5. Putting recorded crime in context – A comparison with the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS)
Chart 19: Overall number of crimes in Scotland - Police Recorded Crime and the SCJS, 2008-09 to 2017-18
1. The shift to the current survey design in 2008-09 has led to greater certainty around estimates.
The preceding sections of this bulletin contain information on the volume and types of crime recorded by the police in Scotland in 2017-18. As highlighted earlier in this report, crime in Scotland is also measured by the SCJS, a national survey with adults (aged 16 and over) living in private households, which asks respondents about their experiences of crime.
This chapter brings together these two complementary sources, police recorded crime and the SCJS, to present a fuller, more comprehensive picture of crime in Scotland. However bringing the two sources together in this way highlights that the SCJS and police recorded crime cover different populations and different timescales, and the SCJS does not cover the entire range of crimes and offences that the police are faced with. These and other differences mean that making direct comparisons between the two sources is not straightforward. Nevertheless, the SCJS and police recorded crime statistics do present complementary information on crime occurring in Scotland, so it is therefore helpful and informative to look at these sources together. This chapter will look at police recorded crime and SCJS findings in three ways:
- Firstly, it will look at national trends of overall crime captured by police recorded crime and by the SCJS.
- Secondly, it will look at crime in the two broad categories of crime captured by the SCJS (i.e. property crime and violent crime). This section will also highlight how the SCJS captures more contextual information on the risk and characteristics of crime.
- Lastly, it will look at the comparable crime groups, a grouping of crimes specifically constructed to allow comparison between the SCJS and police recorded crime statistics for a set of crimes that are covered by both sources.
5.1. Overall number of crimes - Police Recorded Crime and the SCJS, 2008-09 to 2016-17
The SCJS estimates that there were 712,000 incidents of crime against adults in Scotland in 2016-17. This is 32% lower than in the 2008-09 survey when there were an estimated 1,045,000 crimes. In 2016-17 around one in seven adults (13.4%) were the victim of at least one crime.
The analysis that follows in this chapter focuses on the period from 2008-09 onwards, for which there is more consistent SCJS data.
In comparison to the SCJS, as noted previously in this report, in 2017-18, the police recorded 244,504 crimes; this represents an increase of 1% since 2016-17 (when the additional crimes of handling an offensive weapon are excluded), and a decrease of 35% since 2008-09. Chart 19 shows that the survey estimates of the overall level of crime have fallen in line with similar reductions in overall recorded crime.
Chart 19 effectively highlights the scale of the difference between the number of crimes estimated by the SCJS and the level recorded by the police. There are a range of reasons for this difference, however the main factor is that the SCJS captures crimes that do not come to the attention of the police, and therefore are not included in recorded crime figures. The 2016-17 SCJS estimated that of the 712,000 incidents of crime, 37% came to the attention of the police. Therefore while the SCJS is good for estimating the likely range of crime in the underlying population (and the level of uncertainty around such estimates), the police recorded crime data effectively highlights the level of crime with which the police are faced.
In summary, the SCJS can help to identify the relative magnitude of crime not reported to the police and why crimes are not reported. In 2016-17, where crime was not reported to the police, the most common reasons SCJS respondents gave for not reporting crime were that the victim perceived the incident to be too trivial to involve the police (39%), or that the victim felt that the police could have done nothing (23%). Where crime was reported to the police it was mostly because the victim felt that it was the right thing to do (42%) or in the hope that offenders would be caught and punished (24%).
5.2. Police Recorded Crime and the SCJS Crime Groups
As noted elsewhere in this report, recorded crime figures are grouped into five crime groups (Non-sexual crimes of violence, Sexual crimes, Crimes of dishonesty, Fire‑raising, vandalism etc. and Other crimes) and two offence groups (Miscellaneous offences and Motor vehicle offences). However the SCJS presents information in two broad crime categories: Property Crime and Violent Crime (outlined in Box 1 below).
There are a number of reasons that the SCJS crime categories do not match the recorded crime groups; principally this is because the SCJS is a victimisation survey and does not collect data on all of the crimes and offences that the police are faced with (e.g. homicide, crimes against business i.e. shoplifting, and motor vehicle offences).
Box 1: SCJS Crime Types
|Property crime||Violent crime|
However the SCJS is able to collect more detailed information on crimes that are not reported to the police, as well as information on the characteristics of crime and the attitudes and perceptions of victims. Such information is vital in presenting a fuller picture of the nature of crime in Scotland, than can be gained from recorded crime figures alone.
This section provides an overview of the main findings from SCJS 2016-17 in the property crime and violent crime categories, however direct comparisons to police recorded crime data are limited, due to the differences in crime groups within the two sources as outlined above. Comparisons with recorded crime results are made in Section 5.3.
Property crime as measured by the SCJS involves theft or damage to personal or household property (including vehicles). In 2016-17, approximately 418,000 crimes (68% of all SCJS crime) were in this category, which means that it is estimated that around 11.5% of adults in Scotland were a victim of property crime. Between 2008-09 and 2016-17, there was a statistically significant decrease of 34% in the estimated number of incidents of property crime captured by the SCJS.
Of the 481,000 property crimes estimated by the SCJS in 2014-15, vandalism accounted for 34%, followed by other household theft (including bicycle theft) (27%), personal theft (excluding robbery) (26%), all motor vehicle theft related incidents (8%) and housebreaking (5%).
The types of property crime captured in the SCJS are mostly covered in two of the police recorded crime groups, Crimes of dishonesty and Fire-raising, vandalism etc. However, while the police recorded 113,205 crimes in the Crimes of dishonesty group in 2016-17 (down 2% since 2015-16) and 52,514 crimes in the fire-raising, vandalism etc. group (down 3% since 2015-16), it should be noted that these groupings are not directly comparable with the SCJS 'property' crime group as they cover some crimes such as shoplifting (28,650 recorded crimes in 2016-17) and fraud (7,811 recorded crimes in 2016-17)) which are not captured in the SCJS.
In terms of crimes reported to the police, the 2016-17 SCJS estimates that over a third (34%) of property crimes were reported to the police, with reporting rates highest among victims of property vandalism (41%). The most common reasons given for not reporting property crime was that the victim felt the incident was considered to be too trivial (46%), or that the police could not have done anything about it (28%). When property crime was reported, the most common reasons given were that reporting was considered to be the right thing to do/automatic (40%) or in the hope that offenders would be caught and punished (28%). Victims of property crime also experienced emotional responses, with anger (41%), annoyance (39%) and shock (7%) being the most commonly experienced.
Table 2 shows that property crime was experienced by near equal proportions of men (13%) and women (13%), however risk declined with age.
Table 2: The varying risk of property crime (SCJS 2016-17)
|Property Crime (risk as a percentage)||11.5||13.4||12.6||16.8||14.3||10.9||6.8|
The SCJS violent crime category includes attempted assault, serious assault, minor assault and robbery. Of the 712,000 crimes measured by the SCJS in 2016-17, 231,000 (32%) were violent crimes, which means that it is estimated that 2.9% of adults in Scotland were a victim of violent crime in 2016-17. Between 2008-09 and 2016-17 there was a statistically significant decrease of 27% in the estimated number of incidents of violent crime captured by the SCJS.
The 231,000 violent crimes estimated by the SCJS in 2016-17 comprise 72% minor assaults (no/negligible injury), 13% minor assaults (injury), 7% serious assaults, 4% attempted assaults, and 3% robbery.
The latest data presented elsewhere in this report shows that in 2016-17 the police recorded 7,164 non-sexual crimes of violence. However, as noted already, this grouping is not directly comparable with the SCJS 'violent' crime group. Non-sexual crimes of violence (as used in police recorded crime) includes homicide, whilst common assaults (which make up the majority of SCJS violent crime) are included in the Miscellaneous offences police recorded crime group. The police recorded 57,861 common assaults in 2016-17.
We know from the SCJS that not all crime is reported to the police. The 2016-17 SCJS estimates that 43% of violent crimes were reported to the police. The most common reasons victims provided for why violent crime was not reported was because the victim dealt with the matter (47%), it was considered a personal family matter (24%) or that they considered the incident to be too trivial to involve the police (21%). Where violent crime was reported, the most common reasons given for reporting were that it was considered to be the right thing to do/automatic (33%), that the crime was serious or upsetting (19%), or other reasons (17%).
Table 3 shows that that risk of violent crime decreases with age from 5% for those aged 16-24, to less than 1% for those aged 60 or over, and that males (over 3%) are at a higher risk of violent crime than females (2%).
Table 3: The varying risk of violent crime (SCJS 2016-17)
|Violent Crime (risk as a percentage)||2.9||3.4||2.3||5.3||4.4||2.5||0.4|
The 2016-17 SCJS estimates that just over one in three violent crimes (34%) happened between midnight and 6 am on the weekend and that victims thought that the offender was under the influence of alcohol in 42% of violent crime, and drugs in 22% of violent crime. Injuries were sustained by victims in almost half (48%) of violent crime. Where injuries were sustained, 57% received minor bruising or a black eye and 31% received scratches. Victims also experienced emotional responses to violent crime with anger (52%), annoyance (51%) and shock (51%) being the most commonly experienced.
5.3. Comparing SCJS estimates and Recorded Crime
5.3.1. Comparable Crime - Overall Comparison
As highlighted above, the two data sources cover different populations, time periods and crimes, which means that making direct comparisons is not straightforward. Comparisons can be made by examining a broadly comparable subset of crimes which are covered by each source and can be consistently coded in the SCJS in the same way as the police would do. Comparisons are made in the following three broad crime groups:
- Vandalism (other household crime including motor vehicle vandalism and property vandalism).
- Acquisitive crime (including bicycle theft, housebreaking and theft of motor vehicles).
- Violent crime (including serious assault, common assault and robbery).
On this basis, of the 712,000 crimes estimated by the 2016-17 SCJS, around 63% (448,000) can be compared with police recorded crimes in 2016-17. The remainder of this section provides an overview of the level of crime and trends in the comparable subset from 2008-09 to 2016-17.
This analysis has been extended further in the 2016-17 SCJS report, ‘Bringing Together Scotland's Crime Statistics, available from: http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/03/9068/8.
As presented in Table 4, in 2016-17 the SCJS estimated that there were 448,000 crimes in the overall comparable crime category, while the police recorded around 131,566 crimes in this category. The extent of overall comparable crime in both the recorded crime figures and SCJS estimates decreased between 2008-09 and 2016-17 (-39% in both cases). The reduction in estimated SCJS comparable crime from 731,000 in 2008-09 to 448,000 in 2016-17 is a statistically significant change.
SCJS respondents are asked whether the police 'came to know about' the crime, either by them or somebody else. This allows comparisons to be made between crime estimated to have been reported to the police in the SCJS, and police recorded crime data. Figures from the 2016-17 SCJS indicate that of the 448,000 crimes in the overall comparable subset, around 189,000 incidents (42%) were estimated to have been reported to police. In 2016-17 the police recorded 131,566 crimes in the comparable category. From this it can also be estimated that around 29% of the total comparable crimes estimated by the SCJS (that is reported and non-reported crime) were recorded by the police in 2016-17.
However it should be noted that this 'comparable' series is broadly, rather than directly, comparable. As a survey the SCJS can only provide estimates of crimes reported to the police, not precise figures. It is not possible for example to match SCJS microdata (i.e. the individual records of survey respondents) to police recorded crime records. Therefore it is not possible to determine whether a crime that a respondent said they reported to the police actually appeared on a police incident log in the relevant time period (at all, or before/after the time period) and, if so, to identify how it was recorded.
Consequently we would not expect estimates of the crime reported to the police and the level recorded by the police to be equal. In light of this the methods of analysis presented in this section are more suitable for assessing this relationship and variation of each series over time, rather than, for example, assessing with confidence the absolute level of crime estimated to have been reported but not recorded within each survey.
Table 4: Comparable crime group estimates (2008-09 to 2016-17)
|2008-09||2009-10||2010-11||2012-13||2014-15||2016-17||% change 2008-09 to 2016-179||% change 2014-15 to 2016-179|
|Comparable Recorded Crime||215,901||195,728||183,117||144,662||133,170||131,566||-39%||-1%|
|Comparable SCJS Crime||731,000||630,000||556,000||527,000||414,000||448,000||-39%||8%|
|Recorded Acquisitive Crime||27,527||26,146||26,478||21,834||21,000||18,295||-34%||-13%|
|SCJS Acquisitive Crime||64,000||61,000||61,000||73,000||49,000||51,000||-20%||4%|
|Recorded Violent Crime||82,855||79,769||78,263||66,076||59,719||63,248||-24%||6%|
|SCJS Violent Crime||317,000||266,000||220,000||236,000||186,000||231,000||-27%||24%|
9. SCJS statistically significant changes (at 95% confidence interval) shown in bold.
Finally, it should also be noted that there are a range of other factors which may affect the comparability of these series, for example it is possible that a number of crimes reported to the police are not captured and recorded by the police. However auditing of incidents and crimes recorded by Police Scotland by HMICS (http://www.hmics.org/publications/hmics-crime-audit-2016) indicates that police compliance in recording is generally good overall and does not indicate that this accounted for the difference in our two series of crime data or changes over time. In addition, the SCJS also contains factors which are likely to affect the degree of comparability to recorded crime; for example non-quantifiable error around survey estimates (for example, error in the recall of respondents about the date of the incident which may have been outside the survey reference period); or a change in underlying survey sample design (from clustered to unclustered in 2012-13); or the switch to SCJS biennial design in 2012-13, although these factors are not thought to have introduced any bias to the SCJS results.
5.3.2. Comparable Crime - by Comparable Crime Sub-groups
This section summarises findings for the comparable crime sub-groups: acquisitive crime, violent crime and vandalism. When considering these comparable crime sub-groups over time (as shown in Table 4), police recorded crime data should be used to assess the level of crime with which the police are faced and SCJS results used as a barometer to estimate the underlying level of crime.
The acquisitive comparable crime group includes bicycle theft, housebreaking and theft of a motor vehicle. In 2016-17, the SCJS estimated that there were 51,000 acquisitive crimes (+/- 16,000, meaning that the true number of aquisitive crimes in the underying population is estimated to be between 36,000 and 67,000).
Recorded acquisitive crime fell by 34% between 2008-09 and 2016-17 and by 13% between 2014-15 and 2016-17. No statistically significant changes were identified in SCJS acquisitive crime across either of these time periods, however this is likely in part due to the smaller sample sizes involved.
Violent comparable crime includes serious assault, common assault and robbery. In 2016-17 the SCJS estimated that there were 231,000 violent crimes (+/- 59,000, meaning that the true number of violent crimes in the underlying population is estimated to be between 172,000 and 290,000, while the police recorded 63,246 violent crimes.
Table 4 shows that there is greater consistency between trend in the two sources of comparable violent crime data over the longer term. Between 2008-09 and 2016-17, both SCJS estimates and recorded crime violent crimes figures have shown a decrease (by 27% and 24% respectively). Since 2014-15, recorded violent crime has increased by 1%, while the SCJS has shown no change in violent crime.
The vandalism comparable group incldes motor vehicle vandalism and property vandalism. In 2016-17, the SCJS estimated that there were 166,000 instances of vandlism (+/- 27,000, meaning that the true number of vandalism crimes in the underlying population is estimated to be between 139,000 and 192,000). The police recorded 50,025 vandalism incidents in 2016-17.
There has been relative consistency in the trends in comparable vandalism crime across both SCJS and police recorded crime between 2008-09 and 2016-17. Since 2014-15, there has been no statistically significant change in the SCJS estimate of vandalism, while crimes on vandalism recorded by the police have increased by 1%. Over the longer term, both SCJS estimates and recorded crime figures have been on a downward trend (each decreasing by 53% since 2008-09).
This chapter has brought together the two main sources of crime statistics in Scotland: the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey and Police Recorded Crime statistics. Although each source covers different populations, crimes and offences and time periods, considering them together presents a more comprehensive picture of crime in Scotland. For example the latest figures from the SCJS show that there were an estimated 712,000 incidents of crime against adults living in households in Scotland in 2016-17, while at the same time the police in Scotland recorded 238,921 crimes (and 150,523 Miscellaneous offences, including 57,861 common assaults). This difference between survey estimates and recorded crime figures shows that, for many reasons, not all crime comes to the attention of the police. However the SCJS helps to assess this and in addition is able to capture more information on the characteristics of crime and victims of crime, helping to provide a fuller picture of the nature of crime in Scotland.
Due to the differences between them, making direct comparisons between the two sources is not straightforward. However a comparable subset of crime can be used to make some broad comparisons to assess the relationship between recorded crime figures and SCJS estimates. The latest results from both sources point towards a downward trend in overall comparable crime and two of the groups highlighted (violent crime and vandalism); the changes overall and for both of these groups (between 2008-09 and 2016-17) are statistically significant.
Table 5: Strengths and limitations of Police Recorded Crime and the SCJS
|Recorded Crime||Scottish Crime and Justice Survey|
|Where do the data come from?||Administrative police records||Face to face interviews with residents from a nationally representative sample of the household population|
|Basis for inclusion||Crimes recorded by the police in Scotland, governed by the Scottish Crime Recording Standard and Counting Rules.||Trained coders determine whether experiences of victimisation in the last 12 months constitute a crime and assign an offence code.|
|Frequency||Collected by financial year. Statistics released in an annual publication.||Continuous survey with results currently published biennially.|
|What other data are collected?||