Crime is something that most people will come across at some point in their lives – a news headline about a murder, or a friend who has been mugged – or some may have first-hand experience of being victim or witness to a crime. But although we encounter crime in one way or another, whether through headlines, conversations, or experience, it’s easy for our perception of crime to be distorted.

It is quite common for people to believe that crime is more prevalent than it is, or occurs in different circumstances than it actually does. For instance, lots of people think their risk of being a victim of crime is higher than it really is.

Keep on reading to get a better understanding of what the latest1 data show is happening with crime in England and Wales.

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How have crime levels changed over the last 10 years?

In the year ending March 2018, 72% of people surveyed said they believed that crime in England and Wales has risen. But how true is this perception of crime?

Can you accurately guess how many incidents of crime there were in the year ending December 2018 given that there were 10.0 million in the year ending March 2008?

Crime incidents, England and Wales

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Source: Office for National Statistics – Crime Survey for England and Wales, Home Office – Police recorded crime

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The latest CSEW estimated no statistically significant change in levels of crime (compared with the previous year) when fraud and computer misuse are excluded from the figures. We need to exclude these offences when looking at long-term change to make the figures comparable, as we have only included them in the CSEW since 2015.

Our headline measure of crime, which includes fraud and computer misuse, also shows no significant change over the last year. However, this hides variation both within and across crime types. Read more about the latest trends for different crime types in Crime in England and Wales: year ending December 2018.

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Are murder and homicide the same thing?

Murder is a subset of homicide, and the terms cannot be used interchangeably. Homicide includes murder, infanticide, manslaughter, and corporate manslaughter. In the year ending December 2018, there were 732 homicides, of which 83%, or 607, were murder.

Overall, the rate of homicide in England and Wales remains low, at 12 homicides per one million people.

Homicides by offence type, year ending December 2018, England and Wales

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Source: Home Office – Police recorded crime

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Deaths from unlawful driving are not part of homicide but are defined by law under a separate category. More information on how homicide is defined and measured can be found in Homicide in England and Wales: year ending March 2018.

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Who are the perpetrators of homicide?

Men aged 16 years and over were most likely to be killed by a stranger in the year ending March 2018 (35% or 166 victims). This is different to the year ending March 2017 when they were more likely to be killed by a friend or acquaintance (24% or 114 victims). Women aged 16 years and over were most likely to be killed by their partner or ex-partner in the year ending March 2018 (33% or 63 homicides). For all adult victims, no suspect was identified in 27% (175) of homicides. In these cases, it is not possible to determine if the victim knew the perpetrator.

A statistic often cited is that two women a week are killed by their current or former partner. This number fluctuates. The average number of women killed per week using the latest data for the year ending March 2018 is 1.2. Rounding this number causes inaccuracies in the statistics. For example, rounding this number down to one would equate to 52 women over a year, 11 less than the actual total2 of 63.

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Source: Home Office – Homicide Index

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Using the same method, the average number of men killed each week by their current or former partner is 0.13.

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Is knife crime only a problem in London?

The police recorded 44,443 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument in England and Wales in the year ending December 2018.

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Source: Home Office – Police recorded crime

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Does a violent crime always result in a physical injury?

Most people know that violent crime includes things like wounding, physical assault and murder, but it also covers a wide range of other offences, many of which do not result in a physical injury to the victim. For example, minor assaults (like pushing and shoving), harassment, and psychological abuse.

Just under half (48%) of all violent incidents recorded in the Crime Survey for England and Wales in the year ending December 2018 did not result in a physical injury to the victim. More information on the nature of violent crime can be found in The nature of violent crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2018.

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Is gun crime at the highest level it has ever been?

Gun crime has increased in recent years, but what does the trend look like over the last decade? How do you think the number of firearms offences recorded by the police has changed over the last 10 years?

Firearms offences, England and Wales, year ending December 2018

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Source: Home Office – Police recorded crime

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Firearms offences recorded by the police decreased by 2% (to 6,525) in the year ending December 2018. Prior to this, there had been an upward trend since 2014, but the current figures are still 34% below a decade ago (year ending March 2008).

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When do most burglaries take place?

Although many burglaries do happen when people are not home, more (58% of burglaries in the year ending March 2018) actually happen while someone is at home.

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Which age group experiences the highest rate of burglary?

Lots of older people are very nervous about becoming a victim of crime, but this bears little resemblance to the data. Younger people – those aged between 16 and 24 years – tend to experience the highest rate of burglary, while older people generally have the lowest4.

More information about burglary can be found in the Nature of crime: burglary tables.

Are robbery and theft the same thing?

Both of these offences involve a theft, however, they are separate offence categories. The difference is whether theft was committed using or threatening to use force. The offence is recorded as a robbery if the offender has used or threatened to use force in the theft. In the year ending December 2018, there were 82,566 robbery offences and 2,002,253 theft offences recorded by the police.


Footnotes

  1. The time period covered by the latest available data varies by statistic and is specified for each set of data where possible.

  2. 1.2 is the average weekly figure rounded to one decimal place. When calculating the total number per year from this figure, this does not exactly match the actual yearly total of 63 because of the rounding (52 multiplied by 1.2 equals 62).

  3. This reflects a general trend in the last few years rather than a specific period of time.