How is crime in England and Wales analysed?
Crime in England and Wales is measured in two main ways, there’s police recorded crime (PRC) and there’s the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). PRC is based on crimes that have been reported to the police. The CSEW surveys a large nationally representative sample of the population and collects data on their experience of crime to find out what proportion is reported to the police. The two series have different coverage but can be compared using a basket of crimes that appear in both series and by focusing on those comparable crimes that the survey respondents say they have reported to the police.
Why was the National Crime Recording Standard introduced?
The National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) was introduced in April 2002 in order to bring greater consistency across police forces. It also introduced a victim-focused approach requiring the police record all crimes reported to them by victims unless there’s credible evidence that no crime has been committed. Prior to this, there was much more discretion and variability between forces in their crime recording practices.
Prior to the introduction of NCRS, the volume of police recorded crime was between 50% and 62% of the total estimated to be reported to the police from the comparable categories on the survey. Following the introduction of the NRCS, this rose to and remained close to 90% for a number of years. However, since 2006/07 there has been a growing gap between the level of crime recorded by the police and that found by survey of the general public.
Why is there a gap between comparable crime?
ONS has recently examined why this growing gap is occurring in order to find an explanation. The data can’t tell us why the police appear to be recording a lower proportion of crime reported to them than in previous years. Although, one suggestion is that there has been gradual erosion of compliance by the police with the NCRS and ONS outlines some possible drivers, including possible perverse incentives associated with performance targets.