedback showed that some users were conscious of possible confidentiality issues which could arise if using lower level geographies. However, one noted that a better picture of crime experienced in island communities as well as remote rural areas, would be beneficial.
Most respondents said they do not use data from the open data platform Scotland's official statistics. However, one response noted that while data in this format is useful for building secondary products (e.g. comparing local authorities), it may not be the preferred option for users who are not familiar with open data conventions. It was also mentioned that removing the disparity between statistical releases in Excel format and the limited subset of data made available on Scotland's official statistics would be welcome.
There was mixed feedback on the potential development of an interactive data exploring tool (similar to that available for the SCJS). Many responses did not provide specific views on this, however some noted this may be a way to give people more options to access the data. Another comment suggested that regular statistical releases could reference unified tables that get incrementally updated with each release, instead of including self-contained tables relating to individual releases, and that an interactive tool would complement this enhanced way of offering data.
The consultation also asked if users would be interested in the development of a Crime Severity Score, a tool designed to reflect the relative harm of offending, rather than how many crimes there are. It would give some crime/offence categories a higher weight than other ones, based on sentencing information.
While one response favoured this potential development as a way of providing information for targeting the allocation of resources to areas of greater harm, there was general disagreement with the development of a Crime Severity Score. Specifically, some users were unsure about how a crime severity score could be assessed objectively and had concerns that the score could be interpreted and used incorrectly.
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