Guide to Crime Statistics
The ONS produce crime statistics covering the full spectrum of offences from fairly minor offences of vandalism, right through to more serious crimes such as murder, rape and sexual assault and every quarter we collate these figures from two principal sources: crimes recorded by the police, and a separate survey of the general public called the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
The two series have different strengths and limitations, but together they provide a fuller picture of crime than either series could on its own. The police recorded crime figures cover a wider set of victims and a wider set of offences than the crime survey can, and for well reported crimes we think it’s a good measure of trends. On the other hand there are some problems with long term trends because there have been fundamental changes to police recording practices which make it difficult to compare the figures over time.
We also know that the figures can be subject to police activity and to levels of public reporting. However, unlike the Crime Survey, the police recorded crime figures can be broken down to a small geographical level including at local authority and police force area level.
The Crime Survey has been running now for over 30 years. Every year we interview over 35,000 people in their own homes, and the survey is designed to be representative of the population at large, and we believe it is the best guide to long term trends. Until fairly recently the survey didn't interview children, but since 2009 we have been interviewing children aged 10 to 15 in their own homes.
In 2012 a new survey of victims in commercial premises was undertaken, and in our regular quarterly bulletin we are now drawing upon on a wider set of figures to give a fuller picture of crime and antisocial behaviour.
Our statistics provide a window on the work of government, helping parliament and the general public to hold the government and the police to account for their policies. The survey data also provides a very rich source for academic research allowing researchers to look at different criminological theories and to test that out with the data that we collect.