11. Operational context and administrative data collection
This section focusses on the environment and processes of Police Scotland as the collector of the data used to produce recorded crime statistics. We consider the operational context for the administrative data - why and how the data are collected and recorded, whether there are differences across areas in collection and recording of the data, and issues with data items - whether objective or based on subjective recording.
The Scottish Government is responsible for the validation of police recorded crime data and the production and publication of police recorded crime statistics. The Recorded Crime in Scotland bulletin presents statistics on crimes and offences recorded and cleared up by the police in Scotland, disaggregated by crime/offence group and by local authority.
Police Scotland is responsible for operational policing in Scotland and is held to account by the Scottish Police Authority.
Police Scotland collect management information for operational policing purposes. This administrative data source is also used to provide the data return on the number of crimes and offences recorded by the police, as well as the number cleared up, in a given financial year to the Scottish Government.
11.2 QA Stage One - Dynamic capture of incident and crime data at source
This section focuses on the capture of data in real time (as it happens), how the data are used for operational purposes (i.e. not for statistical purposes at this preliminary stage), and the immediate checking procedures that are in place.
11.2.1 Incident reporting
When a member of the public contacts the police to report a crime, the information provided is logged on an incident recording system. The police assess the circumstances of the incident and respond accordingly. Depending on the information supplied and the outcome of additional enquiries, the incident may result in the creation of one or more recorded crimes.
There are three call centres throughout Scotland (Govan, Motherwell and Bilston Glen) employing around 588 staff, operating 24 hours a day.
Incidents are recorded using a command and control incident recording system, STORM Unity, which provides a consistency in reporting.
Whilst there are presently various crime recording systems in place across Scotland, during 2021/22 the UNIFI crime recording system will be rolled out across Divisions.
The incident recording system is largely used for resource allocation purposes to deal with reported incidents. It captures the necessary information required to determine (in the first instance) whether it is likely that a crime has been committed. If that is the case, a crime report is raised on the crime recording system. The two systems operate independently. The incident recording system is not used extensively for statistical purposes, although Police Scotland does provide a breakdown of incident types in their Quarterly Management Information publication.
Over the financial year 2020-21, there were over 1.5 million incidents recorded on the systems (over 4,100 per day).
Once an incident is raised, an initial assessment is made and given an initial classification – the final classification may differ from the initial classification. Indicators are added such as whether there is a hate element (racism, sexual orientation, etc.).
Following the initial assessment, there are four outcomes:
1. No crime committed (no crime report raised);
2. Associated with another incident (where more than one person reports the same incident);
3. Transferred to another Force (where the case requires to be dealt with outside the Scottish Police Force); or
4. Crime committed (crime report raised).
11.2.2 Recorded Crime
Once a police officer has decided that a crime has occurred in relation to an incident (note that an incident may have a number of different crimes associated with it) then a crime report is created on the crime recording system. The crime is recorded with an appropriate crime type and assigned a Crime Reference number.
A detailed list of Charge Codes, as approved by the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), are used by the police to record the relevant crime types. This maintained on a monthly basis by the Scottish Government and circulated to crime registrars, to individuals within Police Scotland and to those within partner justice organisations.
11.3 QA Stage Two - Classifications of Crime and Incidents
This stage covers how a crime is defined. There are two crucially important elements to recording crime data for statistical and counting purposes. One is determining whether an incident involves a crime (or more than one crime), thus affecting the number of crimes counted. The other is determining the nature of crime and classifying it under the strict definitions in operation.
Two important aspects are ensuring consistency of recording across Scotland and consistency of recording over time (reflecting the changing nature of crime and how it's recorded).
11.3.1 Setting standards
Crime recording practice is governed by the Scottish Crime Recording Standard (SCRS). The SCRS provides a framework for deciding when an incident should be recorded as a crime, what type of crime should be recorded and how many crimes should be counted.
Further details are available in the Scottish Crime Recording Standard and Counting Rules chapter.
Details of the checks carried out are available in the QA principles, standards and quality checks by suppliers chapter.
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