Crime in England and Wales, year ending March 2013
We have a lot to cover in our briefing today. As well as presenting the latest figures we’ll also be taking you through changes to categories used to present police recorded crime and changes to the recording of fraud.
The Home Office are also publishing separate statistical releases at 9.30am today on crimes detected by the police and on the police workforce numbers. Given the simultaneous release of these publications, we have arranged for Damon Wingfield, a statistician from the Home Office, to be here to give a brief summary of these figures and to answer questions.
First, we will briefly cover some changes to the presentation of the police recorded crime series which are being introduced today. These changes flow from the National Statistician’s review of crime statistics in 2011 and follow discussion, and formal consultation, with users over the last year.
The changes have been made in response to user demand, to improve public understanding of the figures, and to present recorded crime data using a more coherent set of categories.
I should emphasise that all of these changes are presentational only and do not affect the total number of crimes. We have produced a time series back to 2002/03 on the new basis so that comparisons over time can be made and we’ve produced a methodological note explaining the changes. A copy of this note, as well as a copy of my speaking notes, will be available at end of the briefing.
CHANGES TO THE PRESENTATION OF POLICE RECORDED CRIME
As part of the changes, we are now presenting police recorded crime under 3 main groupings:
‘Victim-based crime’, which relates offences with a specific identifiable victim. This category more closely aligns with the Crime Survey;
‘Other crimes against society’ - covering those offences where there is no specific identifiable victim (for example possession of drugs or weapons); and,
Fraud offences which are subject to ongoing operational changes in police recording, which mean it is more sensible to present these separately.
We will touch on this as we present the latest figures.
We would prefer to take questions at the end and will conclude our presentation to allow sufficient time for these.
The latest quarterly statistics released today are based on interviews conducted as part of the Crime Survey for England and Wales between April 2012 and March 2013, and the number of crimes recorded by the police over the same period.
The level of crime measured by the Crime Survey fell by 9% compared with the previous year’s survey while the number of offences recorded by the police fell by 7%. Within this, the number of victim-based crimes recorded by the police fell by 9%.
The survey estimated there were 8.6 million crimes committed against households and resident adults, and a further 0.8 million against children aged 10 to 15 living in such households. The headline figures presented in this bulletin remain focused on adults since this allows analysis of trends on a consistent basis.
Looking at the long-term picture from the survey, levels of crime peaked in the mid 90s. There were then substantial falls through to the 2004/05 survey. Since then, the overall reduction has continued but at a slower rate with some fluctuations year-on-year. The latest estimate is the lowest since the survey began in 1981 and now less than half its peak level in 1995.
Turning to police recorded crime, which is represented by the bars on this chart. Since comparable records in 2002/03, there has been a downward trend in recorded crime and the latest figures show a total of 3.7 million offences. This is the lowest annual total since the last major change in recording practice ten years ago. While figures before this date are not directly comparable, the last time the police recorded a lower figure was around 25 years ago in 1988.
The police recorded around 229,000 fraud offences - an increase of 27% compared with the previous year. However, as we will explain later, this needs to be seen in the context of a move to centralised recording of fraud which makes comparisons over time problematic.
There were falls seen across most types of victim-based recorded crime except for theft from the person (up 9%) and sexual offences (which rose by 1%).
VIOLENT CRIME – CSEW
Turning to specific crime types, looking first at violent crime measured by the survey, the latest figures show there were 1.9 million offences against adults. While this estimate was 6% lower than the previous year this fall was not large enough to be statistically significant. However, over much of the last decade we have seen a general downward trend and the latest estimate is 13% lower that that from the 2007/08 survey.
VIOLENCE AGAINST THE PERSON
Turning to Violence against the person recorded by the police, as part of the presentational changes to recorded crime, the coverage of this crime category has changed. With the move towards separately grouping Victim-based crime from ‘other crimes against society’, a number of offences with no specific identifiable victim have been moved out of Violence against the person to more appropriate categories.
Most of these (around 100,000) relate to offences of causing public fear, alarm or distress. While some of these offences may have a violent element, they do not have a specific identifiable victim and sit more logically with other public order offences, such as Violent Disorder.
A smaller number (around 17,000) related to possession of weapon offences have also been moved into a newly formed category within ‘Other crimes against society’. Both sets of offences moved out of violence against the person have shown falls in the most recent data, with ‘Public fear, alarm or distress’ down by 13% and ‘Possession of weapons’ down by 17%, consistent with declining trends in these offences over the last 5 years.
While the effect of changes to the ‘Violence against the person’ category is a decrease in the volume of offences, the long-term trend remains very similar to the old one.
As a further change, we are now presenting violence against the person offences split into 3 main sub-categories, thus allowing homicides to be separately identified in the main summary tables in each quarterly release.
Overall police recorded violence against the person fell by 4% (or on the old basis, a 6% fall). The overall reduction was driven by an 8% fall in violence with injury while offences of violence without injury showed little change. The number of offences of homicide recorded by the police remained at a similar level to last year with 552 offences recorded compared with 553 in 2011/12).
There have also been reductions in the number of firearm offences and offences involving knives or other sharp instruments recorded by the police, which are both down by 15%.
Moving on to sexual offences, the police recorded a 1% rise compared with the previous year (amounting to an additional 780 offences). Within this, rape offences increased by 2% (from 16,038 to 16,327or by 289 offences).
The rise in sexual offences comes in the wake of Operation Yewtree and there is evidence to suggest that this operation, alongside a wider ‘Yewtree effect’ whereby greater numbers of victims have come forward to report historical offences, lies behind this rise.
The police record crimes in the year that the victim reports to the police. Thus counts for a single year can include offences that relate to a previous year. The data held centrally does not allow us to separately identify offences which occurred in an earlier year. However, additional information supplied by around half of the forces showed an increase in the number of historic sexual offences, with this increase being particularly pronounced for offences which occurred 20 years ago or more. Based on this snapshot these latest figures include an increase of around 950 such offences compared with the previous year, though this is only a partial picture from a subset of forces which may not be typical of England and Wales as a whole.
However, it is clear that without these additional historic offences, we would be seeing a year on year fall in the number of sexual offences recorded by the police.
OTHER VICTIM-BASED CRIME
Looking now at other types of Victim-based crime, and a summary of key figures from the latest year on year changes.
As you will be aware, we have seen notable long term falls in many of the high volume crimes, in particular, Vehicle offences, Burglary and Vandalism. As shown in the figures on this slide these trends continue.
One notable exception was Theft from the person recorded by the police, which rose by 9% - the second consecutive annual increase, following an 8% rise in the previous year.
THEFT FROM THE PERSON
This offence involves theft of property from the victim while the property is being carried on the person. This generally covers incidents of pick pocketing but also includes snatch thefts where no force or violence, or threat of such force/violence, is used against the victim. The increase in volume occurred principally in London, though other forces, including the British Transport Police also saw increases.
As the chart shows, this short term trend follows reductions between 2002/03 and 2008/09, and the number of such offences remains 26% lower than in 2002/03.
Turning to fraud, a Government commissioned review in 2006 recognised that attempts to tackle fraud were being undermined by the lack of a joined-up approach to reporting and recording.
It therefore recommended the formation of a National Fraud Authority (NFA), to act as an umbrella governmental organisation to co-ordinate and oversee the fight against fraud. It also led to the creation of the National Fraud Reporting Centre (since re-branded as Action Fraud). Action Fraud provides a central point of contact for victims to report crimes either online or via a call-centre.
From April 2013 most fraud offences previously recorded by police forces will be recorded centrally by Action Fraud. However, given the scale of the work involved, this transfer of responsibility has been rolled out over the last 2 years. While this makes sense from an operational perspective, it is not ideal from a statistical one and it makes comparisons problematic over this transitional period. For example, in these latest figures some forces were responsible for recording fraud for some of the year and others for the whole year. Further, as it has not been possible to disaggregate Action Fraud data to police force areas and these are not included in sub-national tables.
In the year ending March 2013, including crimes recorded via Action Fraud the police recorded a 27% increase in Fraud (around 229,000 – up from 181,000). In volume terms this category is dominated by purchase fraud, which most commonly involves victims being conned out of money via online shopping and auction sites.
It is important to bear in mind that in the context of the move to centralised recording there are a number of factors that may have contributed to this increase in fraud including:
possible improvements in recording practices resulting from having a specialist centralised team;
an increased proportion of victims reporting these crimes following publicity around the launch of Action Fraud; and,
a possible increase in the volume of such offences.
It is not possible to separate out or quantify the scale of each possible effect. A clearer picture will emerge over the next 1 to 2 years once the new recording arrangements have matured.
OTHER CRIMES AGAINST SOCIETY
Turning to ‘Other crimes against society’, this newly formed group of offences has been created as part changes made to the presentation of recorded crime. It covers crimes which do not generally have a specific identifiable victim (for example, drug offences and possession of weapons). Trends in such offences tend to reflect changes in police workload and activity rather than in levels of criminality.
The latest figures for this grouping show a 10% reduction in the number of these crimes recorded by the police.
The percentage decreases for each of the component categories are shown on this slide.
That concludes the briefing on the ONS crime statistics.
Deputy Head of Crime Statistics