2. Overview of crime in Scotland
In this report, overall crime measured by the SCJS is a product of two distinct groups being combined, violent and property crime.
SCJS Crime Groups
Violent crime includes the following distinct groups:
- Assault (includes serious assault, minor assault with injury, minor assault with no or negligible injury, and attempted assault)
Property crime includes the following distinct groups:
- Vandalism (including motor vehicle and property vandalism)
- All motor vehicle related theft (including theft and attempted theft of and from a vehicle)
- Other household theft (including bicycle theft)
- Personal theft (excluding robbery)
Further details on each of these groups is provided in the Technical Report.
What was the extent and prevalence of crime in Scotland in 2017/18?
There were an estimated 602,000 crimes experienced by adults in Scotland in 2017/18.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) provides an estimate of the number of crimes (or incidence) occurring within Scotland, rounded to the nearest 1,000 crimes. Taking property and violent crime together, the SCJS estimates that overall there were 602,000 crimes experienced by adults in Scotland in 2017/18.
As a sample survey of the general public, SCJS results are estimated values with margins of error, rather than exact counts. Further information on the process used to calculate estimates is contained within the Technical Report. Taking into account confidence intervals, the SCJS estimates that there were between 535,000 and 668,000 incidents of crime in Scotland in 2017/18. The following analysis is focused on the best estimates derived for results across each sweep of the survey.
The overall level of crime experienced in Scotland has fallen by 42% since 2008/09 to the lowest level ever estimated by the SCJS.
Figure 2.1 displays the trend in the estimated number of SCJS crimes since 2008/09, highlighting a marked decline in crime over the last decade which has continued over the last year. It also shows the best estimates for violent crime and property crime, which are discussed in more detail in later chapters, and the relevant upper and lower estimates around each category over time.
Figure 2.1: Estimated number of incidents of SCJS crime, 2008/09 - 2017/18
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2009/10 (16,040); 2010/11 (13,010); 2012/13 (12,050); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570); 2017/18 (5,480). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME
Table 2.1 looks at results from key comparator years more closely and shows that the estimated number of incidents of overall crime experienced by adults:
- decreased by more than two-fifths (42%) between 2008/09 and 2017/18, from 1,045,000 to 602,000 – an estimated decrease of around 443,000 incidents;
- has fallen by 16% since the last SCJS in 2016/17, from 712,000 to 602,000 incidents.
Table 2.1: Estimated number of all SCJS crimes (2008/09, 2016/17, 2017/18)
|Number of SCJS crimes||2008/09||2016/17||2017/18||Change since 2008/09||Change since 2016/17|
|Best estimate||1,045,000||712,000||602,000||↓ by 42%||↓ by 16%|
|Number of respondents||16,000||5,570||5,480|
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2016/17 (5,570); 2017/18 (5,480). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME
While the SCJS found a fall in overall crime since 2016/17, it did not detect a change in the extent of property or violent crime individually over the last year.
The fall in the estimated level of overall crime since 2016/17 is a result of the combined set of non-significant apparent decreases across various sub-categories of SCJS crime, with the ‘all motor vehicle related theft’ group (down by 36%) the only sub-category to show any significant change over this period.
Therefore, whilst the SCJS has detected a fall in the level of overall crime (i.e. property and violent crime combined), no statistically significant change was identified over the last year in the extent of property crime or violent crime as individual categories, where apparent decreases of 11% and 26% respectively were not statistically signifcant.
This is not an unusual finding from an annual survey like the SCJS. Where crime estimates are based on the experiences of a relatively small number of people (which is increasingly the case as more granular crime categories are examined), it can often be challenging to detect significant changes between adjacent sweeps. That said, where they exist, the SCJS can often identify significant changes and trends over the medium and longer-term. For example, this is demonstrated by looking at property crime which fell (significantly) by 14% between 2014/15 and 2017/18, despite no significant changes being detected between adjacent sweeps during this period. This finding is discussed in more detail and wider context in the ‘Focus on Property Crime’ chapter.
The proportion of adults in Scotland experiencing crime has also fallen since 2008/09 – from one-in-five to one-in-eight.
Consistent with previous years, the SCJS results show that most adults were not victims of any crime in 2017/18, with 12.5% estimated to have experienced at least one SCJS (property or violent) crime.
As with incident numbers, crime prevalence rates are also estimates derived from a sample survey of the population with associated margins of error around them. Taking into account these confidence intervals, between 11.4% and 13.5% of the adult population were estimated to have experienced at least one SCJS crime in 2017/18, with 12.5% representing the best estimate. Again, as with incident counts, analysis from this point onwards will focus on the best estimates for results across the survey for each sweep.
The proportion of adults experiencing crime has fallen from 20.4% in 2008/09 to 12.5% in 2017/18. In other words, one-in-eight adults were victims of crime in 2017/18 compared to one-in-five in 2008/09.
Since the last SCJS, the proportion of adults experiencing crime has shown no change – the apparent fall from 13.4% in 2016/17 shown in Figure 2.2 is not statistically significant.
Figure 2.2: Proportion of adults experiencing any SCJS crime by year
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2016/17 (5,570); 2017/18 (5,480) Variable: PREVSURVEYCRIME
What type of crime was experienced in Scotland in 2017/18?
As in previous years, most crime in 2017/18 was property-related.
The SCJS collects data on the adult population’s experiences of two main types of crime – property and violent crime. It is estimated that 71% of all crime measured by the survey in 2017/18 was property-related, with the remaining 29% being violent incidents.
Figure 2.3 below shows a breakdown of the proportion of all crime accounted for by key sub-categories of property and violent crime. It shows that vandalism accounted for just over one-quarter (27%) of all crimes measured by the 2017/18 SCJS, with minor assault with no or negligible injury representing around a fifth of all incidents (18%). Other forms of violence in particular represented small proportions of all crime in Scotland.
Figure 2.3: Categories of crime as proportions of all SCJS crime in 2017/18
Base: 2017/18 (5,480). Variable: Prevalence (PREV) variables
The SCJS has also consistenly shown that adults in Scotland are much more likely to have experienced property crime than violent crime in any given year. The SCJS estimates that 10.8% of adults were victims of property crime in 2017/18, whilst 2.3% experienced violent crime. The prevalence of both property crime and violent crime have fallen since 2008/09.
More detailed results about the extent, prevalence and nature of property and violent crime experienced in Scotland in 2017/18, including how experiences varied across the population and trends over time are provided in the respective ‘Focus on violent crime’ and ‘Focus on property crime’ chapters of this report.
How did the likelihood of experiencing crime in 2017/18 vary across the population?
The likelihood of experiencing crime in 2017/18 was higher for those living in deprived areas and people in urban locations, with those aged 60 and over least likely to be victims.
The proportion of adults who were victims of any SCJS crime in 2017/18 varied according to demographic and geographic characteristics. For instance, as shown in Figure 2.4, the likelihood of experiencing crime in 2017/18:
- Was lowest for those aged 60 and over.
- Was greater for adults in the 15% most deprived areas compared to those living in the rest of Scotland.
- Was higher in urban areas compared to rural locations.
There was no significant difference in the proportion of men and women who were victims of SCJS crime in 2017/18, at 12.8% and 12.1% respectively.
Figure 2.4: Proportion of adults experiencing any crime measured by SCJS in 2017/18
Base: 2017/18 (5,480). Variable: PREVSURVEYCRIME, QDAGE, SIMD_TOP, URBRUR.
The proportion of adults experiencing crime has fallen since 2008/09 across many population groups.
The crime victimisation rate has decreased since 2008/09 across many key groups in the population - including both males and females; all age groups shown above; those living in the most deprived areas as well as those living elsewhere in Scotland; and adults in both urban and rural locations.
For example, the proportion of those in the 15% most deprived areas experiencing crime has fallen from just over one-in-four (26.0%) to fewer than one-in-five (18.0%) since 2008/09. Over the same period, the prevalence rate for those living elsewhere in Scotland dropped from 19.4% to 11.5%.
In line with the national average, the SCJS detected no change compared to 2016/17 in the overall likelihood of being a victim of crime amongst demographic sub-groups.
What can the SCJS tell us about multiple victimisation?
The SCJS also enables us to further explore how experiences varied amongst victims and examine the concentration of crime, including what proportion of victims experienced more than one crime (of any type) during the year. This is known as ‘multiple victimisation’. Further information about the approach taken to process and derive SCJS results, including on multiple victimisation, is provided in the Technical Report.
What is multiple and repeat victimisation?
Multiple victimisation examines the proportion of the population which experienced two or more property crimes or two or more violent crimes (known as repeat victimisation), or have been victims of both crime types (i.e. two or more incidents of any crime).
Repeat victimisation is a subset of multiple victimisation, the proportion of adults who have been the victim of the same type of crime more than once (e.g. repeat property crimes). Findings on the extent of repeat victimisation for property and violent crime are presented separately in the relevant ‘Focus on property crime’ and ‘Focus on violent crime’ sections of this report.
3.4% of adults experienced two or more crimes in 2017/18, accounting for just under three-fifths of all SCJS crime.
As discussed above, the majority of adults (87.5%) did not experience any crime measured by the SCJS in 2017/18, and conversely 12.5% were victims of at least one property or violent crime.
Examining the volume of crime experienced by individual victims more closely reveals that just under one-in-ten adults (9.0%) were victims of a single incident of SCJS crime in 2017/18, accounting for 43% of all crime.
It is therefore estimated that multiple victimisation affected 3.4% of the adult population in 2017/18, and that this group experienced just under three-fifths of all SCJS crime (57%) during the year. These victims are estimated to have experienced 2.2 crimes each on average.
Table 2.2 highlights these results in more detail. It shows the proportion of adults who experienced single incidents of crime and different levels of multiple victimisation over the year, and the proportion of SCJS crime overall experienced by each group.
Table 2.2: Proportion of all SCJS crime experienced by multiple victims, by number of crimes experienced (2017/18)
Base: SCJS 2017/18 (5,480). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME, PREVSURVEYCRIME.
The likelihood of experiencing multiple victimisation has fallen since 2008/09.
Figure 2.5 explores trends in single and multiple victimisation over time. It highlights that between 2008/09 and 2017/18 there were decreases in the proportion of adults experiencing:
- single incidents of SCJS crime – from 12.2% to 9.0%;
- multiple victimisation (two or more incidents of SCJS crime) – from 8.2% to 3.4%; and
- high frequency multiple victimisation (five or more incidents of SCJS crime) – from 1.5% to 0.5 %.
The fall in the various levels of victimisation since 2008/09 has occurred alongside a fall in the overall SCJS crime victimisation rate over this period, as discussed previously.
Since the last SCJS in 2016/17, there has been no change in the proportion of adults experiencing single or multiple victimisation – the apparent differences shown in Figure 2.5 are not statistically significant.
Figure 2.5: Proportion of adults experiencing number of SCJS crimes
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2009/10 (16,040); 2010/11 (13,010); 2012/13 (12,050); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570); 2017/18 (5,480). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME, PREVSURVEYCRIME.
- at least one crime SCJS crime,
- one SCJS crime specifically, and
- more than one SCJS crime.
What proportion of crime was reported to the police in 2017/18?
It is estimated that the police became aware of 35% of crime in 2017/18, a similar proportion to previous years.
One of the key strengths of the SCJS is that it provides evidence on the extent of crime experienced by the population, including incidents which are not reported to the police. For this reason, the SCJS and Police Recorded Crime statistics are complementary sources that, together, present a fuller picture of crime in Scotland. The ‘Bringing Together Crime Statistics’ chapter of this report explores the differences and similarities between the SCJS and recorded crime (including trends over time) in more detail.
The SCJS estimates that 35% of all SCJS (property and violent) crime in 2017/18 came to the attention of the police. This proportion has shown no change since 2008/09. It is estimated that 34% of property crimes were reported to the police in 2017/18, compared to 39% of violent incidents – although this apparent difference in reporting rates is not statistically significant. Further information on the reporting rates and the reasons behind non-reporting are presented in the respective ‘Focus on violent crime’ and ‘Focus on property crime’ chapters.
How did the likelihood of experiencing crime in Scotland compare to England and Wales?
Victimisation surveys take place in many jurisdictions across the world to obtain information on the relevant population’s experience of crime, however comparisons between surveys are often challenging due to methodological differences.
That said, the SCJS is similar to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), with both surveys following on from the British Crime Survey (BCS). Although there are some differences between the surveys, for example the coding of crimes varies between the SCJS and the CSEW to reflect the different criminal justice systems in which they operate, the overall results on the proportion of adults experiencing crime have offered a broad comparison point over the years.
Following recent updates to the methodology used in the CSEW to produce estimates for the volume of crime experienced by the adult population, we assess that the results on the overall victimisation rate remain broadly comparable between the two surveys. A short methodological paper has been published alongside this report which confirms the approach currently taken to produce crime estimates in the SCJS and its relative strengths and limitations.
Further information on the similarities and differences between the SCJS and CSEW are provided in the SCJS 2017/18 Technical Report.
In 2017/18, adults in Scotland were less likely to have experienced crime than those in England and Wales.
Looking at the overall crime victimisation rates, the proportion of adults estimated to have experienced crime in 2017/18 was lower in Scotland (12.5%) than in England and Wales (14.4%).
This is a change compared to the position in 2016/17 where there was no significant difference detected between the victimisation rates in Scotland and England and Wales, although the prevalence rate has been lower in Scotland in the past as Figure 2.6 shows. Between 2016/17 and 2017/18, there was a non-significant decrease in the victimisation rate in Scotland and a non-significant increase in the rate in England and Wales, which cumulatively lead to a difference being detected when comparing the two 2017/18 figures. It will be important to monitor these figures going forward to examine if trends between the two jurisdictions are diverging.
Figure 2.6: Proportion of adults experiencing crime measured by SCJS and CSEW
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2009/10 (16,040); 2010/11 (13,010); 2012/13 (12,050); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570); 2017/18 (5,480). SCJS prevalence - Variable: PREVSURVEYCRIME.CSEW prevalence - https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/crimeinenglandandwalesappendixtables