4. Putting recorded crime in context – A comparison with the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS)
The preceding sections of this bulletin contain information on the volume and types of crime recorded by the police in Scotland in 2019-20. 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.
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. However, the two sources 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 two ways:
- National trends of overall crime captured by Police Recorded Crime and by the SCJS.
- 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.
Due to the COVID-19 global pandemic, all Scottish Government face-to-face interviewing, including the SCJS, was suspended on 17th March 2020. Whilst the suspension came before the end of the 2019-20 fieldwork year, it is likely SCJS results of comparable quality to earlier years can still be produced (due in March 2021). Due the ongoing length of the suspension, we will be unable to produce results for the subsequent 2020-21 fieldwork year. A telephone-based survey was launched on the 11th September 2020 to fill some of this evidence gap, with further information available at: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scjs-COVID-19-suspension-and-alternative-data-collection/
Overall trends - Police Recorded Crime and the SCJS, 2008-09 to 2018-19
Chart 19 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. Therefore while the SCJS is useful for estimating the likely range of crime in the underlying population (and the level of uncertainty around such estimates), the police recorded crime data highlights the level of crime with which the police are faced.
* The red bars show the confidence intervals.
The 2018-19 SCJS estimated that of the 573,000 incidents of crime, 36% came to the attention of the police. In 2018-19, 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 (34%), or that the victim felt that the police could have done nothing (29%). Where crime was reported to the police it was mostly because the victim felt that it was the right thing to do (52%) or in the hope that offenders would be caught and punished (31%).
Figures from both sources (Chart 19) show a decreasing trend in the overall level of crime over the past decade. The survey finds the volume of crime in Scotland, including incidents not reported to the police, has fallen by 45% over the last decade or so – from an estimated 1,045,000 incidents in 2008-09 to 573,000 in 2018-19. The amount of overall crime has decreased by 20% since 2016-17, though has remained stable compared to the last survey in 2017-18.
In comparison, crimes recorded by the police in 2018-19 decreased by 35% compared to 2008-09 and increased by 1% compared to 2017-18.
4.1. Comparing SCJS estimates and Recorded Crime
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 Figure 2 below).
Figure 2: SCJS Crime Types
- 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 & Wales)
- Other household thefts (including bicycle theft)
- Personal theft (excluding robbery)
- Assault (includes serious assault, attempted assault, minor assault with no-negligible and minor injury)
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). This 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).
The following section provides an overview of the level of crime and trends in the comparable subset from 2008-09 to 2018-19. Note that this data does not use the most recent year’s recorded crime data in order to allow ‘like-for-like’ comparison with the SCJS.
This analysis has been extended further in the 2018-19 SCJS report, ‘Bringing Together Scotland's Crime Statistics’, available from: https://www.gov.scot/publications/scottish-crime-justice-survey-2018-19-main-findings/pages/9/
4.1.1. Comparable Crime - Overall Comparison
Of the 573,000 crimes estimated by the 2018-19 SCJS, almost two-thirds (366,000) can be compared with police recorded crimes (Figure 4). The police recorded 125,953 crimes and offences in the comparable sub-set, representing approximately 34% of the number of crimes in the SCJS comparable sub-set. The extent of overall comparable crime in both the SCJS estimates and the recorded crime figures decreased between 2008-09 and 2018-19 (by 50% and 42% respectively). The reduction in estimated SCJS comparable crime from 731,000 in 2008-09 to 366,000 in 2018-19 is a statistically significant change.
|2008-09||2017-18||2018-19||% change 2008-09 to
|% change 2017-18 to
|Crime||Comparable Recorded Crime||215,901||130,418||125,953||-42%||-3%|
|Comparable SCJS Crime||731,000||386,000||366,000||-50%||No change|
|Acquisitive crime||Recorded Acquisitive Crime||27,527||17,867||16,644||-40%||-7%|
|SCJS Acquisitive Crime||64,000||51,000||46,000||-28%||No change|
|Violent crime||Recorded Violent Crime||82,855||63,835||63,771||-23%||-0%|
|SCJS Violent Crime||317,000||172,000||165,000||-48%||No change|
|SCJS Vandalism||350,000||163,000||155,000||-56%||No change|
9 SCJS changes are specified when statistically significant.
4.1.2. Comparable Crime - by Comparable Crime Sub-groups
This section summarises findings for the comparable crime sub-groups: Acquisitive crime, Violent crime and Vandalism.
The acquisitive comparable crime group includes bicycle theft, housebreaking and theft of a motor vehicle. In 2018-19, the SCJS estimated that there were 46,000 acquisitive crimes (+/- 11,000, meaning that the true number of acquisitive crimes experienced by the population is estimated to be between 35,000 and 57,000). The police recorded 16,644 acquisitive crimes in 2018-19.
Both SCJS estimates and recorded acquisitive crime figures decreased between 2008-09 and 2018-19 (by 28% and 40% respectively). Since 2017-18 police recorded acquisitive crime has decreased by 7%, while the SCJS found no change in acquisitive crime. This is likely to be due in part to the smaller sample sizes involved, which means it can be more challenging to identify significant changes between adjacent survey years.
Violent comparable crime includes serious assault, minor assault and robbery. In 2018-19 the SCJS estimated that there were 165,000 violent crimes (+/- 44,000, meaning that the true number of violent crimes experienced by the population is estimated to be between 121,000 and 209,000), while the police recorded 63,771 violent crimes.
Figure 3 shows that the two sources of comparable violent crime data both show large decreases over the longer term, but broadly stable figures since 2017-18. Between 2008-09 and 2018-19, both SCJS estimates and police recorded violent crime figures have shown a decrease (by 48% and 23% respectively). Since 2017-18, comparable police recorded violent crime has shown a small decrease of 64 incidents, while the SCJS has found no change in violent crime.
The vandalism comparable crime group includes motor vehicle vandalism and property vandalism. In 2018-19, the SCJS estimated that there were 155,000 instances of vandalism (+/- 24,000, meaning that the true number of vandalism crimes experienced by the population is estimated to be between 130,000 and 179,000). The police recorded 45,538 vandalism crimes in 2018-19.
The trends in comparable crimes of vandalism across both the SCJS and police recorded crime between 2008-09 and 2018-19 are very similar – with the SCJS showing a decrease of 56% and police recorded crime showing a decrease of 57%. Since 2017-18, there has been no change in the SCJS estimate of vandalism, while crimes of vandalism recorded by the police have fallen by 7%.
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 has a different purpose, by comparing them where possible we can provide a more accurate picture of current crime levels in Scotland.
The latest results from both sources point towards a downward trend over the long term in overall comparable crime, with a more stable pattern over the shorter term.
|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.||Survey conducted annually for each financial year with reference period extending over 25 months. Results previously published biennially, now annually.|
|What other data are collected?||