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Scottish Victimisation Telephone Survey 2020: main findings

Main findings from the Scottish Victimisation Telephone Survey 2020.

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4. Perceptions of crime, safety, and policing during the pandemic

This chapter includes:

  • Public perceptions on the level of crime since the virus outbreak, both locally and across Scotland
  • Perceptions of personal safety when at home, and when walking alone in the local area after dark
  • The extent to which adults in Scotland are worried that they will be a victim of crime
  • The degree of safety consciousness shown when at home and when out and about
  • Satisfaction with the police, both in general and specifically regarding their response to the virus outbreak
  • Some comparisons of perceptions of crime and safety during the pandemic between Scotland and England and Wales

Comparing findings from Scotland with England and Wales

Some general comparisons can be made between attitudinal data collected by the SVTS for Scotland and the Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW). Comparisons are not possible in relation to the crime statistics included in Chapter 2 of this report, due to the difference in the data collection periods of the two surveys. Given the seasonality effect on the propensity of crime, and the fluctuating nature of crime throughout 2020, these two data sources cannot be compared as like-for-like[22].

The comparable TCSEW findings are presented alongside SVTS findings in this chapter. However, even when looking at comparable TCSEW variables, there are some important limitations to caveat:

  • Firstly, TCSEW analysis excludes "don't know" or "refused" responses[23], whereas these responses were included in the SVTS analysis[24]. As such, comparisons are only made where there are very low levels of "don't know" and "refused" responses, accounting for less than 3.5% of responses[25].
  • Secondly, some of the TCSEW findings are based on data collected in an earlier fieldwork period compared to the SVTS. Where this is the case, this is footnoted in the comparisons in this chapter.

Given the above limitations, where a general comparison has been made between Scotland and England and Wales, no discernible difference is apparent in people's responses to the attitudinal questions asked across both surveys.

4.1 How did the public think the level of crime in their local area had changed since the virus outbreak?

More than half of people (54%) felt that crime in their local area had stayed about the same since the virus outbreak.

Over half of adults (54%) believed that crime in their local area had stayed about the same since the virus outbreak, with a further 23% thinking that crime in their area had gone down. This is a greater proportion than believed it had gone up (15%).

There were variations by demographic and area characteristics in the perceptions of local crime. Those living in rural areas were more likely than those living in urban areas to believe crime in their local area had stayed about the same since the start of the virus outbreak.

Women, those aged 60 and over, those living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland, and those who had been a victim of a crime were all more likely than comparator groups to believe that crime had gone up in their local area since the start of the virus outbreak.

Conversely, women and those aged 60 and over were less likely to believe that crime had decreased in their local area since the start of the virus outbreak. Table 4.1 shows these significant results.

Table 4.1: Proportion of adults believing that crime had increased, decreased, or stayed about the same in their local area since the start of the virus outbreak
Characteristics % of adults who believe that crime had increased % of adults who believe that crime had stayed about the same % of adults who believe that crime had decreased Base
Gender Male 13% - 26% 1,262
Female 18% - 21% 1,392
Age 16-24 18% 49% 27% 90
25-44 17% 51% 25% 558
45-59 17% 49% 28% 743
60 and over 11% 62% 16% 1,263
Victim status Victim 35% 37% - 192
Non-victim 13% 55% - 2,462
Area deprivation 15% most deprived 21% - - 279
Rest of Scotland 14% - - 2,375
Rurality Urban 16% 51% 25% 2,107
Rural 10% 67% 17% 547
All adults   15% 54% 23% 2,654

Base: All respondents. Variable: CVCRIMELOC.

Note: only significant differences are shown in the table above. The differences between the youngest three age groups are not significantly different to each other but are different to those aged 60 and over.

4.2 How did the public think the level of crime in Scotland had changed since the virus outbreak?

Around one-in-three (34%) people believed that crime had gone down in Scotland since the virus outbreak.

More people believed that crime had gone down in Scotland since the virus outbreak than believed it had gone up (34%, compared to 21%), whilst a little less than one-in-three (32%) perceived the level of crime across Scotland to have stayed about the same.

Women and victims of crime were more likely than men and non-victims to have perceived an increase in crime in Scotland (25% of women compared to 17% of men, and 38% of victims compared with 19% of non-victims). Those living in the 15% most deprived areas were also more likely than those in the rest of Scotland to believe that crime had gone up in Scotland since the virus outbreak (29% compared with 20%), and were less likely to think that crime had gone down (29% compared with 36%).

Adults were more likely to think there had been a change in the level of crime nationally than in their local area.

Adults were more likely to think the crime rate had increased nationally than locally (21% compared to 15%), however they were also more likely to think the crime rate had gone down nationally than locally (34% compared to 23%). Adults were more likely to think there had been no change to the level of crime in their local area compared to the national level (54% compared to 32%).

4.3 How safe did the public feel?

The vast majority of adults (97%) felt safe in their home.

The SVTS found that the vast majority of adults (97%) felt safe in their home[26]. However, despite this overwhelming feeling of safety at home across the population, there were some small differences amongst population sub-groups worth noting.

Those living in the 15% most deprived areas of Scotland were less likely to feel safe in their home than those living in less deprived areas (93% compared with 98%). Victims of crime were also less likely to feel safe (93% compared with 97% of non-victims) and key workers were more likely to feel safe in their home than non-key workers (99% compared with 96% of non-key workers, including those of working age and all ages).

The vast majority of people in England and Wales (96%)[27] also felt safe in their home since the virus outbreak.

More than nine-in-ten (92%) felt that there had been no real change to their feelings of safety when at home since the virus outbreak.

The majority of adults (75%) felt safe walking alone in their local area after dark.

Around three-in-four (75%) adults felt safe when walking alone in their local area after dark.

In England and Wales around four-in-five people (80% based on data collected in September and 82% when collected in October) felt safe when walking alone in their local area after dark, whilst around one-in-five (20% based on data collected in September and 18% when collected in October) felt unsafe.

Despite the majority of adults feeling safe, some differences amongst population sub-groups were apparent. For example, women were less likely than men to feel safe walking alone in their local area after dark (62% and 89%, respectively).

There were also differences in the likelihood of feeling safe when walking alone in their local area after dark when looking at area deprivation, rurality, and victim status. The significant differences are shown in Figure 4.1.

Figure 4.1: Proportion of adults feeling safe walking alone in their local area after dark, by demographic and area characteristics
Chart showing the proportion of adults feeling safe walking alone in their local area after dark, by demographic and area characteristics

Base: SVTS 2020 (2,654). Variables: CVWALKDARK, TABQDGEN, SIMD_TOP, TABURBRUR, VICFLAG3.

Most people (87%) reported no change in how safe they felt walking alone in their local area after dark since the virus outbreak, however there were some differences with comparator groups.

Men were more likely than women to report no real change (91% compared to 84%), whilst women were less likely to feel safe (9% compared with 4% of men). Those living in urban areas were less likely to feel safe (7% compared with 4% of those living in rural areas), as were victims of crime (12% compared with 6% of non-victims).

There was no difference found between age groups, area deprivation, or key worker status in the proportion of adults feeling more or less safe when walking alone in the local area after dark since the virus outbreak.

4.4 How concerned were the public about crime?

Around one-in-seven (15%) adults were worried that they might be a victim of crime.

The SVTS found that 15% of adults were worried that they might be a victim of crime.

Women, those living in the 15% most deprived areas, adults living in urban areas, and people who had experienced crime in the 12 months prior to interview were all more likely than their comparator groups to be worried that they would be a victim of crime in future. Figure 4.2 shows these results.

Figure 4.2: Proportion of adults worried that they might be a victim of crime
Chart showing the proportion of adults worried that they might be a victim of crime, by demographic and area characteristics

Base: SVTS 2020 (2,654). Variables: CVWORR, TABQDGEN, SIMD_TOP, TABURBRUR, VICFLAG3.

More than nine-in-ten (91%) adults stated that the COVID-19 pandemic had not changed how worried they felt about being a victim of crime. The only characteristic to show a difference in the change of worry felt since the start of the virus outbreak was victim status. Just under one-in-five (19%) of those who had experienced crime in the 12 months prior to interview said that they felt more worried about being a victim of crime since the virus outbreak, compared with just 5% of non-victims.

A little over eight-in-ten (82% based on data collected in September and 84% when collected in October) people in England and Wales did not feel any more or less worried about crime since the virus outbreak. Around one-in-ten (12% based on data collected in September and 10% when collected in October) people said that they felt more worried about crime, and a small number (7% based on data collected in September and 6% when collected in October) said that they felt less worried.

4.5 How security conscious did people feel?

The majority of adults reported that since the virus outbreak they have been no more or less security conscious in their day-to-day behaviour both around their home and when out and about.

Most adults (85%) reported no change in how security conscious they were in their day-to-day behaviour around their home since the virus outbreak, whilst 14% have become more security conscious and only 1% have become less so.

Women and victims were more likely to have become more security conscious in their day-to-day behaviour around their home since the virus outbreak (16% of women compared to 12% of men, and 23% of victims compared to 13% of non-victims). Those in the middle age groups (25 to 44 and 45 to 59) were also more likely than those aged 60 and over to have become more security conscious in their day-to-day behaviour around their home since the virus outbreak.

Again, since the virus outbreak, four-in-five (80%)[28] people in England and Wales reported they had not become any more or less security conscious when at home, and nearly one-in-five (18%) have become more security conscious.

When considering security consciousness in their day-to-day behaviour whilst out and about, again most people (87%) reported that there had been no real change since the virus outbreak. Around one-in-eight (13%) became more security conscious, and fewer than 1% reported becoming less security conscious when out and about. Women (16% compared with 9% of men), victims of crime (27% compared with 11% of non-victims), and working age non-key workers (14%, compared with 10% of key workers) were more likely to have become more security conscious when out and about since the virus outbreak.

When out and about, more than four-in-five (83%)[29] people in England and Wales reported they had not changed how security conscious they are, and nearly one-in-five (17%) had become more security conscious.

4.6 Perceptions of the police

Most adults (60%) believed the police in their local area were doing an 'excellent' or 'good' job.

Three-in-five (60%) adults believed the police in their local area were doing an 'excellent' or 'good' job at the time of interview. Marginally more than one-in-five (22%) thought the police were doing a 'fair' job and a small minority (6%) said the police were doing a 'poor' or 'very poor' job.

There were no differences in the likelihood of believing that the police in the local area were doing an 'excellent' or 'good' job found within population sub-groups.

Most people (74%) were satisfied with the way the police in their local area were responding to the virus outbreak.

Just under three-quarters (74%) of adults were satisfied with the way the police in their local area were responding to the virus outbreak. A small minority (8%) were dissatisfied, and 18% said that they did not know how satisfied or dissatisfied they felt.

No differences by demographic or area characteristics were found in the likelihood of being satisfied with the way the police in the local area were responding to the virus outbreak. However, people living in the 15% most deprived areas (13% compared with 8% of those living in less deprived areas), people living in urban areas (9% compared with 4% of those living in rural areas), and people who had been a victim of a crime (19% compared with 7% of non-victims) were more likely to be dissatisfied with the way the police in their local area are responding to the virus outbreak.

Contact

Email: scjs@gov.scot

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