Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2014/15: Main Findings

Main findings from the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey 2014/15.

1. Introduction

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) is a large-scale social survey which asks people about their experiences and perceptions of crime. The 2014/15 survey is based on around 11,500 face-to-face interviews with adults (aged 16 or over) living in private households in Scotland. Crime and victimisation surveys have been carried out in Scotland since the early 1980s; however, this report presents the results for the fifth SCJS, with interviews conducted between April 2014 and May 2015.

The main aims of the SCJS are to:

  • Enable the Scottish population to tell us about their experiences of, and attitudes to, a range of issues related to crime, policing and the justice system; including crime not reported to the police;
  • Provide a valid and reliable measure of adults' experience of crime, including services provided to victims of crime;
  • Examine trends, over time, in the number and nature of crimes in Scotland, providing a complementary measure of crime compared with police recorded crime statistics;
  • Examine the varying risk and characteristics of crime for different groups of adults in the population.

The findings from the SCJS are used by policy makers across the public sector in Scotland to help understand the nature of crime in Scotland, target resources and monitor the impact of initiatives to target crime. The results of this survey provide evidence to inform national outcomes and justice outcomes.

1.1. Survey Coverage

The SCJS does not aim to provide an absolute estimate for all crime and has some notable exclusions.

Survey Coverage

The SCJS is a survey of adults living in private residential households and, therefore, does not provide information on crimes against adults living in other circumstances (for example those living in institutions or communal residences, such as prisons or hospitals, military bases and student accommodation). The survey also excludes persons under the age of 16 and crimes against businesses. Those living in some of the smallest inhabited islands in Scotland are excluded for practical reasons (see Annex 1 of the accompanying Technical Report for details).

The SCJS is primarily a victimisation survey and, as such, captures information on adults' experiences of violent crime and property crime, but it does not capture data on all crimes. Therefore, crimes without a direct victim (e.g. speeding), or crimes where a victim cannot be interviewed (e.g. homicide) are out-with the scope of the survey. Whilst details of threats are collected in the survey, they are not currently included in the crime statistics as it is difficult to establish whether or not an offence has been committed. Sexual offences are collected in the self-completion section and reported separately.

Throughout the report, the term 'crime' is used to refer to any in-scope incident recorded by the survey, occurring during the interview reference period and in Scotland, in which the respondent or their household as a whole was the victim.

What is covered by the survey?

1.2. Survey Background

While crime and victimisation surveys have been carried out in Scotland since the early 1980s, the geographical coverage, sample size, method and fieldwork and reference periods have varied.

Box 1.1: A history of crime and victimisation surveys in Scotland

1982, 1988: British Crime Survey (BCS) included coverage of central and southern Scotland only (c. 5,000 interviews).

1993: First independent Scottish Crime Survey (SCS) launched, based on BCS and covering the whole of Scotland (c. 5,000 interviews).

1996, 2000, 2003: Further sweeps of the SCS (c. 5,000 interviews).

2004, 2006: Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey (SCVS) (c. 27,000 interviews in 2004, c. 5,000 interviews in 2006).

2008/09, 2009/10, 2010/11, 2012/13, 2014/15: Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) (c. 16,000 interviews 2008/09 and 2009/10, c. 13,000 interviews in 2010/11, c. 12,000 interviews in 2012/13, 11,500 interviews in 2014/15).

Prior to 2008, victimisation surveys were intermittent and had smaller sample sizes (around 5,000 interviews). Surveys were administered using paper questionnaires by interviewers and early surveys did not cover the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In 2003, the McCaig review (2003)[1] of the design, content and management of the survey found the survey was unable to produce trends, had high margins of error around results (especially around less common crimes) and was unable to report findings below the national level. In 2008, the sample size increased, and surveying moved to fieldwork throughout the financial year and used a rolling reference period for the victimisation module.

1.3. Survey Methodology

Survey Methodology

The design of the 2014/15 SCJS remains broadly similar to the design of the SCJS from 2008/09 to 2012/13:

  • Survey frequency: Following the completion of the SCJS 2010/11, the SCJS moved to a biennial design. Therefore, no survey ran in 2011/12 or 2013/14[2].
  • Sample: the sample is designed to be representative of all private residential households across Scotland (with the exception of some of the smaller islands). A systematic random selection of private residential addresses across Scotland was produced from the Royal Mail Postcode Address File (PAF) and allocated in batches to interviewers. Interviewers called at each address and then selected one adult (aged 16 or over) at random from the household members for interview.
  • Questionnaire: the questionnaire consists of a modular design completed by the interviewer using Computer-Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) and a self-completion section covering sensitive crimes using Computer-Assisted Self Interviewing (CASI). Annex 2 gives an overview of the questionnaire content, and the most recent questionnaire is available on the SCJS webpage.
  • Fieldwork: interviews were conducted on a rolling basis between 1st April 2014 and 31st May 2015, with roughly an equal number of interviews conducted in each month between April 2014 and March 2015. Challenges in fieldwork delivery were experienced in 2014/15 and as a result, the fieldwork period was extended by two months to increase the achieved sample size.
  • Interviews: 11,472 face-to-face interviews were conducted in respondents' homes by professional interviewers. Interviews lasted an average of 40 minutes, though there was variation in interview length, depending on the respondent's reported experience.
  • Time period covered: respondents were asked about incidents experienced in the 12 months prior to the month of interview (the reference period). The time period covered by the data included in this report extends over 25 months (April 2013 to April 2015) so is not directly comparable with any calendar year.
  • Weighting: the results obtained were weighted to correct for the unequal probability of selection for interview caused by the sample design and for differences in the level of response among groups of individuals.

The survey response rate was 63.8%, 3.9 percentage points lower than the 2012/13 survey response rate of 67.7%. However, analysis found that the impact of this change in response rate is likely to be low across a range of SCJS estimates (further details are presented in Chapter 3 of the accompanying Technical Report).

Further information about the design and methodology is contained in the accompanying Technical Report, available on the SCJS publications page.

1.4. The Structure of the Report

The report is split into nine chapters, presenting data for the majority of questions contained in the survey questionnaire and is supported by summary Annex Data Tables. The report does not include in-depth, multivariate statistical analysis that would explore the more complex underlying relationships within the data.

Chapter 2 examines the extent and distribution of crime, estimating how many crimes were committed and the proportions of different types of crime within the overall group. This chapter also presents time-series 'trend' data from previous surveys and makes comparisons with the latest results from the CSEW.

Chapter 3 brings together Scotland's crime statistics, making comparisons with police recorded crime figures and assessing the relationship between the two sources.

Chapter 4 explores the risk and characteristics of crime. This chapter identifies the unequal risk of being a victim of crime among different demographic groups, and the risk of being a repeat victim. This chapter also provides detail on the characteristics of crimes and offenders, including the use of weapons in crime and the extent of alcohol and drug use in violent crime.

Chapter 5 explores the impact and perceptions of crime. This chapter identifies the impact of crime on victims, as well as the victims' perspective of the crime itself and their opinion of potential outcomes for the offender.

Chapter 6 focuses on reporting crime and support for victims, providing more detail about the rate and process of reporting crime to the police, as well as the information and assistance provided to victims.

Chapter 7 provides information on adults' perceptions of crime, investigating the extent to which they perceive crime as a problem and are anxious about becoming a victim of crime. The chapter examines whether perceptions have changed over time and the extent of the gap between perceived likelihood of being a victim and actual risk of victimisation.

Chapter 8 explores the public's confidence in the police in relation to specific aspects of policing and attitudes to aspects of the service provided by police in the local area.

Chapter 9 presents information about aspects of the justice system. The chapter focuses on awareness and perceptions of the criminal justice system and component organisations, knowledge and perceptions of sentencing and experiences of a range of civil law problems.

Annex A provides detailed data tables of the key crime data discussed in the report, including incidence and prevalence statistics.

1.5. Conventions used in figures and tables

Each Figure or Table has a title, the data source (survey year etc.), a base definition and the unweighted number of respondents and, if relevant, a variable name. For example:

Example Chart conventions

1.5.1. Unweighted Base

All SCJS percentages and rates presented in the figures and tables are based on weighted data (see Chapter 4 of the accompanying Technical Report for details on survey weighting). However, figures and tables show the unweighted base which represents the number of respondents / households in the specified group or the numbers of crimes that the analysis is based on. In tables and figures these are rounded to the nearest multiple of 10 (unrounded numbers are provided in data tables released alongside this report[3]).

1.5.2. Percentages

Table row or column percentages may not sum to 100 due to rounding.

Percentages presented in tables and figures where they refer to the percentage of respondents, households or crimes that have the attribute being discussed may not sum to 100 per cent. Respondents have the option to refuse answering any question they did not wish to answer and the majority of questions have a 'don't know' option. Percentages for these response categories are generally not shown in tables and figures.

A percentage may be quoted in the report text for a single category that is identifiable in the figures / tables only by summing two or more component percentages. In order to avoid rounding errors, the percentage has been recalculated for the single combined category and therefore may differ by one or two percentage points from the sum of the percentages derived from the figures/tables.

Also, percentages quoted in the report may represent variables that allow respondents to choose multiple responses. These percentages will not sum to 100 per cent with the other percentages presented. They represent the percentage of the variable population that select a certain response category.

1.5.3. Table abbreviations

' - ' indicates that no respondents gave an answer in the category.

'0' indicates less than 0.5% (this does not apply when percentages are presented to one decimal point).

'n/a' indicates that the SCJS question was not applicable or not asked in that particular year.

' * ' indicates that changes are statistically significant at the 95% level.

1.5.4. Survey error

There may be errors in the recall of participants as to when certain incidents took place, resulting in some crimes being wrongly included in, or excluded from, the reference period. A number of steps in the design of the questionnaire are taken to ensure, as far as possible, that this does not happen, for example repeating key date questions in more detail.

The SCJS gathers information from a sample rather than from the whole population and, although the sample is designed carefully, survey results are always estimates, not precise figures. If the experiences of those who cannot be contacted, or who refuse to take part, are different from those who are interviewed, and this cannot be corrected by weighting, then the survey will not reflect the experiences of the adults of Scotland as a whole. This means that the results are subject to a margin of error which can have an impact on how changes in the numbers should be interpreted, especially in the short-term.

To indicate the extent of this uncertainty, confidence intervals for the key statistics presented in this report are provided in Annex Data Tables and in Chapter 11 of the SCJS Technical Report. These confidence intervals are bands within which the 'true' value lies (i.e. that value which would be obtained if a census of the entire population was undertaken). These confidence intervals are calculated to the 95% level, meaning that we would expect the survey data to lie within this range 95 times if the survey were to be repeated 100 times, each with a different randomly selected sample of adults.

Because of sampling variation, changes in reported estimates between survey years or between population subgroups may occur by chance. In other words, the change may simply be due to which respondents were randomly selected for interview. Whether this is likely to be the case has been assessed using standard statistical tests to examine whether differences are likely to be due to chance or represent a real difference. Only differences that are statistically significant at the 95% significance level are described as differences within this report.

Where no statistically significant change has been found between two estimates, this has been described as showing 'no change'. The presentation of uncertainty and change in this report reflect best practice guidance produced by the Government Statistical Service (GSS)[4].

1.6. Accessing Survey Data

SCJS Additional Datasets released alongside this report, present more detailed results from the survey questionnaire, showing how answers to questions vary when respondents are grouped by certain geographic, demographic, attitudinal or experiential characteristics.

The raw survey data files and survey documentation will be available soon after publication of this report in SPSS, Stata or tab-delimited file formats from the UK Data Service.


Email: Trish Brady-Campbell

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