1. Main points

  • The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) shows there were an estimated 6.6 million incidents of crime covered by the survey in the year ending September 2015. This latest estimate was not significantly different compared with the previous year’s

  • There was a 6% increase in police recorded crime compared with the previous year, with 4.3 million offences recorded in the year ending September 2015. Most of this rise is thought to be due to a greater proportion of reports of crime being recorded in the last year, following improved compliance with national recording standards by police forces

  • Improvements in recording of crime are thought to have particulary affected some categories of violent crime recorded by the police. There was a 27% rise in violence against the person offences (an additional 185,666 offences) which was largely driven by increases within the violence without injury sub-group (up by 130,207 offences; a 37% increase). The CSEW estimate for violent crime showed no significant change compared with the previous year’s survey

  • There were also increases in some of the more serious types of police recorded violence, including a 9% rise in offences involving knives or sharp instruments and a 4% increase in offences involving firearms. Such offences are less likely to be prone to changes in recording practices though there is some anecdotal evidence to suggest that a tightening of recording procedures may also be contributing to some of the increase in some forces

  • Sexual offences recorded by the police continued to rise with the latest figures up 36% on the previous year; equivalent to an additional 26,606 offences. The numbers of rapes (33,431) and other sexual offences (66,178) were at the highest level since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard in the year ending March 2003. As well as improvements in recording, this is also thought to reflect a greater willingness of victims to come forward to report such crimes

  • There was a 5% increase in the volume of fraud offences referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) at the City of London Police. Over 0.6 million offences were referred to NFIB, including 234,878 offences reported by victims to Action Fraud (the UK’s national fraud reporting centre), 283,654 referrals from Cifas (a UK-wide fraud prevention service) and 86,066 cases from FFA UK (that represents the UK payments industry). It is known that many cases of fraud do not come to the attention of the police, and these figures provide a very partial picture

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2. Overview

This release provides the latest statistics on crime from the Crime Survey for England and Wales and police recorded crime.

In accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, statistics based on police recorded crime data have been assessed against the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and found not to meet the required standard for designation as National Statistics. The full assessment report can be found on the UK Statistics Authority website. We have published a progress update on actions taken in addressing the requirements set out by the Authority. Data from the CSEW continue to be badged as National Statistics.

An interactive guide provides a general overview of crime statistics. Further information on the datasets is available in the ‘Data sources – coverage and coherence’ section and the CSEW technical report (1.12 Mb Pdf).

The user guide to crime statistics for England and Wales provides information for those wanting to obtain more detail on crime statistics. This includes information on the datasets used to compile the statistics and is a useful reference guide for users.

The quality and methodology report sets out detailed information about the quality of crime statistics and the roles and responsibilities of the different departments involved in the production and publication of crime statistics.

In July 2014, revised survey weights and a back-series were produced for the CSEW following the release of the new-2011 Census-based population estimates. Presentational and methodological improvements to National Statistics on the Crime Survey for England and Wales has more information.

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3. Understanding Crime Statistics

This quarterly release presents the most recent crime statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW; previously known as the British Crime Survey), and police recorded crime. Neither of these sources can provide a picture of total crime, and coverage is described in this section.

Crime Survey for England and Wales

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is a face-to-face victimisation survey in which people resident in households in England and Wales are asked about their experiences of a selected number of offences in the 12 months prior to the interview. It covers adults aged 16 and over, and a separate survey is used to cover children aged 10 to 15, but neither cover those living in group residences (such as care homes, student halls of residence and prisons), or crimes against commercial or public sector bodies. For the population and offence types it covers, the CSEW is a valuable source for providing robust estimates on a consistent basis over time.

It is able to capture offences experienced by those interviewed, not just those that have been reported to, and recorded by, the police. It covers a broad range of victim-based crimes experienced by the resident household population. However, there are some serious but relatively low volume offences, such as homicide and sexual offences, which are not included in its main estimates. The survey also currently excludes fraud and cyber crime though there is ongoing development work to address this gap. This includes a recent field trial of newly developed survey questions. The ‘Data sources – coverage and coherence’ section provides further details on plans for extending the coverage of the survey and the paper CSEW fraud and cyber-crime development: Field trial (382.4 Kb Pdf) has more information on the results of the field trial.

Recent research has questioned the current method for dealing with repeat victimisation in the production of CSEW estimates. A separate methodological note ‘ High frequency repeat victimisation in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (100.1 Kb Pdf)’ sets out background information and outlines work we are doing.

An infographic looking at the people and crimes covered by the CSEW was published in October 2014.

Police recorded crime

Police recorded crime figures cover selected offences that have been reported to and recorded by the police. They are supplied by the 43 territorial police forces of England and Wales, plus the British Transport Police, via the Home Office, to us. The coverage of police recorded crime is defined by the Notifiable Offence List (NOL)1, which includes a broad range of offences, from murder to minor criminal damage, theft and public order offences. The NOL excludes less serious offences that are dealt with exclusively at magistrates’ courts.

Police recorded crime is the primary source for sub-national crime statistics and for relatively serious, but low volume, crimes that are not well measured by a sample survey. It covers victims and sectors excluded from the CSEW sample (for example, residents of institutions and tourists, and crimes against commercial bodies). While the police recorded crime series covers a wider population and a broader set of offences than the CSEW, it does not include crimes that do not come to the attention of the police or are not recorded by them.

Statistics based on police recorded crime data do not currently meet the required standard for designation as National Statistics (further details are provided in the ‘Recent assessments of crime statistics and accuracy’ section).

We also draw on data from other sources to provide a more comprehensive picture of crime and disorder, including incidents of anti-social behaviour recorded by the police and other transgressions of the law that are dealt with by the courts, but not covered in the recorded crime collection.

Latest assessments of crime statistics and accuracy

Following an assessment of crime statistics by the UK Statistics Authority, published in January 2014, the statistics based on police recorded crime data have been found not to meet the required standard for designation as National Statistics. Data from the CSEW continue to be designated as National Statistics.

In their report, the UK Statistics Authority set out 16 requirements to be addressed in order for the statistics to meet National Statistics standards. We are working in collaboration with the Home Office Statistics Unit and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to address these requirements. A summary of progress so far is available on the crime statistics methodology page.

In light of concerns raised about the quality of police recorded crime data, in November 2014 we launched a user engagement exercise to help expand our knowledge of users’ needs. The exercise has now closed and a summary of responses to the survey of users of police recorded crime statistics was published in May 2015. A short summary of the main themes raised by respondents is given in the ‘Users of Crime Statistics’ section.

As part of the inquiry by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) into crime statistics, allegations of under-recording of crime by the police were made. During 2014, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) carried out a national inspection of crime data integrity. The final report Crime-recording: making the victim count, was published on 18 November 2014.

Based on an audit of a large sample of records, HMIC concluded that, across England and Wales as a whole, an estimated 1 in 5 offences (19%) that should have been recorded as crimes were not. The greatest levels of under-recording were seen for violence against the person offences (33%) and sexual offences (26%), however there was considerable variation in the level of under-recording across the different offence types investigated (for example, burglary; 11%) and these are reported on further in the relevant sections.

The audit sample was not large enough to produce compliance rates for individual police forces. However, HMIC inspected the crime recording process in each force and have reported on their findings in separate crime data integrity force reports.

Further information on the accuracy of the statistics is also available in the ‘Accuracy of the statistics’ section.

Time periods covered

The latest CSEW figures presented in this release are based on interviews conducted between October 2014 and September 2015, measuring experiences of crime in the 12 months before the interview. Therefore, it covers a rolling reference period with, for example, respondents interviewed in October 2014 reporting on crimes experienced between October 2013 and September 2014, and those interviewed in September 2015 reporting on crimes taking place between September 2014 and August 2015. For that reason, the CSEW tends to lag short-term trends.

Recorded crime figures relate to crimes recorded by the police during the year ending September 20152 and, therefore, are not subject to the time lag experienced by the CSEW. Recorded crime figures presented in this release are those notified to the Home Office and that were recorded in the Home Office database on 4 December 2015.

There is a 9 month overlap of the data reported here with the data contained in the previous bulletin; as a result the estimates in successive bulletins are not from independent samples. Therefore, year-on-year comparisons are made with the previous year; that is, the 12 month period ending September 2014 (rather than those published last quarter). To put the latest dataset in context, data are also shown for the year ending March 2010 (around 5 years ago) and the year ending March 2005 (around 10 years ago). Additionally, for the CSEW estimates, data for the year ending December 1995, which was when crime peaked in the CSEW (when the survey was conducted on a calendar year basis), are also included.

Users should be aware that improvements in police recording practices following the recent PASC enquiry that took place during late 2013 and HMIC audits of individual police forces which continued until August 2014 are known to have impacted on recorded crime figures. The scale of the effect on both the 2013 to 2014 data and the 2014 to 2015 data is likely to differ between police forces and be particularly driven by the timing of individual forces’ HMIC audit and the timetable by which they introduced any changes.

Notes for understanding crime statistics

  1. The Notifiable Offence List includes all indictable and triable-either-way-offences (offences which could be tried at a crown court) and a few additional closely related summary offences (which would be dealt with by magistrates’ courts). Appendix 1 of the User Guide has more information on the classifications used for notifiable crimes recorded by the police.

  2. Police recorded crime statistics are based on the year in which the offence was recorded, rather than the year in which it was committed. Therefore, such data for any given period will include some historic offences that occurred in a previous year to the one in which it is reported to the police.

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4. Summary

Latest headline figures from the CSEW and police recorded crime

Latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) show there were an estimated 6.6 million incidents of crime against households and resident adults (aged 16 and over) in England and Wales for the year ending September 2015 (Table 1). The apparent 6% decrease from 7.0 million incidents estimated in the previous year’s survey was not statistically signifcant. The estimated number of CSEW incidents is 30% lower than the year ending March 2010 survey and 66% lower than its peak level in 1995.

Crime covered by the CSEW increased steadily from 1981, before peaking in 1995. After peaking, the CSEW showed marked falls up until the year ending March 2005 survey year. Since then, the underlying trend has continued downwards, but with some fluctuation from year to year (Figure 1).

The CSEW covers a broad range of, but not all, victim-based crimes experienced by the resident household population, including those which were not reported to the police. However, there are some serious but relatively low volume offences, such as homicide and sexual offences, which are not included in its headline estimates.

The survey currently excludes fraud and cyber-crime from its headline estimates, however following the success of recent development work, new questions have been added to the survey from the beginning of October 2015. Results from a recent large-scale field trial of these new victimisation module questions were published in the briefing note on ‘Improving crime statistics in England and Wales: Developments in the coverage of fraud’. There is further information on the field trial in the methodological note ‘CSEW Fraud and Cyber-crime development: Field trial – October 2015’. Initial estimates from new questions on fraud and cyber-crime will begin to appear by summer 2016. Further details are provided in the ‘Data sources – coverage and coherence’ section.

The CSEW time series shown in Figure 1 doesn’t include crimes committed against children aged 10 to 15. The survey was extended to include children aged 10 to 15, from January 2009: although data from this module of the survey are not directly comparable with the main survey of adults. The CSEW estimated that 793,000 crimes1 were experienced by children aged 10 to 15 in the year ending September 2015. Of this number, 50% were categorised as violent crimes2 (399,000), while most of the remaining crimes were thefts of personal property (259,000; 33%). Incidents of criminal damage to personal property (94,000; 12% of all crimes) and robbery (41,000; 5%) experienced by children were less common.

Police recorded crime is restricted to a subset of notifiable3 offences that have been reported to and recorded by the police, and so doesn’t provide a total count of all crimes that take place. The police recorded 4.3 million offences in the year ending September 2015, an increase of 6% compared with the previous year (Table 2). Of the 44 forces (including the British Transport Police), 33 showed an annual increase in total recorded crime which was largely driven by rises in the volume of violence against the person offences. This increase in police recorded crime needs to be seen in the context of the renewed focus on the quality of crime recording.

Like CSEW crime estimates, police recorded crime also increased during most of the 1980s and then fell each year from 1992 to March 1999. Expanded coverage of offences in the police recorded crime collection, following changes to the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) in 1998, and the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) in April 2002, saw increases in the number of crimes recorded by the police while the CSEW count fell. Following these changes, trends from both series tracked each other well from year ending March 2003 until year ending March 2007. While both series continued to show a downward trend between year ending March 2008 and year ending March 2013, the gap between them widened, with police recorded crime showing a faster rate of reduction (32% compared with 19% for the CSEW, for a comparable basket of crimes)4.

From 2014 onwards, this pattern for the comparable basket of crimes changed, with overall police recorded crime showing an increase, while CSEW estimates continued to fall, albeit at a slower rate. In the year ending September 2015, there are rises in police recorded crime and little change in estimated numbers of headline CSEW offences, when compared with the previous year.

A likely factor behind the changing trend in police recorded crime is the renewed focus on the quality of recording by the police, in light of the inspections of forces by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) inquiry into crime statistics, and the UK Statistics Authority’s decision to remove the National Statistics designation. This renewed focus is thought to have led to improved compliance with the NCRS, leading to a greater proportion of crimes reported to the police now being recorded than previously.

Police recorded crime data is presented here within a number of broad groupings: victim-based crime; other crimes against society, and fraud. Victim-based crime5 accounted for 76% of all police recorded crime, with 3.3 million offences recorded in the year ending September 2015. This was an increase of 7% compared with the previous year. While there were decreases across many of the police recorded crime categories (for example, theft offences), these were offset by large increases in both violence against the person offences, up by 27% (an additional 185,666 offences), and sexual offences, up by 36% (an additional 26,606 offences). Violence against the person and sexual offences, are categories HMIC reported as suffering the worst effects from under recording, in their latest report. As a result improvements to crime recording made by the police have focused in these areas.

Other crimes against society6 accounted for 10% of all police recorded crime, with 420,826 offences recorded in the year ending September 2015 (an increase of 5% compared with the previous year). Trends in such offences often reflect changes in police activity and workload, rather than levels of criminality (without a direct victim, reporting of these offences is directly related to policing practices). Anecdotal evidence from forces also suggests that some increases in this grouping, such as those seen in public order offences, are being driven by a tightening of recording practices. Public order offences accounted for the largest volume rise within this offence category with an increase of 27% (up by 38,958). Miscellaneous crimes against society increased by 21% (up by 10,334), offences involving possession of weapons increased by 14% (up by 2,868), but drug offences decreased by 17% (down by 31,313).

The remaining 14% of recorded crimes were fraud offences. There were 604,601 fraud offences that were referred to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), based at the City of London Police, in the year ending September 2015 (an increase of 5% on the previous year). The latest rise is driven by an increase in crimes recorded by Action Fraud (up by 11% to 234,878 offences) and in crimes referred to the NFIB by Cifas (up by 15% to 283,654 offences). Cases referred by Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) decreased by 27% (to 86,066 offences). However, referrals by FFA UK are limited to those cases where there is actionable intelligence, which represented a relatively small subset of the total number of offences reported to FFA UK by its members. It is known that only a small proportion of fraud offences are reported to the police and as result these figures provide only a very partial picture. Additional data that FFA UK have supplied to us shows their members recorded a total of 1.3 million cases of confirmed fraud on UK-issued payment cards. The recent extension of the CSEW to include new questions on fraud and cyber-crime will help provide a fuller picture including both payment card and other types of fraud. Results from a recent large-scale field trial of these new questions were published in the briefing note on ‘Improving crime statistics in England and Wales: Developments in the coverage of fraud’.

Overall level of crime – other sources of crime statistics

Around 1.9 million incidents of anti-social behaviour (ASB) were recorded by the police for the year ending September 2015. These are incidents that were not judged to require recording as a notifiable offence within the Home Office Counting Rules for recorded crime. The number of ASB incidents in the year ending September 2015 decreased by 9% compared with the previous year. However, it should be noted that a review by HMIC in 2012 found that there was a wide variation in the quality of decision making associated with the recording of ASB. As a result, ASB incident data should be interpreted with caution.

In the year ending June 2015 (the latest period for which data are available) there were over 1 million convictions for non-notifiable offences (up 5% from the year ending June 2014), that are not covered in police recorded crime or the CSEW (for example: being drunk and disorderly; committing a speeding offence). There have been similar rises in our quarterly bulletins from December 2014 onwards. Convictions for speeding offences and prosecutions for TV licence evasion were the main drivers of this increase. There were 25,000 Penalty Notices for Disorder issued in relation to non-notifiable offences for the year ending June 2015, a decrease of 20% from the previous year7.

The CSEW does not cover crimes against businesses and police recorded crime can only provide a partial picture (as not all offences come to the attention of the police). The 2013 Commercial Victimisation Survey and 2014 Commercial Victimisation Survey, estimates incidents of crime against business premises8 in England and Wales in the 3 comparable sectors covered by each survey (“Wholesale and retail”, “Accommodation and food” and “Agriculture, forestry and fishing”) and gives some insight into the number of these crimes that go unreported to the police. In the 2014 survey, reporting rates (within the Wholesale and retail sector) for frauds, non-vehicle related thefts, assaults and threats, and vandalism, were all estimated to be below 50%. The ‘Commercial Victimisation Survey’ section gives further information.

Trends in victim-based crime – CSEW

The CSEW provides coverage of a broad range of victim-based crimes, although there are necessary exclusions from its main estimates, such as homicide and sexual offences. This infographic looking at the people and crimes covered by the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) has more information on the coverage of the survey.

Estimates of violent crime from the CSEW have shown large falls between the 1995 and the year ending March 2005 survey. Since then the survey shows a general downward trend in violent crime, albeit with some fluctuations (notably in year ending March 2011).The apparent 1% fall in the latest year compared with the previous year’s estimate was not statistically significant.

CSEW domestic burglary follows a similar pattern to that seen for all CSEW crime, peaking in the 1993 survey and then falling steeply until the year ending March 2005 CSEW. The underlying trend in domestic burglary remained fairly flat between the year ending March 2005 and year ending March 2011. This was followed by further falls in year ending March 2013 and year ending March 2014. As a result, estimates of domestic burglary for the year ending September 2015 are 30% lower than those in the year ending March 2005. However, there has been no change in levels of domestic burglary between the year ending September 2014 and year ending September 2015 (the apparent year-on-year decrease of 5% was not statistically significant).

The CSEW category of vehicle-related theft has shown a consistent downward trend since the mid-1990s. The latest estimates indicate that a vehicle-owning household was around 5-times less likely to become a victim of such crime than in 1995. However, as with domestic burglary, there was no change in the level of vehicle-related theft in the last year (the apparent increase of 2% was not statistically significant). The apparent 5% decrease in CSEW other household theft compared with the previous year was also not statistically significant. Following a period of year-on-year increases between the year ending March 2008 and year ending March 2012, the latest estimates show levels of other household theft are not significantly different to than those seen prior to these increases, in the year ending March 2008. Peak levels of other household theft were recorded in the mid-1990s and the latest estimate is around half the level seen in 1995.

The CSEW category of other theft of personal property, includes offences which occur while the victim is away from the home, but the items stolen are not being carried on the person (such as theft of unattended property in pubs or restaurants). The underlying trend was fairly flat between year ending March 2005 and year ending March 2012 following marked declines from the mid-1990s. Since the year ending March 2012, estimates have decreased, however the latest estimate (an apparent 12% fall compared with the previous year) shows no statistically significant change.

Latest CSEW findings for bicycle theft show no change in the level of incidents in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (the apparent 7% decrease was not statistically significant). Over the long term, incidents of bicycle theft showed a marked decline between 1995 and the 1999 survey, with small increases and decreases thereafter. Estimates for the year ending September 2015 are now 44% lower than in 1995 but remain similar to the level seen in 1999.

The number of incidents of criminal damage estimated by the CSEW showed no change in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (the apparent 9% decrease was not statistically significant). The longer term trend shows a period of increasing incidents of criminal damage between year ending March 2004 and year ending March 2007 followed by a marked decline from year ending March 2009 onwards.

CSEW estimates for theft from the person showed no change in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (the apparent 13% decrease was not statistically significant). Further information on these crimes is provided in the relevant sections of this bulletin.

Trends in victim-based crime – police recorded crime

There was a 7% increase in victim-based crimes in the year ending September 2015 to 3.3 million offences. This is equivalent to 58 recorded offences per 1,000 resident population in England and Wales (though this shouldn’t be read as a victimisation rate as multiple offences could be reported by the same victim) – shown in Table 3.

There was a 27% increase in violence against the person offences recorded by the police which was likely to be driven in part, by improved compliance with the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). The volume of recorded violence against the person crimes (885,440 offences) equates to approximately 15 offences recorded per 1,000 population in the year ending September 2015. The largest increase in total violence against the person offences was in the violence without injury subcategory, which showed an increase of 37% compared with the previous year. The violence with injury subcategory showed a smaller increase (16%) over the same period (the latter offence category being less prone to changes resulting from recording practice improvements, owing to the more serious nature of these offence types).

Changes in the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR), implemented in April 2015, have resulted in the recording of 2 additional harassment offences not previously counted as notifiable offences. Both of these appear under the headline category of violence without injury (Disclosure of private sexual photographs and films with the intent to cause distress or anxiety’ and ‘Sending letters with intent to cause distress or anxiety’; the latter includes any form of electronic communication). The addition of these offences will have further inflated the size of the increase in the violence without injury category. There is currently no available back-series for these additional offences.

Figure 2 focuses on selected police recorded crime offences with notable changes, in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year.

In the year ending September 2015, the police recorded 574 homicides, 71 more than the previous year9. Though appearing high, this increase includes 2 months where there were relatively high numbers of recorded homicide - June 2015 (75 homicides) and November 2014 (58). This is combined with 2 months where there were relatively low numbers of recorded homicide in the comparator year, ending in September 2014 (30 in May 2014 and 31 in Feb 2014). Historically, the number of homicides increased from around 300 per year in the early 1960s to over 800 per year in the early years of this century, which was at a faster rate than population growth over that period10. However, over the past decade the volume of homicides has generally decreased while the population of England and Wales has continued to grow.

Offences involving firearms (excluding air weapons) have increased 4% (by 215 offences to 4,994) in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year. This is the first increase since 2008, and is driven by a rise in the number of offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police Service (an increase of 149 offences, or 10% compared with the previous year). Despite this, there has been a general downward trend in this series over the longer-term, and the latest figures are over 50% lower than the peak in year ending March 2006.

The number of offences that involved a knife or sharp instrument11 also showed an increase (9%) over the past 12 months This contrasts with the general downward trend in this series over the longer-term, and the latest figures are 16% lower than in year ending March 2011. Within the offence groups covered (Table 9a), the largest rise was recorded in the offence category of “assault with injury and assault with intent to cause serious harm” (up 18%). Possession of an article with blade or point also increased by 15% to 10,842 offences.

While it is generally thought that these offences are not as prone to changes in recording practice owing to their serious nature it is possible that, as well as genuine increases, process changes in recording may have contributed to the latest rise.

Police recorded robberies fell 4% in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year, to 51,022 offences. This is equivalent to around 1 offence recorded per 1,000 population and the lowest level since the introduction of the NCRS in year ending March 2003 (when 110,271 offences were recorded). With the exception of a notable rise in the number of robberies in year ending March 2006 and year ending March 2007, there has been a general downward trend in robbery offences since year ending March 2003. Robbery offences tended to be concentrated in large urban areas (44% were recorded in London). Accordingly, the overall decrease has been driven by a fall in the number of offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police Force (which decreased by 7% to 22,303 offences).

Sexual offences recorded by the police increased by 36% compared with the previous year, to a total of 99,609 across England and Wales. Within this, the number of offences of rape increased by 39% and other sexual offences by 35%. These rises remain some of the largest year-on-year increases since the introduction of the NCRS in year ending March 2003. It is thought rises in police recorded sexual offences are likely to be due to an improvement in recording by the police and an increase in the willingness of victims to come forward and report to the police.

Previous increases in the number of sexual offences reported to the police were shown to have been related in part to a rise in the reporting of historical offences12 following ‘Operation Yewtree’, which began in 2012. Analysis of records from the Home Office Data Hub, indicates that both current and historical offences (those that took place over 12 months before being reported) continued to rise in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year. However, the major volume contribution to this increase comes from current offences.

Total theft offences recorded by the police in the year ending September 2015 showed a 2% decrease compared with the previous year, continuing the year-on-year decrease seen since year ending March 2003. The majority of the categories in this offence group (burglary, theft from the person, bicycle theft and ‘all other theft offences’) showed decreases compared with the previous year. One exception to this was shoplifting, which increased by 3% compared with the previous year (from 322,964 offences to 332,277), to the highest level since the introduction of the NCRS in year ending March 2003. This continues a gradual upward trend in shoplifting offences since the year ending March 2014. Evidence from surveys of retail premises13 suggests that recent increases in shoplifting are likely to reflect changes in reporting by victims rather than increased occurrence.

Vehicle interference increased by 55% (from 27,274 to 42,393) in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year. A change in the guidance within Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) in April 2014 is likely to have led to offences that previously might have been recorded as theft from a vehicle now being recorded as vehicle interference when the motive of the offender was not clear. There has been a corresponding drop in “theft from a vehicle” (down 7%, by 19,209 offences). Theft of a motor vehicle increased by 6% in the year ending September 2015 (74,582 to 78,73814). This is the third consecutive quarter where figures have increased in this offence. Anecdotal evidence from forces suggests that the increase is largely due to thefts of motor cycles, scooters and mopeds, rather than 4-wheeled vehicles.

Theft from the person offences recorded by the police in the year ending September 2015 showed a 4% decrease compared with the previous year. This is a reversal of recent trends, which showed year-on-year increases between year ending March 2009 and year ending March 2013. This latest decrease is thought to be associated with improved mobile phone security features15. The ‘Theft offences - Other theft of property’ section has more information.

The police recorded 58,571 miscellaneous crimes against society offences in the year ending September 2015, an increase of 21% compared with the previous year. The number of offences has increased in the last 2 financial years, after previously showing year-on-year decreases since year ending March 2004. The latest increase is, in part, driven by a rise in the number of obscene publications and protected sexual material offences, which has increased by 98% to 10,683 offences in the year ending September 2015, when compared with the previous year (5,401 offences).This is largely due to an increase in offences related to the making and distribution of indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs (including those of children) via the internet or through mobile technology. In addition, due to the introduction of flytipping in this category as of April 2014, there was also a large rise in the number of other indictable or triable either way offences (increase of 46% to 5,851).

Fraud offences

Alongside Action Fraud data, the police recorded crime series now includes England and Wales level estimates from 2 industry bodies, Cifas and FFA UK. Combined totals from these sources show that in the year ending September 2015, 604,601 fraud offences were recorded in England and Wales, an increase of 5% from the previous year. This is equivalent to 11 offences recorded per 1,000 population.

Action Fraud recorded 234,878 fraud offences reported to them by victims in England and Wales in the year ending September 2015. This represents an increase of 11% compared with the previous year. Due to the phased transition in responsibility for recording fraud offences from individual police forces to Action Fraud between April 2011 and March 2013, comparable data has only been available on a year on year basis since the year ending March 2015 ( Appendix table A5 (887 Kb Excel sheet) ). The latest figures from Action Fraud suggest that while other acquisitive crimes continue to fall, reports of fraud have increased.

Cifas also showed a 15% increase in referrals to NFIB (from 246,477 offences to 283,654 offences), while fraud offences referred by FFA UK decreased 27% (from 118,543 offences to 86,066 offences). Referrals from FFA UK to NFIB represents a small fraction of frauds experienced by their members. In the year ending September 2015, FFA UK have released figures to show a total 1.4 million frauds on UK accounts; the ‘Fraud’ section has further information.

The CSEW data on plastic card fraud shows that, for the year ending September 2015 survey, 4.5% of plastic card owners were victims of card fraud in the last year, a decrease from the year earlier (when 5% of card owners were victims). However, the latest decline in the prevalence of plastic card fraud measured by the CSEW differs from the trend observed in FFA UK data, which showed a 4% rise. While the reasons for this difference are unclear at present as there are potentially many factors which can impact on either data series, the FFA UK data are likely to provide a more reliable indication of short term trends than CSEW estimates which can fluctuate in the short term due to sampling variability.

From 1 October 2015, the offence coverage of the CSEW was extended to include fraud experienced by the adult population. Estimates from these new questions will not be available until mid-2016 and not currently included in the headline CSEW estimates. Further details are provided in the ‘Data sources' section.

More information on the work we have done to date was published in a methodological note Update – Extending the CSEW to include fraud and cyber crime and in Section 5.4 of the User Guide. Results from a large-scale field trial of the new victimisation module questions has also previously been published, please see Improving crime statistics in England and Wales: Fraud and the methodological note CSEW fraud and cyber-crime development: Field trial (382.4 Kb Pdf) .

Notes for Summary

  1. The survey of children aged 10 to 15 only covers personal level crime (so excludes household level crime) and, as with the main survey, does not include sexual offences.

  2. The majority (51%) of violent crimes experienced in the year ending June 2015 resulted in minor or no injury, so in just over half of cases the violence is low level.

  3. Notifiable offences refer to offences for which there is a legal requirement that the police inform the Home Office of their occuarnce. These Notifiable offences relate only to crimes that could possibly be tried by a jury and exclude less serious (non-notifiable offences) such as parking fines (usually dealt with in magistrates courts). Further detail is available in Chapter 3 of the User Guide.

  4. The methodological note Analysis of variation in crime trends and Section 4.2 of the User Guide have more details.

  5. Victim-based crimes are those offences with a specific identifiable victim. These cover the police recorded crime categories of violence against the person, sexual offences, robbery, theft offences, and criminal damage and arson.

  6. ‘Other crimes against society’ cover offences without a direct victim, and includes drug offences, possession of weapon offences, public order offences and miscellaneous crimes against society.

  7. Non-notifiable offences are offences dealt with exclusively by magistrates’ courts or by the police issuing of a Penalty Notice for Disorder or a Fixed Penalty Notice. Along with non-notifiable offences dealt with by the police (such as speeding), these include many offences that may be dealt with by other agencies – for example: prosecutions by TV Licensing; or the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for vehicle registration offences.

  8. This is a premises based survey: respondents were asked if the business at their current premises had experienced any of a range of crime types in the 12 months prior to interview and, if so, how many incidents of crime had been experienced.

  9. Homicide includes the offences of murder, manslaughter, corporate manslaughter and infanticide. Figures from the Homicide Index for the time period April 2013 to March 2014, which take account of further police investigations and court outcomes, were published in Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14 on 12 February 2015.

  10. These figures, taken from the Homicide Index, are less likely to be affected by changes in police recording practices made in 1998 and 2002, so it is possible to examine longer-term trends.

  11. Only selected violent offences can be broken down by whether a knife or sharp instrument was used. These are: homicide; attempted murder; threats to kill; assault with injury and assault with intent to cause serious harm; robbery; rape; and sexual assault.

  12. More information can be found in Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending September 2013.

  13. Home Office 2014 Commercial Victimisation Survey, and the British Retail Consortium Retail Crime Survey 2014.

  14. Theft of a motor vehicle as reported here, includes the offences of “aggravated vehicle taking” and “theft of a vehicle”.

  15. The Home Office report Reducing mobile phone theft and improving security published in September 2014 has more information.

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5. Violent crime

Violent crime in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is referred to as “violence”, and includes wounding and assault (for both completed and attempted incidents). There is also an additional breakdown of violence with, or without injury. Violent offences in police recorded data are referred to as “violence against the person” and include homicide, violence with injury, and violence without injury. As with the CSEW, attempted assaults are counted alongside completed ones. There are some closely related offences in the police recorded crime series, such as public disorder, that have no identifiable victim and are within the Other Crimes Against Society category.

Latest CSEW estimates show there were 1.3 million violent incidents in England and Wales in the year ending September 2015; a similar level compared with last year’s survey (the apparent 1% fall was not statistically significant) (Figure 3).

The CSEW sub-categories of “violence with injury” and “violence without injury” also showed no significant change, when compared with the previous year (the apparent 11% rise in violence with injury and 11% fall in violence without injury were not statistically significant).

The number of violent incidents estimated by the survey decreased by 66% from a peak in 1995 (Table 4b). Around 2 in every 100 adults were a victim of violent crime in the last year, based on the year ending September 2015 survey, compared with around 5 in 100 adults in the 1995 survey (Table 4a). However, it is important to note that victimisation rates vary considerably across the population and by geographic area. Such variations in victimisation rates are further explored in our thematic reports (which are published annually)1, as well as the Annual Trend and Demographic tables (381.5 Kb Excel sheet), which were published alongside the crime statistics bulletin covering the year ending March 2015.

Estimates of violence against 10 to 15 year olds, as measured by the CSEW, can be found in the section ‘Crime experienced by children aged 10 to 15’.

The longer term reduction in violent crime, as shown by the CSEW, is supported by evidence from several health data sources. Research conducted by the Violence and Society Research Group at Cardiff University (Violence in England and Wales 2014, an accident and emergency perspective) also indicates a downward trend. Findings from their annual survey, covering a sample of hospital emergency departments and walk-in centres in England and Wales, show an overall decrease of 10% in serious violence-related attendances in 2014 compared with 2013 (down to 211,514 attendances in 2014). In addition, the most recent provisional National Health Service (NHS) data available on assault admissions to hospitals in England show that, for the 12 months to the end of April 2015, there were 28,992 hospital admissions for assault, a reduction of 8% compared with figures for the preceding 12 months2.

The number of violence against the person offences recorded by the police in the year ending September 2015 showed a 27% increase compared with the previous year (up from 699,774 to 885,440, Tables 5a and 5b). All but one police force recorded a rise in violence in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year3, although the forces with the largest percentage increases may not necessarily have had the largest impact on the national figures, since the areas police forces serve can differ greatly in size and population. The largest volume increase was reported by the Metropolitan Police Service, which recorded an additional 32,167 offences compared with the previous year (an increase of 22%). Other large volume increases included Hampshire Constabulary (up 15,792 offences), West Yorkshire Police (up 15,767 offences) and Greater Manchester Police (up 12,553, 36%). Hampshire Constabulary had the largest percentage increase (70%), followed by: West Yorkshire (67%), West Mercia (up 63% to 19,485) and Warwickshire (up 61% to 6,851) ( Tables P1 and P2 (188.5 Kb Excel sheet)).

The 27% increase in violence against the person offences, includes much larger increases in the category of “violence without injury” (up 37%), compared with “violence with injury” (up 16%).

Recent changes in recording practice make interpreting trends in violence against the person offences difficult. The latest figures represent the highest volume of violence against the person offences since the introduction of the NCRS in the year ending March 2003 (5% above that recorded at the peak of the time series in 2005, Table 5b). Additionally the rates for violence against the person are now only slightly below the level of 16 recorded offences per 1,000 population reported in this peak period (15 recorded offences per 1,000 population, year ending September 2015, Table 5a).

It is known that violent offences are more prone than some other offences to subjective judgement about whether or not to record a crime. The Crime-recording: making the victim count report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), found that violence against the person offences had the highest under-recording rates across police forces in England and Wales. Nationally, an estimated 1 in 3 (33%) violent offences that should have been recorded as crimes were not. The ‘Accuracy of the statistics’ section has more information.

Action taken by police forces to improve their compliance with the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) is likely to have resulted in the increase in the number of offences recorded4. It is thought that recording improvements are more likely to affect relatively less serious violent offences and explains the larger increase in the sub-category “violence without injury” compared with “violence with injury”. Evidence provided by the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) states that, whilst police recorded violence against the person increased by 23% in the year ending March 2015, the number of “calls for service” relating to violent crime rose by 1%. Calls for service refer to emergency and non-emergency calls from members of the public and referrals from partner agencies (such as education, health, and social services) for police to attend an incident or investigate a case. This, along with the evidence from the CSEW, suggests the rise in recorded violence against the person is largely due to process improvements rather than a genuine rise in violent crime.

Another possible factor behind the rise is an increase in the reporting of domestic abuse and subsequent recording of these offences by the police. In 2014, HMIC published "Everyone’s business: Improving the police response to domestic abuse", the results of an inspection that expressed concerns about the police response to domestic abuse and made a number of recommendations for police forces to action.

More recently, between June and August 2015, as part of its annual all-force inspection programme covering forces’ effectiveness, efficiency and legitimacy (known as PEEL), HMIC revisited each police force in England and Wales to examine how well they respond to and safeguard victims of domestic abuse. HMIC found a number of improvements had taken place and concluded that recent increases in the number of domestic abuse related crimes were due, in part, to police forces improving their recording of domestic abuse incidents as crimes and to forces actively encouraging victims to come forward to report these crimes. More information is available in the HMIC report, Increasingly everyone's business: A progress report on the police response to domestic abuse.

The Home Office has been collecting information from the police, since April 2015, on whether recorded offences are domestic abuse related. Crimes are “flagged” as being “domestic abuse related” by the police if the offence meets the government definition of domestic violence and abuse5. Provisional data6 from the police for the months April to September 2015 show that violence against the person offences were the most likely to be flagged (Figure 4). In these 6 months, a third (33%) of such offences were flagged as domestic abuse. The offence group with the next highest proportion of offences flagged as domestic abuse related, were sexual offences (12%).

In addition to changes in recording practices, new offences have been added to the Notifiable Offence List which has extended the coverage of the Violence without Injury sub-group of offences. From 1 April 2014, stalking became a specific legal offence following the introduction of the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012. Prior to this such offending would have been recorded under other offences, principally harassment. In the year ending September 2015, the police recorded 3,534 stalking offences. This change in the law should be also borne in mind when looking at trends in harassment (Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

Despite the removal of stalking, the number of harassment offences increased by 62% (to 112,564) in the year ending September 2015. Since April 2015, some offences previously not classed as notifiable have been included as part of harassment owing to amendments to the Malicious Communications Act (1988) and to Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003. As a result of these amendments, from April 2015, the HOCR included a requirement to record 2 additional forms of harassment (‘Disclosure of private sexual photographs and films with the intent to cause distress or anxiety’ (colloquially referred to as “revenge porn”) and ‘Sending letters with intent to cause distress or anxiety’; (including electronic communications). The inclusion of these offences has contributed to the increase in police recorded violence without injury (which now includes 6 months worth of data covering the additional offences, as part of total violence without injury). There is currently no back-series for these offences.

It is also thought that increased reporting and recording of domestic abuse offences (many of which involve some level of harassment) will also have contributed.

Homicides are not prone to changes in recording practice by the police. In the year ending September 2015, the police recorded 574 homicides, 71 more than in the previous year, which represents an increase of 14% (Table 5a and Table 5b). This increase includes 2 months where there were relatively high numbers of recorded homicide, June 2015 (75 homicides) and November 2014 (58). This is combined with 2 months where there were relatively low numbers of recorded homicides in the comparator year ending in September 2014 (30 in May 2014 and 31 in Feb 2014). Increases in homicide were concentrated in London and in police forces in the South East of England. While there was also a 19% rise in offences of attempted murder recorded by the police, as with homicide, levels can fluctuate from year to year so it is too early to say whether this is the start of an emerging upward trend.

Historically, the number of homicides increased from around 300 per year in the early 1960s to over 800 per year in the early years of this century, which was at a faster rate than population growth over that period. Over the past decade the volume of homicides has generally decreased while the population of England and Wales has continued to grow. Based on police recorded crime data, the rate of homicide has fallen by almost half between the years ending March 2004 and September 2015, from 17 homicides per million of the population to 10 homicides per million.

There is more detailed information on trends and the circumstances of violence against the person in Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14, an update to this is due to be published in February 2016.

Neither the CSEW nor police recorded crime are good data sources for some “high harm” crimes, where there has been recent increased focus, such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and modern slavery.

Offences of FGM that come to the attention of the police will be contained within the police recorded crime category of assault with injury. However, it is known that much FGM remains hidden and unreported to the police. The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) have published new experimental statistics on Female Genital Mutilation FGM7. These data are collected monthly from hospitals in England and are being collected to gain a better picture of the prevalence of FGM8.

For the period July to September 2015, there were 1,385 newly identified9 cases of FGM reported nationally. Of course, these are only cases that have come to light as a result of a victim receiving medical treatment and will understate the true volume of such offences.

Modern slavery takes a number of forms, including sexual exploitation, forced labour and domestic servitude. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 legislated to define it as a criminal offence in its own right and came into force on 31 July 2015. The Act makes provision "about slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and about human trafficking, including provision for the protection of victims; to make provision for an Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner; and for connected purposes”10.

Modern slavery was previously not classified as an individual offence, and would have been recorded under trafficking for sexual exploitation, immigration offences and other indictable or triable-either-way offences. As of 1 April 2015, a separately identifiable offence of modern slavery was introduced. The Act came into force on 31 July 2015, and the new offence category subsumed the above offences. Since this occurred in the middle of the year for which we are reporting, the 291 offences counted, refer to offences between April to September 2015 (and includes those offences that were recorded under their original offence types)11.

It has been estimated in an exploratory study, ‘Modern Slavery: an application of Multiple Systems Estimation’ (November 2014), that in 2013 the number of victims of modern slavery ranged between 10,000 and 13,00012.

Hate crime

Hate crime is defined as “any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic.” This common definition was agreed in 2007 by the police, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service (now the National Offender Management Service) and other agencies that make up the criminal justice system. There are 5 centrally monitored strands of hate crime: race or ethnicity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disability and transgender identity. Hate crimes are a subset of notifiable crimes that are recorded by the police (as reported on in this publication) and make up around 1% of all crimes.

The Home Office publication, Hate Crime, England and Wales 2014 to 15, published on 13 October 2015, provides more information on the number of hate crimes recorded by the police and the estimated number of hate crimes reported by respondents to the combined year ending March 2013 to year ending March 2015 CSEWs.

Notes for violent crime

  1. There is more information on violent crime in Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14, the next release is due to be published on 11 February 2016.

  2. Based on the latest National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Episode Statistics and hospital admissions due to assault (dated 24 July 2015). These don’t include figures for Wales and relate to activity in English NHS hospitals.

  3. The exception was Leicestershire Police, which reported a 1% decrease.

  4. The inspections took place over the period December 2013 to August 2014, this falls within the time period covered by this release. The current year covers the year ending September 2015 and the comparator year covers the year ending September 2014.

  5. Any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour, violence or abuse between those aged 16 or over who are or have been intimate partners or family members regardless of gender or sexuality.

  6. These data have not been reconciled with police forces.

  7. Figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre on Female Genital Mutilation do not include figures for Wales and relate to activity in English foundation and non-foundation trusts including A&E departments.

  8. Clinical staff must record in patient healthcare records when it is identified that a patient has undergone FGM. This applies to all NHS clinicians and healthcare professionals across the NHS. However, the requirement to submit the FGM Prevalence Dataset is only mandatory for Foundation and non-Foundation trusts, including Accident and Emergency departments. Other organisations (which may include GPs) may wish to provide an FGM Prevalence Dataset centrally; the Data Quality Note contains further information.

  9. Patients first identified during the reporting period as having undergone FGM at any stage in their life.

  10. See Modern Slavery Bill for further information.

  11. Between April 2015 and June 2015, offences referenced in this bulletin as Modern Slavery offences, were initially recorded as one of the following offences: trafficking for sexual exploitation, immigration offences, or other indictable or triable-either-way offences. These offences were subsumed by the offence classification of Modern slavery from July 2015.

  12. This exploratory analysis uses Multiple Systems Estimation (MSE) which includes data on the number of victims of modern slavery from a number of organisaions such as; Local Authorities, Police Forces, Government Organisations (mostly Home Office agencies), Non-governmantal organisations, the National Crime Agency and the General Public (through various routes). The report ‘Modern Slavery: an application of Multiple Systems Estimation’ has more information.

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6. Robbery

Robbery is an offence in which force, or the threat of force, is used either during or immediately prior to a theft or attempted theft.

Robbery is a relatively low volume offence, which accounted for just over 1% of all police recorded crime in the year ending September 2015. The latest figures show police recorded robberies decreased by 4% in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (Tables 6a and 6b). With the exception of a notable rise in the number of robberies in years ending March 2006 and March 2007, there has been a general downward trend since the year ending March 2003. The latest figure shows the number of robbery offences falling to 51,022 (Figure 5).

The Crime-recording: making the victim count report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that nationally, an estimated 19% of all offences that should have been recorded as a crime were not. HMIC concluded that, for robbery offences, the figure was 14%.

In the year ending September 2015, 89% of robberies recorded by the police were of personal property. There were 45,549 of these offences, down 4% compared with the previous year. Robbery of business property (which makes up the remaining 11% of total robbery offences) fell by 2% in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year. In the year ending September 2015, 1 in 5 robberies recorded by the police involved a knife or other sharp instrument, the same level as that recorded in the previous year (Table 9b in the ‘Offences involving knives or sharp instruments’ section).

These offences are concentrated in a small number of metropolitan forces with nearly half (44%) of all offences recorded in London, and a further 20% in the Greater Manchester, West Midlands and West Yorkshire police force areas combined (Table P1 (188.5 Kb Excel sheet)). The geographic concentration of robbery offences means that trends across England and Wales tend to reflect what is happening in these areas, in particular the Metropolitan Police force area. The latest figures for the Metropolitan Police force area show that the number of robberies for the year ending September 2015 was 22,303, a decrease of 7% from the previous year (Tables P1-P2 (188.5 Kb Excel sheet)). This continues the downward trend that began in the year ending March 2013, following a period of increases between the years ending March 2009 and March 2012.

Just over half, 231 of the 44 police force areas, reported a fall in robbery offences for the year ending September 2015. The fall in the number of robbery offences in the Metropolitan Police force area in the year ending September 2015 accounts for 48% of the total fall in robbery, reported by these police forces. The Greater Manchester and West Midlands forces account for a further 23%.

The small number of robbery victims interviewed in any single year means that Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates are prone to fluctuation. Based on CSEW interviews in the year ending September 2015 there were an estimated 108,000 robbery offences. The apparent 14% decrease compared with the previous year was not statistically significant. This follows several years of falling estimates which have not always been statistically significant when compared year-on-year. However, the current estimate is 68% lower than the level seen in 1995 when crime peaked on the survey (Tables 7a and 7b).

Notes for robbery

  1. The 23 police force areas which reported a fall in robbery, include City of London and Dyfed-Powys. Although numbers of robberies for these areas did fall, as compared with the previous year, Table P2 (188.5 Kb Excel sheet), does not show the associated percentage falls. This is because low numbers of total offences in these police force areas, may artificially inflate or deflate the overall percentage change.
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7. Sexual offences

It is difficult to obtain reliable information on the volume of sexual offences as it is known that many of these offences go unreported to the police compared with other types of offence1.

Police recorded crime figures showed an increase of 36% in all sexual offences for the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (up from 73,003 to 99,609; Table 8a) reaching the highest volume recorded since the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) in April 2002. Additionally, the latest rises are among the largest year-on-year increases since the introduction of the NCRS in year ending March 2003.

Police recorded rape increased by 39% (to 33,431 offences) compared with the previous year, following increases every year since year ending March 2008. Other sexual offences increased by 35% (to 66,178 offences). Both rape and other sexual offences are at the highest level since the NCRS was introduced in year ending March 2003.

The number of police recorded sexual offences has risen consistently in each quarterly analysis since the year ending March 2013. Percentage rises reported throughout the quarters of 2013 were of a substantially lower level (between 1% and 17%), these increases were shown to have been related in part to a rise in the reporting of historical offences following ‘Operation Yewtree’2, which began in 2012.

In 2014, quarterly analysis showed sexual offences rising more steeply (with quarterly rises reported being between 20% and 32%). It is thought these rises in police recorded sexual offences were due to both an improvement in recording by the police and an increase in the willingness of victims to come forward and report these crimes to the police.

In 2015, these rises have become more pronounced, and are now at the highest level in the comparable time-series. Offence categories that directly relate to sexual offences against children, contribute 44% to the total increase in sexual offences recorded by the police. Analysis of records from the Home Office Data Hub, indicate that both current and historical offences (those that took place over 12 months before being reported) continued to rise in the year ending September 2015. However, the major volume contribution to this increase comes from current offences.

The rises in the volume of sexual offences recorded by the police should be seen in the context of a number of high-profile reports and inquiries, which is thought to have resulted in police forces reviewing and improving their recording processes. These include:

  • inspections by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate (HMCPSI)3 in 2012 and 2014, which highlighted the need to improve the recording and investigation of sexual offences

  • concerns about the recording of sexual offences, for example in evidence presented to the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) inquiry into crime statistics4 and arising from other high profile cases

  • the creation of the ‘Independent Panel Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse’, which was set up to consider whether, and the extent to which, public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken seriously their duty of care to protect children from sexual abuse in England and Wales

HMIC’s inspection of crime recording, published in late 2014, found that sexual offences had been substantially under-recorded by police forces in England and Wales. HMIC reported that the national rate of under-recording of sexual offences was 26%. The inspection also found that some police forces had poor processes for crime recording in specialist units responsible for investigations of rape and other sexual offences, or those more generally protecting vulnerable people including children, mentally ill and infirm people. In some forces, such units were found to have standalone case management systems or mailboxes that were often used for referrals between specialist departments and partner organisations (such as health or social services). HMIC found records of crimes on these systems which had not made it onto the force’s main crime recording system. Those that had not been recorded on the force’s crime recording system would therefore not have fed through into official statistics. As forces have taken steps to improve their systems and recording processes, it is likely that proportionately more referrals are appearing in the official statistics.

Additionally the high profile coverage of sexual offences, and the police response to allegations of historic sexual offending through ‘Operation Yewtree’ are likely to have had an effect on the willingness of victims to come forward and report offences of this nature.

More information on interpreting trends in these offences can be found in An Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales and Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14. Additionally, Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, Year ending March 2015,will be published in February 2016.

The number of sexual offences per head of population (Table P3 (188.5 Kb Excel sheet)) does not vary significantly across the country, and sexual offences accounted for around 2 to 4% of total police recorded crime in most police force areas. All police force areas have recorded an increase in sexual offences in the year ending September 2015, ranging from 6% in Durham and Gloucestershire police force areas to 86% in Hampshire (Table P2 (188.5 Kb Excel sheet) - excluding City of London where only a relatively small number of offences were recorded). The scale of any effect of improvements in police recording practices since the latest HMIC inspection, in terms of the impact on the data, is likely to differ between police force areas (and be particularly driven by the timing of their audit and the timetable by which forces introduced local changes).

Due to the small number of sexual offences identified in the main CSEW crime measure (based on face to face interviews), estimates of the volume of incidents are too unreliable to report. Since year ending March 2005, the CSEW has included a self-completion questionnaire module on intimate violence, for persons aged 16 to 59 only, which provides an improved measure of the proportion of people who have been victims of sexual offences in this age group.

Most recent headline estimates from this self-completion section of the CSEW for the year ending March 2015, released as part of the supplementary tables (970 Kb Excel sheet), showed that the proportion of people who had been victims of sexual assaults in the last year (including attempted offences) had not significantly changed between the year ending March 2015 (1.7%) and the previous year (1.5%). These figures have remained fairly stable over the last 10 years. Estimates of the proportion of people who were victims of rape or attempted rape were unchanged from the previous year (0.3%), with similar levels having been estimated throughout the last 10 years. This provides further evidence that changes in the willingness of victims to report and in the police response are likely to be responsible for the increase in police recorded sexual offences rather than an increase in levels of victimisation.

Detailed findings from the self-completion module for the year ending March 2014 CSEW are available in Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14 with more detailed results from the year ending March 2015 survey due to be released in February 2016.

Notes for sexual offences

  1. As frequently indicated in the findings from the CSEW self-completion module on intimate violence, for example, presented in Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14, an updated report will be published in February 2016.

  2. More information can be found in Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending September 2013.

  3. Further details are available in Forging the links: Rape investigation and prosecution and Crime recording: Making the victim count.

  4. The Commission of an independent review into rape investigation and the transcript for the Public Administration Select Committee hearing on Crime Statistics (19 November 2013) have more information.

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8. Offences involving knives and sharp instruments

Some of the more serious offences in the recorded crime data (violent, robbery and sexual offences) can be broken down by whether or not a knife or sharp instrument was involved1.

In the year ending September 2015, the police recorded 27,487 offences involving a knife or sharp instrument, a 9% increase compared with the previous year (25,291, Table 9a). Despite this, there has been a general downward trend in this series over the longer-term, and the latest figures are 16% lower than in year ending March 2011. The majority of police forces (34 of the 44), recorded a rise in these offences, compared with the previous year. The largest contributor to the total rise was the Metropolitan Police Service (accounting for almost a quarter of the increase).

Most of the offence groups for which data are collected showed increases, but rises were most pronounced in the category of “assault with injury and assault with intent to cause serious harm2” (up 18%, from 12,054 to 14,190). There was an 3% decrease in robbery offences involving a knife or sharp instrument over the same period (down from 10,852 to 10,477).

It is generally thought that these categories of offence are less likely to be influenced by changes in recording practice than less serious violent crime, and thus the rise is likely to represent a real change in the downward trend seen in recent years (and a more proactive police response to knife crime). For example, in relation to the capital, data from the London Ambulance Service showed a 9% rise in ambulance incidences resulting from assaults involving a knife injury (for the year ending October 2015, compared with the previous year)3. However, there is also the suggestion that recording process improvements may also have been a factor. For example, anecdotal evidence relating to the Metropolitan Police Service4 suggests that previously knife-related crimes, where the victim was unwilling to engage with the police, were being recorded on intelligence systems but not on the force’s crime recording system. Following the renewed focus on crime recording, such incidents are now being included within the crime recording system and are likely to have contributed to the rise in such offences within the statistics.

Other evidence, albeit focused on the most serious knife-related crimes relating to hospital admissions for assault with a sharp instrument5, have shown little change over the past year following declines in previous years. For the year ending April 2015, there were 3,614 admissions for assault with a sharp instrument which peaked at 5,720 in year ending March 20076. Of course, such incidents may not be representative of all knife-related crime.

Taken together, the above suggests the picture is a complex one with potential contributors to the reported rise in knife crime being improvements in recording processes, a genuine rise in knife crime, and a more proactive police response to it (for example, in July 2015, some police forces stepped up activity to tackle knife crime to coincide with the introduction of new sentencing guidelines for dealing with offender carrying knives).

Possession of a knife or sharp instrument also rose by 15% to 10,842 offences in the year to September 2015. This figure can often be influenced by increases in targeted police action in relation to knife crime.

Between year ending March 2011 and year ending March 2013, across all offence groups where it is possible to identify whether a knife or sharp instrument was used, the numbers of offences recorded by the police saw reductions. From year ending March 2013 to the year ending September 2015, with the exceptions of homicide and robbery offences, there have been increases in the numbers of offences where a knife or sharp instrument was used.

For some offence types, such as rape and sexual assault, the relatively low number of offences that involve the use of a knife or sharp instrument means the volume of these offences are subject to apparent large percentage changes, and should be interpreted with caution. For example, in the year ending September 2015, the number of rapes involving knife or sharp instrument increased by 26% (an additional 70 offences compared with the 271 recorded in the previous year).

Of the selected violent offences covered in Table 9b, around 5% involved a knife or sharp instrument in the year ending September 2015; this was the same proportion as that seen in the previous year.

Between year ending March 2011 and the year ending September 2015, the proportion of offences involving a knife or sharp instrument recorded by the police has remained relatively consistent across all offence groups.

Further analysis on offences involving knives or sharp instruments has been published in Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14.

Notes for offences involving knives and sharp instruments

  1. A sharp instrument is any object that pierces the skin (or in the case of a threat, is capable of piercing the skin), for example a broken bottle.

  2. Changes to offence codes in April 2012 mean the category of assault with injury and assault with intent to cause serious harm are not directly comparable with previous years. Appendix table A4 contains more details.

  3. Monthly Ambulance Service Incidents, Ward, November 2015, contains details of London Ambulance Service incidents, between October 2014 and October 2015, by type of injury.

  4. Comments on Twitter from police personnel.

  5. While it is a requirement to record every hospital admission, completing the field for external cause is not always done.

  6. Based on the latest National Health Service (NHS) Hospital Episode Statistics and hospital admissions due to assault (dated 24 July 2015). These do not include figures for Wales and relate to activity in English NHS hospitals. A graph based on financial years is available in the latest Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences release.

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9. Offences involving firearms

Similar to the breakdown of offences involving knives or sharp instruments, statistics are available for police recorded crimes involving the use of firearms other than air weapons. Firearms are taken to be involved in an offence if they are fired, used as a blunt instrument against a person, or used as a threat. Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14 has more detailed information on trends and the circumstances of offences involving firearms, including air weapons, recorded in year ending March 2014. Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, year ending March 2015 will be published on 11 February 2016.

Figures for the year ending September 2015 show 4,994 offences involving firearms (excluding air weapons) were recorded in England and Wales, a 4% increase compared with the previous year (4,779, Tables 10a and 10b). With the exception of the year ending March 2015, this is the first increase in these offences since 2008. As Figure 7 shows, this latest rise follows a generally downward trend from the peak in the years ending March 2005 and 2006. Despite this latest increase, the level of such offences is 55% below its peak. Offences involving firearms are thought to be less likely to have been affected by changes in recording practices due to their serious nature but there may be similar process improvements as seen with knife-related offences. Rises in firearm offences recorded by the Metropolitan Police Service are the main driver to the overall rise (an increase of 146 offences between the years ending September 2014 and 2015).

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10. Theft offences

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police recorded crime both measure various theft offences. Both series cover the headline categories of domestic burglary, vehicle-related theft, theft from the person, and bicycle theft. Theft of property from outside people’s homes (for example, garden furniture and tools) and theft of unattended property, as measured by the CSEW, are incorporated within the police recorded crime category “other theft”. Additionally, shoplifting offences, which are not included in the CSEW, are recorded by the police1. Separate data on shoplifting offences is also available from the Commercial Victimisation Survey.

There are substantial overlaps between theft offences in the 2 data series; however, the CSEW shows a larger volume as it includes incidents not reported to the police. Police recorded theft is broader, covering a wider variety of offences and victims; for example, police recorded theft includes theft against commercial victims and offences of handling stolen goods whereas the CSEW does not. Theft offences recorded by the police and the CSEW don’t include robbery as these are presented as a separate offence (as described in the ‘Robbery’ section).

Incidents of theft experienced by 10 to 15 year olds can be found in the ‘Crime experienced by children aged 10 to 15’ section of this bulletin.

Total theft offences (acquisitive crime) accounted for 59% of all incidents estimated by the CSEW (an estimated 3.9 million incidents) and 40% of all police recorded crime (1.8 million offences) in the year ending September 2015. The long-term trend in CSEW theft reflects the long-term trend in total CSEW crime. Latest estimates point to a further decline, with total theft offences decreasing by 6% from the previous year (from 4.2 million to 3.9 million incidents, which is the lowest number recorded since the survey began in 1981) (Appendix table A1 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

Since the financial year ending 2003, the number of police recorded theft offences has shown year-on-year decreases and is 49% lower in the year ending September 2015 than in the financial year ending 2003 (Figure 8). The latest figures show a 2% decrease compared with the previous year (Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet)). As theft offences make up a large percentage of police recorded crime, it is an important driver of the overall trend. However the decrease in theft has been offset by increases in other offence types which has resulted in a 6% increase in overall police recorded crime compared with the previous year.

Further analysis on theft offences, based on the year ending March 2015 CSEW, is available in Focus on Property Crime, 2014 to 2015.

Notes for theft offences

  1. Section 5.2 of the User Guide has more information.
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11. Theft offences - burglary

The year ending September 2015 Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimated 743,000 incidents of domestic burglary. The level of domestic burglary was at a similar level to the previous year with the apparent 5% decrease not statistically significant (Tables 11a and 11b). Over the longer term the CSEW indicates that incidents of burglary have fallen. From the mid-1990s to the year ending March 2005, survey estimates fell sharply followed by a period of gradual decline with some fluctuations (such as the increase seen in year ending March 2011). CSEW estimates for the year ending September 2015 remain 30% lower than those in the year ending March 2005 survey and 69% lower than those in the 1995 survey.

Around 2 in 100 households were victims of domestic burglary in the year ending September 2015 CSEW. This compares with around 9 in 100 households in the 1995 survey, meaning that households are around 4 times less likely to be a victim of burglary than in 1995 (Tables 11a and 11b). It is widely accepted that improvements to home security have been an important factor in the reduction seen in domestic burglary offences. More recently research (The heroin epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s and its effect on crime trends - then and now: Technical Report) has mapped the growth and decline in domestic burglary during the 1980s and 1990s with heroin and crack cocaine misuse, which follows a similar pattern and may have also been a contributory factor. Other potential factors are discussed in the ‘Existing theories on why property crime has fallen’ section of Focus on: Property Crime, 2014 to 2015.

Over time, the sub-categories of CSEW “domestic burglary in a dwelling” and “domestic burglary in a non-connected building to a dwelling” have followed similar patterns to that of domestic burglary overall. In the year ending September 2015, the apparent 6% decrease in incidents of “domestic burglary in a dwelling” and the 3% decrease in “domestic burglary in a non-connected building to a dwelling” compared with the previous year, were not statistically significant.

The Crime-recording: making the victim count report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that, an estimated 11% of burglary offences that should have been recorded as a crime were not. This level of under-recording was better than for all offences on average (19%).

The police recorded crime statistics measure both domestic burglaries (for example, those against inhabited dwellings) and non-domestic burglaries (for example, those against businesses)1. When compared with the previous year, domestic burglary decreased by 5% (from 204,151 offences to 193,733 offences) and non-domestic burglary decreased by 6% (from 222,449 to 209,390 offences) in the year ending September 2015 (Tables 12a and 12b). This continues the downward trend seen over many years and the latest level of overall burglary is around 59% of that recorded by the police in year ending March 2005.

Notes for theft offences - burglary

  1. Non-domestic burglary covers burglary in a building other than a dwelling, and includes burglaries of sheds and outhouses that do not have an entrance to the home. Section 5.2 of the User Guide has more details regarding this crime type.
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12. Theft offences - vehicle

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) covers offences against vehicles owned by any member of the household interviewed (including company cars). Estimates of CSEW vehicle-related theft for the year ending September 2015 were similar to that for the previous year, with the apparent 2% increase not statistically significant (Table 13a and 13b)1.

Over the longer term, the CSEW indicates a consistent downward trend in levels of vehicle-related theft, with the latest estimates being 79% lower than in 1995. As shown in Figure 10, the rate of reduction in vehicle offences since the mid-1990s has been striking. It is widely accepted that improvements to vehicle security has been an important factor in the reduction seen in vehicle offences. More recently research (The heroin epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s and its effect on crime trends - then and now: Technical Report) has linked the growth and decline in vehicle crime during the 1980s and 1990s with heroin and crack cocaine misuse. Other potential factors are discussed in the ‘Existing theories on why property crime has fallen’ section of Focus on: Property Crime, 2014 to 2015.

There were an estimated 889,000 vehicle-related thefts in the year ending September 2015 survey, similar to the previous year of 875,000 which is one of the lowest estimates since the survey began in 1981. Vehicle-owning households were around 5 times less likely to become a victim of vehicle-related theft in the year ending September 2015 than in 1995. In the year ending September 2015 CSEW, 4 in 100 vehicle-owning households were victims compared with around 20 in 100 households in the 1995 CSEW (Table 13a).

The police recorded crime category of vehicle offences covers both private and commercial vehicles and the number of offences recorded shows little change in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (Tables 14a and 14b). This follows substantial decreases in this offence group, with a fall of 56% compared with year ending March 2005, similar to the trend found in the CSEW.

Theft from a vehicle represented about two-thirds of vehicle offences recorded by the police in the year ending September 2015 and was the only category of vehicle offences to record a fall (down 7% to 237,151 offences) compared with the previous year (Tables 14a and 14b). Theft of a motor vehicle increased by 6% in the year ending September 2015 (from 74,582 to 78,738)2. This is the third consecutive quarter of increases in this category, and these recent rises are in contrast to the marked downward trend since the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) was introduced in year ending March 2003.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the increase may in part be caused by a recent increase in 2 wheeled vehicle thefts. For example, recent rises in parts of London have prompted the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) and City of London Police to establish ‘Operation Venice’. The operation included mass checks on parked mopeds, high visibility patrols in key hot spots, and raids on individuals suspected of stealing PTWs (powered two wheelers) or using them to commit crimes such as robbery.

Vehicle interference has increased by 55% (from 27,274 to 42,393) in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year. This increase is likely to be the result of a change in the guidance in April 2014 within the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) with respect to interpreting the motive of the offender in cases of vehicle interference. This change was designed to reduce the burden involved in determining which crime category to record the incident within. This is likely to have led to offences that previously might have been recorded as attempted theft of a vehicle now being recorded as vehicle interference where the motive of the offender was not clear. There has been a corresponding drop in theft of a vehicle which was down 7%, by 19,209 offences compared with the previous year.

The long term reductions in vehicle-related theft indicated by the CSEW and police recorded crime are in contrast to the number of motor vehicles licensed in Great Britain, which has increased by 42%, from 25.6 million at the end of June 1995 to 36.3 million at the end of June 2015 (Vehicle Licensing Statistics, April to June 2015)3.

Notes for theft offences - vehicle

  1. Section 5.2 of the User Guide has more details regarding this crime type.

  2. Theft of a motor vehicle figures include the subcategory aggravated vehicle taking in Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet).

  3. Based on the total number of licensed vehicles (including both private and commercial vehicles) in England, Scotland and Wales taken from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database.

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13. Theft offences - other theft of property

In addition to burglary and vehicle-related thefts, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police recorded crime both measure other theft of property, although they cover slightly different offences. In the CSEW this comprises: theft from the person, other theft of personal property, bicycle theft and other household theft. In police recorded crime there are categories for: theft from the person, bicycle theft, shoplifting and all other theft offences. There are further offence breakdowns available for all other theft offences listed in Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet).

Theft from the person – CSEW and police recorded crime

Theft from the person involves offences where there is theft of property, while the property is being carried by, or on the person of, the victim. These include snatch thefts (where an element of force may be used to snatch the property away) and stealth thefts (where the victim is unaware of the offence being committed, for example, pick-pocketing). Unlike robbery, these offences do not involve violence or threats to the victim.

In the year ending September 2015 CSEW, of all 437,000 theft from the person offences, 50% (218,000) were stealth thefts; there is more information in Appendix table A1 (887 Kb Excel sheet). Numbers of snatch thefts were much smaller, accounting for 9% of all theft from the person offences, while attempted snatch and stealth thefts made up the remaining 41%.

CSEW theft from the person showed no change in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year, the apparent 13% fall was not statistically significant (Tables 15a and 15b). Estimates of the volume of theft from the person offences have shown a slight downward trend over the period from the late 1990s, but are subject to some fluctuation due to the small numbers of victims interviewed in any one year (Figure 11).

The police recorded crime category of theft from the person accounts for around 2% of overall police recorded crime in the year ending September 2015. Latest figures showed a 4% decrease in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (Tables 16a and 16b). This is in contrast to increases in these offences recorded by the police between year ending March 2009 and year ending March 2013 in Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet). The latest decrease may, in part, be explained by improvements to mobile phone security and theft prevention1, as previously there was evidence that theft of smart phones was driving the upward trend in street crime, especially in London2.

Further analysis of theft from the person figures by police force area shows a mixed picture, with a small number of forces continuing to show increases while most show decreases. However, as with robbery, theft from the person offences are concentrated in the metropolitan areas, with 42% occurring in the Metropolitan Police force area alone in the year ending September 2015 (Table P1). The latest figures of theft from the person for the Metropolitan Police force area show a 2% increase compared with the previous year (Table P2). In addition, the British Transport Police (BTP), who cover crimes that occur on railways and on railway platforms and stations, accounted for 6% of the total thefts from the person offences in the year ending September 2015. BTP showed a 10% decrease in theft from the person offences compared with the previous year.

Other household theft – CSEW

This offence group consists of items stolen from outside the victim’s home, and thefts in the victim’s dwelling by someone entitled to be there, for example a tradesperson3. Overall, the year ending September 2015 survey estimated that there were 732,000 incidents of other household theft (Tables 15a and 15b), making up 11% of all CSEW crime.

There was no change in the level of other household theft based on interviews in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (the apparent 5% decrease was not statistically significant). The latest estimates show levels of other household theft are now under two-thirds of the level recorded in year ending March 2012, when figures peaked following a period of year-on-year increases starting in year ending March 2008, and about half of the level seen in the 1995 survey (Figure 11).

The large majority of other household thefts are accounted for by theft from outside a dwelling (89%). Generally these incidents are opportunistic in nature involving theft of garden furniture or household items or furniture taken from outside people’s homes4. The latest estimate for theft from outside a dwelling is 52% lower than the 1995 survey estimate (Appendix table A1 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

Other theft of personal property – CSEW

Other theft of personal property offences are those which involve items stolen from victims while away from the home, but not being carried on the person (such as theft of unattended property in pubs, restaurants, entertainment venues or workplaces). The apparent 12% decrease in CSEW other theft of personal property for year ending September 2015 compared with previous year, was not statistically significant (Tables 15a and 15b).

Looking at the longer term trend, other theft of personal property saw marked declines between the mid-1990s and the year ending March 2005 survey after which estimates fluctuated slightly but generally stayed around 1.0 million offences per year. The latest estimate of 737,000 offences is the lowest recorded by the survey since it began in 1981 and is around a third of the level seen in the 1995 survey.

Bicycle theft – CSEW and police recorded crime

CSEW estimates of bicycle theft showed no change compared with the previous survey year (the apparent 7% decrease was not statistically significant) (Tables 15a and 15b). The year ending September 2015 CSEW indicates that around 3% of bicycle owning households were victims of bicycle theft in the previous 12 months, down from 6% in the 1995 survey but unchanged from the previous year. This is one of the lower volume CSEW offence groups and can show large fluctuations from year-to-year. Appendix table A1 shows that, like other household theft, these incidents showed a marked decline between 1995 and the 1999 survey, with both small increases and decreases thereafter. The variability means that short term trends have to be interpreted with caution.

Bicycle thefts recorded by the police showed a small decrease of 6% in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (Tables 16a and 16b), remaining at a similar level seen from year ending March 2013 onwards, and slightly lower than levels seen in the years prior to this. The current level (89,004 offences) is the lowest since the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) was introduced in year ending March 2003.

Shoplifting – police recorded crime

Shoplifting accounted for 8% of all police recorded crime in the year ending September 2015. The police recorded 332,277 shoplifting offences in this period, a 3% increase compared with the previous year and the highest volume since the introduction of the NCRS in year ending March 2003. The longer term trend in shoplifting recorded by the police is different from that seen for other theft offences. While most theft offences saw steady declines over much of the last decade, levels of recorded shoplifting have shown comparatively little change over this time with small annual increases in recent years.

Across England and Wales there were 9,313 more shoplifting offences in the year ending September 2015 when compared with the previous year. There were reported increases in 28 of the 44 territorial police force areas in the year ending September 2015, with the Metropolitan Police force recording a 10% increase in these offences (Table P2).

The 2014 Commercial Victimisation Survey provides an alternative measure of shoplifting (referred to in the survey as “theft by customers”), which includes crimes not reported to the police as well as those that have been. Results from the 2014 survey, which relate to an earlier time period than the latest police recorded crime figures, provided evidence to suggest that the rise in shoplifting recorded by the police (in the year to March 2014 the police were recording a 7% increase in shoplifting) may not have reflected an increase in the actual level of such crimes. Compared with the previous year, the 2014 CVS showed no change in the level of theft by customers (the apparent 29% reduction was not statistically significant5, being based on a relatively small sample of between 1,000 and 2,000 premises in the wholesale and retail sector). However, estimates provided by the 2014 CVS were significantly down (36%) compared with the 2012 survey.

The apparent inconsistency between trends in shoplifting recorded by the police and the CVS may reflect an increase in reporting rates by businesses. While the changes were not statistically significant, the estimated proportion of shoplifting incidents that were reported to the police was 44% in 2014 compared with 42% in 2013 and 41% in 2012. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) have also reported6 that some retailers are adopting new policies leading to a greater proportion of shoplifting offences being reported.

Additionally, increased reporting is consistent with findings from a separate BRC survey which showed that while their members had experienced decreased levels of shoplifting in year ending March 2014 compared with year ending March 2013, the average value of losses experienced had risen. While it is still possible that there have been some genuine rises in the incidence of shoplifting the balance of evidence suggests that the increase in offences recorded by the police could reflect a change in reporting behaviour.

All other theft offences – police recorded crime

The remainder of police recorded theft offences fall into the category ’All other theft offences‘, which include offences such as blackmail, theft by an employee, and making off without payment (for example, driving away from a petrol station without paying). Within this overall category, there is also an ‘other theft’ offence sub-category, which comprises mostly of the theft of unattended items (including both personal property such as wallets or phones, and property from outside peoples’ homes, such as garden furniture, as well as metal theft). ‘Other theft’ accounts for 72% of the overall ‘all other theft offences’ category (Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

The most recent police recorded data showed a 2% decrease in all other theft offences, with 491,278 offences in the year ending September 2015 compared with 499,335 offences in the previous year. This decrease continues the downward trend recorded since year ending March 2004, although there has been some fluctuation of increasing numbers of all other theft offences (Figure 12) in year ending March 2011, year ending March 2012 and year ending September 2014.

As well as theft of unattended items, the police recorded ‘other theft’ sub-category also includes crimes against organisations that are not covered by the CSEW, such as theft of metal or industrial equipment from strategic infrastructure. ‘Other theft’ offences saw a 5% decrease for the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year (Appendix table A4). This follows a 13% increase between year ending March 2010 and year ending March 2012, which was likely to have been caused, in part, by a surge in metal theft (corresponding to a spike in metal prices) over this period. Evidence suggests that such offences are decreasing, a trend that has been linked to the new metal theft legislation, further information is available in the Home Office’s An evaluation of government/law enforcement interventions aimed at reducing metal theft. The legislation came into force in May 2013 and increased fines for offences under the Scrap Metal Dealers Act 1964, as well as introducing a new offence for dealers of paying for scrap metal in cash. The Focus on: Property Crime, 2014 to 2015 release also has further information on metal theft.

In the year ending September 2015, the police recorded 62,369 making off without payment offences, which was a 10% increase compared with the previous year. Previously there had been steep declines in this particular offence – despite this increase the latest figures remain around 11% lower than the 70,397 offences recorded in year ending March 2010 ( Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet) ).

Notes for theft offences - other theft of property

  1. The Home Office report Reducing mobile phone theft and improving security published in September 2014 has more information.

  2. Based on figures provided by the Metropolitan Police in relation to a freedom of information (FOI) request reported by London Evening Standard – 4 April 2013.

  3. Section 5.2 and Appendix 2 of the User Guide have more details on the offences that constitute CSEW other household theft.

  4. The Nature of Crime tables in Focus on: Property Crime, 2014 to 2015 have more details.

  5. Percentage changes have been calculated based on rates of “theft by customers” per 1,000 wholesale and retail premises in Crimes against businesses:findings from the 2014 CVS: confidence intervals and comparisons with 2012 and 2013 CVS.

  6. Referred to on page 19 of the British Retail Consortium Retail Crime Survey 2014.

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14. Criminal damage

Based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) in the year ending September 2015, there were around 1.3 million incidents of criminal damage of personal and household property. The apparent 9% decrease compared with the previous survey year was not statistically significant but follows a long downward trend (Tables 17a and 17b). Figure 13 shows the trend for criminal damage has followed a slightly different pattern compared with most other CSEW crime groups. Criminal damage peaked in the 1993 survey with 3.4 million incidents followed by a series of modest falls (when compared with other CSEW offence types) until the year ending March 2004 survey (2.4 million offences). There was then a short upward trend until the year ending March 2007 CSEW (2.9 million offences), after which there were falls to its current level, the lowest since the survey began.

Tables 17a and 17b show the downward trend in this offence group. There were statistically significant decreases when comparing the current figure with those from 5 and 10 years ago. This trend is also reflected in the decline in percentage of households victimised; around 4 in every 100 households were victims of criminal damage in the year ending September 2015, compared with around 10 in every 100 households in 1995.

In the latest year, there was a decrease in criminal damage to a vehicle (down 12%). There was no change in arson and other criminal damage compared with the previous year (the apparent 1% decrease was not statistically significant).

The police recorded crime criminal damage and arson category is a similar offence group (although this also includes victims beyond the household population, like businesses)1. The Crime-recording: making the victim count report, published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC), found that nationally, an estimated 14% of criminal damage and arson offences that should have been recorded as crimes were not; this level of under-recording is better than the national average of 19%. The ‘Accuracy of the statistics’ section has more information.

In the year to September 2015, there were 521,501 offences of criminal damage and arson recorded by the police, an increase of 5% since the previous year. (Tables 18a and 18b). Whilst arson increased by 15% to 21,085 offences, criminal damage saw a smaller increase of 4% to 500,416 offences. In the long term trends, criminal damage and arson offences have declined since year ending March 2004 and this follows a similar trend to the CSEW which followed similar declines in criminal damage since the year ending March 2010. The recent 4% increase in September 2015 in criminal damage recorded by the police compared with the previous year could be the result of action taken by police forces, following the publication of the HMIC report to improve their compliance with the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). The outcome of these enhanced recording practices is likely to have resulted in the increase in the number of criminal damage offences recorded. This has contributed to the increase in overall police recorded crime, which saw a 6% rise between year ending September 2014 and year ending September 2015.

Notes for criminal damage

  1. Section 5.3 of the User Guide has more details regarding this crime type.
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15. Other crimes against society

Other crimes against society are offences recorded by the police which do not generally have a specific identifiable victim. They make up around 10% of all police recorded crime. Trends in such offences tend to reflect changes in police workload and activity rather than in levels of criminality.

The group of offences is made of the following categories:

  • drug offences

  • possession of weapons offences

  • public order offences

  • miscellaneous crimes against society

Other crimes against society showed an increase of 5% compared with the previous year, with 420,826 offences recorded in the year ending September 2015 (Tables 19a and 19b). Figure 14 shows the trend over time and how each separate offence category contributes to the overall total.

Other crimes against society peaked in the year ending March 2008 (542,656 offences) after which there was a downward trend until the year ending March 2014, mainly driven by reductions in public order offences. The marked increases in the recording of these offences between the year ending March 2005 and the year ending March 2008, coincide with the priority placed on increasing the numbers of offences brought to justice associated with a previous government’s 2005 to 2008 Public Service Agreement targets. This is particularly reflected in the trend for drug offences and public order offences (the relevant sections have further details).

Drug offences

The police recorded 155,832 drug offences in the year ending September 2015, a decrease of 17% compared with the previous year. Figure 14 shows the trend over time for drug offences, where the number of drug offences steadily rose from the year ending March 2005 until the year ending March 2009 (peaking at 243,536 offences). They remained fairly consistent at around 230,000 each year until the year ending March 2012, after which they began to fall. Despite recent decreases, the number of drug offences recorded in the year ending September 2015 remains 9% higher than the number recorded in the year ending March 2003.

The number of drug offences recorded by the police is heavily dependent on police activities and priorities; changes over time may reflect changes in the policing of drug crime, rather than real changes in its incidence. The increases in the recording of drug offences between the year ending March 2005 and the year ending March 2009 coincide with the priority placed Public Service Agreement targets. For example, in the past decade the police have been granted powers to issue:

  • warnings on the street (rather than at a police station) for possession of cannabis offences (April 2004)

  • penalty notices for disorder for possession of cannabis (January 2009)

In the year ending September 2015, possession of cannabis offences accounted for 63% of all police recorded drug offences. Previously this proportion has remained broadly similar (between 61% and 70%).

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) can also be used to investigate trends in drug use. Relevant figures from the CSEW are compiled and published in an annual report by the Home Office: Drug Misuse: Findings from the 2014 to 2015 Crime Survey for England and Wales. The year ending March 2015 report showed that 8.6% of 16 to 59 year olds had taken an illicit drug in the last year, a similar level to the previous year.

Public order offences

Public order offences cover circumstances where an offender is behaving in a way that causes, or would be likely to cause, alarm, distress or disorder. If there is an identifiable victim against who physical violence is used (or attempted) then this will be recorded as a violent offence, though public order offences may include some offences where injury is threatened. The offences in this category include public fear, alarm or distress, and affray. A person is guilty of affray if they use or threaten unlawful violence towards another and their conduct is such as would cause a “person of reasonable firmness” present at the scene to fear for their personal safety.

The latest figures (182,568 offences) show a 27% increase in public order offences compared with the previous year (Table 19b). The majority of this category (63%) was made up of public fear, alarm or distress offences, which showed a 36% increase in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year; a rise that is likely to reflect improvements in recording practices. Racially or religiously aggravated public fear, alarm or distress offences also increased (by 20%) in the year ending September 2015, and other offences against the State or public order have increased by 9% on the previous year. Public order offences rose from the year ending March 2003 and peaked in the year ending March 2007 (236,661 offences) and have since shown year-on-year decreases until the year ending March 2013 (Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet)). However, the latest 2 financial years have seen increases reported, a rise of 21% in public order offences between year ending March 2013 and year ending March 2015. Like drug offences, increases in this offence can reflect more police activity and reporting, rather than actual changes in the levels of criminality. Furthermore, as with violent crime, public order offences are more prone to changes in police recording practices and anecdotal evidence from forces suggests a greater proportion of such incidents are being recorded as crimes.

Possession of weapons offences

This offence category covers only weapons possession offences, where there is no direct victim. Any circumstances in which a weapon has been used against a victim would be covered by other relevant victim-based offences. Information regarding offences where firearms or knives and sharp instruments have been used can be found in the ‘Offences involving firearms’ and ‘Offences involving knives or sharp instruments’ sections of this release.

The police recorded 23,855 possession of weapon offences in the year ending September 2015, a 14% increase compared with the previous year (20,987, Table 19a and 19b). The increase in possession of weapon offences may be attributed to proactive policing and better recording practices. The number of possession of weapons offences peaked in the year ending March 2005 (40,605 offences), before showing year-on-year decreases until the year ending March 2013 when, similar to public order offences, the numbers have begun rising again. The latest increase has been driven by a rise in the possession of an article with a blade or point1 (up 15%) and possession of firearms with intent (up 25%). Both these offences are now at their highest level since the year ending March 2011.

Miscellaneous crimes against society

Miscellaneous crimes against society comprises a variety of offences (Appendix table A4 has a full list). The largest volume offences include: handling stolen goods, threat to commit criminal damage, obscene publications and perverting the course of justice. The category of “Wildlife crime”, which was previously included in other notifiable offences, has been separated into its own category since the Crime Statistics, year ending June 2014 release. ‘Wildlife crime’ is a low volume offence, because the vast majority of wildlife offences are non-notifiable (that is, not recorded by the police) and dealt with at magistrates’ courts by other agencies, such as the National Crime Agency and the Border Force.

The police recorded 58,571 miscellaneous crimes against society offences in the year ending September 2015, an increase of 21% compared with the previous year (Table 19b). The number of offences has increased in the last 2 financial years, after previously showing year-on-year decreases since year ending March 2004.

The latest increase is, in part, driven by a large rise in the number of obscene publications and protected sexual material offences, which has increased by 98% to 10,683 offences in the year ending September 2015, when compared with the previous year (5,401 offences).This is largely due to an increase in offences related to the making and distribution of indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs (including those of children) via the internet or through mobile technology. It is an offence for a person to take or distribute such indecent photographs. The police service is reporting that they are giving more attention to child sexual exploitation and this is likely to have led to more of these offences being identified. People, including children taking indecent photographs of themselves, which are then passed on, are included in this offence category. In addition, due to the introduction of fly-tipping in this category as of April 2014, there was also a large rise in the number of other indictable or triable either way offences (increase of 46% to 5,851). It will take another year before there is a full comparator year for this offence category (when fly-tipping has been included for both the previous and current year).

There was also a large rise in threats to commit criminal damage (which includes possession of articles with the intent to commit criminal damage, such as spray paint), which increased by 56% from 7,164 offences in the year ending September 2014 to 11,162 offences in the year ending September 2015 (Appendix table A4 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

Notes for other crimes against society

  1. Recorded under 10D possession of an article with blade or point.
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16. Fraud

The extent of fraud is difficult to measure because it is a deceptive crime, often targeted indiscriminately at organisations as well as individuals. Some victims of fraud may be unaware they have been a victim of crime, or that any fraudulent activity has occurred. Others may be reluctant to report the offence to the authorities, feeling embarrassed that they have fallen victim. The level of fraud reported via administrative sources is thought to significantly understate the true level of such crime.

This section draws on a range of sources, including police recorded crime data and data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW). While no individual source provides a complete measure of the overall extent of fraud offences, together they help to provide a fuller picture. A note published alongside our previous bulletin, Improving crime statistics in England and Wales: Fraud, provides more information on what we know about the extent and nature of fraud in England and Wales and where there are gaps in the coverage of official statistics. There is also more information on the different sources of fraud data in Section 5.4 of the User Guide.

Fraud is an offence not currently included in the CSEW headline estimate. We are currently conducting work to extend the main victimisation module in the CSEW to cover elements of fraud and cyber-crime. There is further information in the data sources section of this bulletin and in the methodological note, Update – Extending the CSEW to include fraud and cyber crime. Initial findings from a recent field trial of newly developed survey questions can be found in the methodological note CSEW Fraud and Cyber-crime development: Field trial.

Recent changes to reporting and recording of fraud statistics

To reflect changes in operational arrangements for reporting and recording of fraud, data presented in the police recorded crime series include offences recorded by Action Fraud, a public facing national reporting centre that records incidents reported directly to them from the public and other organisations.

The police recorded crime series also now incorporates fraud data from 2 industry bodies; Cifas and Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK)1. Both routinely refer cases of fraud to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB), a government funded initiative run by the City of London Police, who lead national policing on fraud.

Cifas is a UK-wide fraud and financial crime prevention service working with around 350 organisations from the public and private sectors. These organisations mainly share data on confirmed cases of fraud, particularly application, identity and first party frauds, via the Cifas National Fraud Database. Data supplied by Cifas to the NFIB are recorded in line with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) for recorded crime.

FFA UK is responsible for coordinating activities on fraud prevention in the UK payments industry. FFA UK collates information relating to cheque, plastic card and online bank accounts via its Fraud Intelligence Sharing System (FISS) database2, and this is in turn provided to NFIB. Data supplied by FFA UK to the NFIB are recorded in line with the HOCR for recorded crime. FISS was designed as an intelligence tool, rather than a fraud reporting tool, and its main purpose is to share actionable intelligence about the criminals or entities relating to fraud offences rather than count the total numbers of fraud. Such cases form a relatively small subset of the total number of offences reported to FFA UK by its members which is provided in the section on ‘Card and bank account fraud not reported to the police’.

Although Action Fraud, Cifas and FFA UK all receive reports of fraud from victims across the UK, data presented in this bulletin cover fraud in England or Wales only3. Data on fraud are not currently included in sub-national tables as the data we currently receive are not broken down to police force area level.

There is further information on the types of fraud covered by Cifas and FFA UK and on how the data for England and Wales are derived in Section 5.4 of the User Guide.

The data from the 2 industry bodies relate only to those organisations that are part of the respective membership networks (the Cifas and FFA UK websites have details of membership). Coverage can therefore change as new members join or previous members withdraw, and while this could have an impact on trends in fraud, there have been few substantial changes in membership over recent years.

In addition while Cifas and FFA UK provide separate feeds to NFIB via their individual databases, a proportion of organisations are members of both industry bodies (including most of the large high street banks).

It is also possible that there may be some double or triple counting between both these sources and the offences recorded via direct reports from victims to Action Fraud. For example, if police are called to a bank and apprehend an offender for a fraud offence, the police may report this crime to Action Fraud in addition to the bank reporting the same crime to Cifas and/or FFA UK as part of their processes. Experts believe this duplication to be small, but there is no simple cross-referencing method within NFIB to detect the scale of it. We and the Home Office will be working with data providers to gain a better understanding of the scale of double counting.

Total recorded fraud offences - overall picture

In the year ending September 2015, a total of 604,601 fraud offences were recorded in England and Wales (Table 20a), and equivalent to 11 offences per 1,000 population. This represents a volume increase of 5% compared with the previous year (Table 20b).

Broken down by reporting body, fraud offences recorded by Action Fraud rose by 11% from the previous year, from 212,156 to 234,878 offences. Fraud offences referred to the NFIB by the 2 industry bodies combined totalled 369,720 in the year ending September 2015. Separately, fraud offences referred by Cifas showed a 15% increase compared with the previous year (from 246,477 offences to 283,654 offences); whereas those referred by FFA UK decreased by 27% (from 118,543 offences to 86,066 offences).

Victims of fraud may report incidents to Action Fraud via an online reporting tool or via a telephone helpline. In July 2015 the company that was contracted to provide the call centre service went into administration. This led to an immediate downscaling of the call centre operation. A new contractor, who was due to take over the Action Fraud call centre in April 2016, was asked to step into the breach and took over call centre operations in August 2015. However, as the new contractor was asked to step in at short notice it is likely that it may take some time before the Action Fraud call centre is operating back at similar capacity as previously.

These changes appear to have had an impact on the latest figures with the volumes of fraud offences recorded by Action Fraud in August and September 2015 lower than normal in the previous months. Given that the call centre was operating normally during most of the year ending September 2015, the impact on the latest figures is thought to be small. It is likely that the 11% increase in offences recorded by Action Fraud is likely to have been slightly lower that it would have otherwise been.

Types of fraud

Table 21 shows a more detailed breakdown of the types of fraud offences referred to the NFIB by Action Fraud4, Cifas and FFA UK in the year ending September 2015. A full breakdown is presented in Appendix table A5 (887 Kb Excel sheet).

Increases were seen across almost all categories of fraud recorded by the NFIB, with the largest volume increases in “banking and credit industry fraud” (up 8%, from 314,410 to 339,529 offences), “non-investment fraud” (up 9%, from 91,045 to 99,492 offences), “advance fee payments” (up 4%, from 39,324 to 41,004 offences) and “insurance fraud” (up 23%, from 8,454 to 10,436 offences).

Concerning the increase “banking and credit industry fraud”, most of this rise was in the volume of offences reported to the NFIB via Cifas (up from 176,087 to 227,044 offences). This rise was seen principally in the sub-category of frauds relating to “cheque, plastic card and online bank accounts” and is thought to have resulted from an increase in the volume of reported identity frauds in account applications (for example, applying to open a plastic card account using a false identity).

The number of “banking and credit industry fraud” offences referred to the NFIB by FFA UK fell in the year ending September 2015 compared with the previous year5 which is thought to reflect the changing fraud landscape. Only those offences that are deemed to have enough intelligence to allow a police investigation are passed on to the NFIB and FFA UK has advised that it has seen a reduction in the number of frauds which have actionable intelligence. These are typically, but not limited to, so-called third party frauds such as application fraud, account takeovers or fraud resulting from card non-receipt. Conversely, as seen in the CAMIS data (see section below on ‘Card and bank account fraud not reported to the police’ below), the volume of fraud incidents recorded by FFA UK has seen an increase compared to the previous year, that is, all fraud including those without actionable intelligence such as ‘remote purchase’ transactions which take place over the internet or via telephone. Therefore the decrease does not reflect a reduction in FFA UK recorded fraud but a reduction in those fraud offences where there is evidence available that the police could reasonably be expected to investigate.

The volume of “banking and credit industry fraud” reported to Action Fraud (26,419 offences) was less than 10% of the volume of such frauds referred to the NFIB by Cifas and FFA UK. This reflects the fact that many individuals who have experienced such crime will not report the incident to Action Fraud, especially if their financial services provider reimburses their losses6. Members of the public who report banking and credit card fraud to Action Fraud will not be included in the Action Fraud figures if their financial service provider reimburses their losses. Thus, the extent of double counting between Action Fraud and the industry sources is thought to be negligible.

The large majority of the increase seen in “insurance fraud” came from Cifas (FFA UK do not collect data on this type of fraud), and while this accounts for a relatively small proportion of total fraud offences recorded (2%), insurance related frauds reported to the NFIB via Cifas rose by 26% from the year ending September 2014 (from 7,530 to 9,483 offences). This is thought to have resulted specifically from a rise in insurance application frauds, largely due to an increase in the number of individuals attempting to get a cheaper policy by fraudulent means, for example, individuals supplying false addresses or ‘fronting’ an insurance policy (pretending to be the main driver on a car insurance policy when they are not).

Referrals within the category of “non-investment frauds” and “advance fee payments” came solely from reports to Action Fraud (neither Cifas nor FFA UK collect information on this form of fraud). “Non-investment frauds”7 made up 42% of all offences recorded by Action Fraud in the year ending September 2015 and increased by 9% from the year ending September 2014 (to 99,492 offences). Around 40% of non-investment frauds specifically related to frauds involving online shopping and auctions (40,363 offences). However much of the latest increase in this category of fraud was in “computer software service fraud” (up from 15,699 to 24,258 offences) (Appendix table A5 (887 Kb Excel sheet)). This involves the victim receiving a cold call from the fraudster who falsely claims that the victim has a problem with their computer and asks for payment to fix the problem.

Increases in the volume of “Advance fee payments” fraud8 recorded by Action Fraud were seen across many of its sub-categories, including lottery scams (where the victim is told they have won a lottery prize, and needs to pay a fee to release the winnings), dating scams (where the victim is befriended on the internet under false pretences and convinced to send money to the fraudster) and rental fraud (where prospective tenants are tricked into paying advanced fees or rent for premises which are not for rent).

Card and bank account fraud not reported to the police

Data referred to the NFIB by Cifas and FFA UK are known to exclude a significant volume of card and bank account fraud. For example, Cifas do not currently refer to NFIB cases of plastic card fraud where the cardholder and card are not present at the point of sale, such as use of the card online, over the phone or by mail order (this is known as “remote purchase” fraud). Neither do they refer cases of fraud resulting from cards being lost or stolen, or ATM fraud. In addition, FFA UK only refers crimes to the NFIB in cases where there is intelligence value for the police to aid in investigating and detecting fraud.

FFA UK does, however, collect information from its members on a broader range of bank account and plastic card frauds than those referred to the NFIB using a system referred to as CAMIS, and data from this source are shown in Table 229. While these figures are at UK level only, they offer a broader picture of the scale of bank account and plastic card fraud. It is important to note that these data also include those cases referred by FFA UK to the NFIB (presented in table 20).

In the year ending September 2015, FFA UK reported 1.4 million cases of frauds on UK-issued cards, cheque fraud, and remote banking fraud (internet and telephone banking)10, an increase of 4% from the previous year. This compares with a 5% decrease seen in the year ending June 2015. FFA UK believe the latest increase seen in financial fraud reflects the rise in attack levels being experienced at the current time as fraudsters continue to target customers directly.

Over 1 million (79%) of these cases were ‘telephone, internet and mail order fraud, referred to as “remote purchase” fraud, making it by far the largest category, followed by cases of fraud using lost and stolen cards which accounted for 10% of plastic card fraud (139,219 offences). Given the large volume of incidents, remote purchase frauds have been important in driving overall trends in plastic card fraud, which showed increases in volumes in year ending September 2014 and year ending September 2015. Levels seen in the other (lower volume) categories of plastic card fraud have tended to fluctuate, though the underlying trend shows that levels are higher now than 5 years ago. The trend is different for other payment types. As might be expected there have been year on year falls in volumes of cheque fraud, and although there was a large rise of remote banking fraud, an increase of 40% in the latest year, volumes were down by almost half compared with year ending March 2011.

Measuring fraud using the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW)

Fraud is not currently included in the headline CSEW crime estimates. However, for a number of years, the survey has included supplementary modules of questions on victimisation across a range of fraud and cyber-crime offences, including plastic card and bank or building society fraud. These are currently reported separately from the headline estimates.

We are currently conducting work to extend the main victimisation module in the CSEW to cover elements of fraud and cyber-crime. This has involved a large scale field trial which was carried out between May and August 2015 (more information is available in the methodological note ‘Extending the CSEW to include fraud and cyber crime’). The new questions are designed to cover a broad spectrum of fraud and computer misuse crimes, including those committed in person, by mail, over the phone and online. They also encompass a range of harm or loss, including incidents where the victim suffered no or little loss or harm, or experienced significant harm or loss and cases where losses were reimbursed by others (such as bank or credit card company). Preliminary results from this field trial were published in the briefing note on ‘Improving crime statistics in England and Wales: Developments in the coverage of fraud’. It is important to recognise that these new data are not simply uncovering new crimes, but finding better ways of capturing existing crime that has not been measured well in the past. It is not possible to say whether these new figures represent an increase or decrease compared with earlier levels and it will be some years before year on year comparisons can be reliably made. It is therefore not valid to simply add these new estimates to the existing CSEW estimates and compare them with the previous year’s total.

More detailed information on the field trial can be found in the methodological note ‘CSEW Fraud and Cyber-crime development: Field trial – October 2015’.

Plastic card fraud

For the last decade the survey has asked questions about respondents’ experience of plastic card fraud which is separate from the main victimisation module of the CSEW. The results from the survey showed that 4.5% of plastic card owners were victims of card fraud in the last year, a statistically significant decrease from the 5% estimated in the year ending September 2014. There have been small reductions in levels of plastic card fraud over the last few years, following a rise between the year ending March 2006 and year ending March 2010 surveys (Figure 15). In general, the CSEW trend in plastic card fraud has been consistent with those shown by FFA UK figures, with levels peaking around 2008 to 2010 followed by falls in subsequent years which were likely to be related to the introduction of chip and pin technology. However, the latest decline in the prevalence of plastic card fraud measured by the CSEW differs from the trend observed in FFA UK data, which showed a 4% rise. While the reasons for this difference are unclear at present as there are potentially many factors which can impact on either data series, the FFA UK data are likely to provide a more reliable indication of short term trends than CSEW estimates which can fluctuate in the short term due to sampling variability. Further information on trends in payment industry fraud based on industry data collated by FFA UK is available in ‘Fraud the Facts 2015’.

The current level of victimisation remains higher than more established offences, for example theft from the person and other theft of personal property (0.9% and 1.4% respectively, Table 15a). Further analysis, based on the year ending March 2015 CSEW, was published on 26 November 2015 as part of Focus on: Property Crime, 2014 to 2015.

Notes for fraud

  1. In previous quarterly bulletins figures for Cifas and FFA UK have been presented separately from the police recorded crime series at the UK level only. As of October 2015, data from all 3 bodies presented in our quarterly bulletins cover England and Wales. Both Action Fraud and Cifas are able to disaggregate data at an England and Wales level. An adjustment has to be made to FFA’s UK figures to produce an estimate for England and Wales. There is more information in Section 5.4 of the User Guide.

  2. This is a subset of a larger CAMIS database which FFA UK uses to collect information from its members on a broader range of bank account and plastic card frauds than those referred to the NFIB.

  3. In previous bulletins data for Cifas and FFA UK have been at the UK level only. Data in this bulletin cover England and Wales. In order to produce these figures an adjustment was made to the UK figures for FFA UK. This was done through calculating a weighting factor based on the breakdown of Cifas data to England and Wales level geography. There is more information in Section 5.4 of the User Guide.

  4. There is more information on the types of offences within each of the fraud categories in Section 5.4 of the User Guide and Appendix table A5 (887 Kb Excel sheet).

  5. All FFA UK data presented in Appendix table A5 relate to ‘banking and credit industry fraud’

  6. Where the bank reimburses the loss they may report the crime to an industry body such as Cifas or FFA UK.

  7. Examples of non-investment frauds include online shopping and auction, computer software service and ticket fraud.

  8. Examples of advance fee payment fraud are lottery scams, dating scams and rental fraud.

  9. FFA UK publish 6-monthly data on the volume of incidents of frauds on all payment types (including ‘remote purchase’), alongside data on financial fraud losses by the value of losses to customers. Fraud case volumes (2008 to 2014) and fraud losses (2004 to 2014) on UK-issued cards are reported in the Fraud The Facts 2015 publication.

  10. It is important to note that number of cases relates to the number of accounts defrauded, rather than the number of victims.

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17. Crime experienced by children aged 10 to 15

Since January 2009, the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) has asked children aged 10 to 15 resident in households in England and Wales about their experience of crime in the previous 12 months. The children’s survey differs from the main survey of adults in a number of ways and findings should be interpreted with greater care. Reasons for this include:

  • changes to the design of the children’s questionnaire during the first 3 years of the survey mean the estimates prior to the year ending March 2012 are not comparable with later years

  • the number of child interviews that take place in any year (around 3,000) is much smaller than for the main survey (approximately 35,000). This means estimates of crimes against children can fluctuate more than adult estimates and as a result trends can be difficult to interpret

  • in Experimental statistics on victimisation of children aged 10 to 15: Findings from the British Crime Survey for the year ending December 2009 the authors note, children are often involved in low-level incidents which may involve an offence in law but may not be viewed by participants, or others, as serious enough to amount to a crime. Two methods for classifying incidents recorded in the survey have been used – “preferred” and "broad". The “broad” measure counts all incidents which are legally defined as crimes, which may include very low-level incidents between children. The “preferred” measure takes into account factors which determine the severity of an incident (such as the level of injury, value of items stolen and relationship with the perpetrator). The analysis provided in this chapter uses the “preferred” measure; tables for the broad measure of crime are available in the Appendix tables1

Overall level of crime

Based on CSEW interviews in the year ending September 2015, there were an estimated 793,000 crimes experienced by children aged 10 to 15 using the preferred measure. This showed no change from the previous 12 months; the apparent 9% increase was not statistically significant (Appendix table A7 (887 Kb Excel sheet)). The number of crimes experienced by children aged 10 to 15 has decreased by around a quarter since year ending March 2012 (the earliest year that is directly comparable with year ending September 2015), similar to the scale of reduction seen in estimates of crime against the adult population (down 30% over the same period).

In the year ending September 2015, the survey estimated 13% of children aged 10 to 15 were victims of crime. The apparent 2 percentage point increase in the proportion of children aged 10 to 15 who were victims of crime compared with last year was not significantly significant.

Violent crime

There have been changes to the way in which 10 to 15 CSEW violence is presented in this bulletin and in the previous bulletin year ending June 2015. Robbery is now presented as a stand-alone category in the 10 to 15 CSEW statistics, to be consistent with the main survey. Violence in the 10 to 15 year old module of the CSEW has previously differed from the main survey as robbery has until now been included within this category. Robbery was included in the main CSEW count of violence until the year ending March 2014 bulletin when it was separated out into its own category and became consistent with the police recorded crime offence categories.

The CSEW estimates that there were around 399,000 incidents of violence against children aged 10 to 15 in the year ending September 2015 (Table 24). The apparent 22% increase compared with the previous survey year was not statistically significant (Appendix table A7 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

Robbery

For the year ending September 2015, the CSEW estimated 41,000 incidents of robbery experienced by children aged 10 to 15 (Table 24). The apparent 19% decrease compared with the previous survey year was not statistically significant but follows a downward trend; the current estimate is 53% lower than the estimate for the year ending March 2012, which was statistically significant (Appendix table A7 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

Property offences

For the children’s survey, property offences are restricted to personal crimes only. Any household theft or criminal damage to the house or vehicle will be recorded when the adult respondent from the household completes the survey themselves.

Three offences from the children’s data – theft from or outside the dwelling, bicycle theft, and criminal damage – are all designated as household offences for adults on the CSEW. These are restricted to occasions where the property stolen or damaged belonged solely to the child respondent. This methodology is designed to restrict the possibility of double counting within the estimates, however some may still remain.

In the survey for the year ending September 2015, there were 259,000 incidents of theft, and 94,000 incidents of criminal damage to personal property experienced by children aged 10 to 15 (Table 25). In all, 6% of children were victims of theft at least once, with the largest theft category being other theft of personal property (4% of children were victims); 2% experienced criminal damage to personal property (Appendix table A9 (887 Kb Excel sheet)).

Given the small sample size for the 10 to 15 year old element of the CSEW, trends in these estimates can fluctuate, and as a result can be difficult to interpret. However, since year ending March 2012 most property offences experienced by children have shown a general downward trend.

The latest Focus on property crime publication 2014 to 2015 outlines the most common items stolen among children aged 10 to 15, were mobile phones representing nearly 1 in 5 personal items stolen.

Notes for crime experienced by children aged 10 to 15

  1. More information about the preferred and broad measures of crime against children can be found in the User Guide.
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18. Anti-social behaviour

Incidents recorded by the police

Figures recorded by the police relating to anti-social behaviour (ASB) can be considered alongside police recorded (notifiable) crime to provide a more comprehensive view of the crime and disorder that comes to the attention of the police. It is important to note that any incident of ASB which results in a notifiable offence will be included in police recorded crime figures (and excluded from the ASB counts). This is to ensure there are no overlaps between the 2 series.

The police record ASB incidents in accordance with the National Standard for Incident Recording (NSIR); Section 5.7 of the User Guide has further details. These figures are not currently accredited National Statistics. A review by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in 2012 found significant variation in the recording of ASB incidents across police forces. It is also known that occasionally police forces may be duplicating some occurrences of a singular ASB incident where multiple reports by different callers have been made.

Following the HMIC review in 2012, it was also found that there was a wide variation in the quality of decision making associated with the recording of ASB1. HMIC found instances of:

  • forces failing to identify crimes, instead wrongly recording them as ASB

  • reported ASB not being recorded on force systems, for instance if the victim had reported it directly to the neighbourhood team or via email (as opposed to by telephone)

  • reported ASB being recorded as something else, such as suspicious behaviour

  • incidents that were not ASB being recorded as ASB

Furthermore, data on ASB incidents before and after the year ending March 2012 are not directly comparable, owing to a change in the classification used for ASB incidents. From April 2012, ASB incidents also include data from the British Transport Police, so direct comparisons can only be made from year ending March 2013 onwards. The police recorded 1.9 million incidents (which includes data from the British Transport Police) of ASB in the year ending September 2015. This compares with the 4.3 million notifiable crimes recorded by the police over the same period (Figure 16). The number of ASB incidents recorded by the police in the year ending September 2015 decreased by 9% compared with the previous year, continuing a downward trend.

From the year ending March 2012, a new set of 3 simplified categories for ASB was introduced (further details are available in Chapter 5 of the User Guide):

  1. “Nuisance” captures incidents where an act, condition, thing or person causes trouble, annoyance, irritation, inconvenience, offence or suffering to the local community in general rather than to individual victims.

  2. “Personal” captures incidents that are perceived as either deliberately targeted at an individual or group, or having an impact on an individual or group rather than the community at large.

  3. “Environmental” captures incidents where individuals and groups have an impact on their surroundings, including natural, built and social environments.

All forces adopted these new definitions, though in the HMIC report: A step in the right direction: The policing of anti-social behaviour it was found that 35% of all incidents reviewed were incorrectly categorised; this should be taken into account when considering ASB incident figures.

In the year ending September 2015, 68% of the ASB incidents categorised by the police were identified as nuisance; 26% as personal; and 6% as environmental (Figure 17). This distribution may reflect propensity of reporting rather than the actual distribution of ASB by type.

CSEW measures of anti-social behaviour

Questions about respondents’ actual experiences of ASB in their local area were added to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) from the year ending March 2012 to expand on existing questions about perceived ASB. These questions asked whether the respondent had personally experienced or witnessed ASB in their local area and, if so, what types.

In the year ending September 2015, 28% of adults indicated that they had personally experienced or witnessed at least one of the ASB problems asked about in their local area in the previous year (Table 26), which has not changed from the previous year2. This included 10% of adults who experienced or witnessed drink related anti-social behaviour and 8% who witnessed or experienced groups hanging around on the streets.

The CSEW also contains a separate set of questions asking respondents about perceptions of problems with different types of ASB in their local area; 7 of these are used to provide an overall index of perceived ASB. In the year ending September 2015 CSEW, 11% of adults perceived there to be a high level of ASB in their local area (Table 27), which was no change on the previous year.

Since the year ending March 2005 the CSEW has consistently estimated that around a quarter of adults perceive a problem in their local area with “people using or dealing drugs” and almost a third perceive “rubbish or litter lying around” as a problem in their local area. Other anti-social behaviour indicators have tended to show declines over this time period, with the most pronounced decline for the “abandoned or burnt-out cars” category, which peaked at 24% in year ending March 2003 ( Table D9 (622.2 Kb ZIP) ) and has subsequently fallen each year down to 3% of adults in the year ending September 2015 (Table 27).

It is difficult to directly compare the 2 CSEW measures (perceptions of and experiences of ASB); the list of ASB categories used in the experience-based questions is more expansive than those asked of respondents in relation to their perceptions. They also measure different things: actual experiences and perceptions. It is likely someone can experience an ASB incident without necessarily believing that it is part of a problem in their local area, if it was an isolated occurrence, for example. The frequency or number of incidents experienced, coupled with the perceived extent and seriousness of a problem, will also vary from person to person.

Notes for anti-social behaviour

  1. The HMIC report: A step in the right direction: The policing of anti-social behaviour has further details.

  2. The apparent 0.7 percentage point change was not statistically significant.

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19. Other non-notifiable crimes

The police recorded crime series is restricted to offences which are, or can be, tried at a Crown Court and a few additional closely related summary offences1. A range of non-notifiable offences may be dealt with by the police issuing an out of court disposal or by prosecution at court. Offences dealt with at court may also include some offences that have been identified by other agencies – for example, prosecutions by TV Licensing or by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) for vehicle registration offences.

Data on these offences provide counts of offences where action has been brought against an offender and guilt has either been ascertained in court, or the offender has admitted culpability through acceptance of a penalty notice. These offences generally only come to light through the relevant authorities looking to identify offending behaviour. These figures help fill a gap in the coverage of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and police recorded crime statistics.

The most recent data available on non-notifiable crimes are for the year ending June 2015. Main findings include:

  • cases brought to court in the year ending June 2015 resulted in over 1.0 million convictions for non-notifiable offences, an increase of 5% from the previous year (Tables 28a and 28b)2: convictions for speeding offences and prosecutions for TV licence evasion were the main drivers of this increase

  • around 25,000 Penalty Notices for Disorder (PND) were issued for non-notifiable offences in the year ending June 2015, a decrease of 20% from the previous year3

The use of PNDs has been decreasing year on year since the peak in the 12 months ending June 2007. The decrease in the number of PNDs issued followed a number of reforms. Since April 2008 there was more emphasis on the target to bring serious crime to justice rather than to increase offences brought to justice (OBTJ). This was followed by a restriction on the use of PNDs to adults only from April 2013.

Further information on non-notifiable crimes is available in Criminal Justice Statistics Quarterly Update to June 2015.

The police and, increasingly, local authorities, have powers to issue penalty notices for a range of traffic offences; the police issued over 1 million Fixed Penalty Notices (73% of which related to speeding) in 20144.

Notes for other non-notifiable crimes

  1. The Notifiable Offence List includes all indictable and triable-either-way offences (that is, offences which could be tried at a Crown Court) and a few additional closely related summary offences (which would be dealt with by magistrates’ courts). Appendix 1 of the User Guide has more information on the classifications used for notifiable crimes recorded by the police.

  2. The latest figures available from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) relate to all offences for the year ending June 2015 and thus lag the CSEW and police recorded series by 3 months but are included to give a fuller picture.

  3. Figures from the MoJ’s Criminal Justice Statistics Quarterly Update to June 2015 (Tables 1.2, 2.1, 3.4).

  4. Figures from the Home Office’s Police powers and procedures England and Wales year ending 31 March 2015: data tables.

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20. Commercial Victimisation Survey

The Commercial Victimisation Survey (CVS) is a telephone survey in which respondents from a representative sample of business premises in certain sectors in England and Wales are asked about crimes experienced at their premises in the 12 months prior to interview. Surveys took place in 2012, 2013 and 2014, having previously run in 1994 and 2002. The next release of the CVS is planned for publication on 28 April 2016.

The 2014 CVS1 provided information on the volume and type of crime committed against business premises in England and Wales across 3 sectors: “wholesale and retail”; “accommodation and food”; and “agriculture, forestry and fishing”. Between them, these 3 sectors accounted for just under a third of all business premises in England and Wales in 2014.

The 2013 and 2012 CVS’s covered a slightly different set of business sectors. For 20132 the same sectors as 2014 were covered with the addition of “arts, entertainment and recreation”. The 20123 CVS also included “wholesale and retail”; “accommodation and food”; and additionally “manufacturing”; and “transportation and storage”.

Headline figures for the number of crimes against businesses' premises in the sectors covered by the CVS are included in this bulletin.

In the 2014 CVS, there were an estimated total of 4,123,000 crimes experienced by business premises in the wholesale and retail sector. The apparent decrease of 30% compared with the 2013 CVS (5,915,000 crimes) was not statistically significant. However, comparing the 2014 CVS with the 2012 CVS there was a 47% statistically significant decrease. Between the 2012 and 2014 surveys, estimated levels of shoplifting and burglary showed statistically significant decreases.

In the accommodation and food sector, the 2014 CVS estimated a total of 565,000 crimes against premises. The apparent 2% fall compared with the 2013 CVS (575,000 crimes) was not statistically significant. However, comparing the 2014 CVS with the 2012 CVS (985,000 crimes) there was a 43% statistically significant decrease over this time period. Between the 2012 and 2014 surveys, estimated levels of theft and burglary showed statistically significant decreases.

In the 2014 CVS, there were an estimated total of 95,000 crimes experienced by business premises in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector. The apparent decrease of 29% compared with the 2013 CVS (133,000 crimes) was not statistically significant. This sector was not included in the 2012 CVS.

Of the 3 sectors surveyed in 2014, the highest levels of victimisation were seen for “wholesale and retail” premises (41% of premises experienced crime) and victimisation was least prevalent in “agriculture, forestry and fishing” premises (26% of premises experienced crime in the 2014 CVS).

Notes for Commercial Victimisation Survey

  1. The Home Office’s 2014 findings: Crimes against businesses: Findings from the 2014 Commercial Victimisation Survey.

  2. The Home Office’s 2013 findings: Headline findings from the 2013 Commercial Victimisation Survey and Detailed findings from the 2013 Commercial Victimisation Survey.

  3. The Home Office 2012 findings: Headline findings from the 2012 Commercial Victimisation Survey and Detailed findings from the 2012 Commercial Victimisation Survey.

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21. Data sources - coverage and coherence

Crime Survey for England and Wales

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) is a face-to-face survey in which people resident in households in England and Wales are asked about their experiences of crime in the 12 months prior to the interview. It covers both children aged 10 to 15 and adults aged 16 and over, but does not cover those living in group residences (such as care homes, student halls of residence and prisons), or crimes against commercial or public sector bodies. Respondents are interviewed in their own homes by trained interviewers using a structured questionnaire that is administered on a laptop computer using specialist survey software. The questions asked do not use technical terms or legal definitions, but are in plain English.

The information collected during the interview is later reviewed by a team of specialist coders employed by the survey contractors (currently TNS-BMRB) who determine whether or not what was reported amounts to a crime in law and, if so, what offence has been experienced. This “offence coding” aims to reflect the Home Office Counting Rules for recorded crime that govern how the police record offences reported to them. The CSEW is able to capture all offences experienced by those interviewed, not just those that have been reported to, and recorded by, the police. It covers a broad range of victim-based crimes experienced by the resident household population. However, there are some serious, but relatively low volume offences, such as homicide and sexual offences, which are not included in its main estimates. Other crimes such as plastic card fraud are limited in their scope and are not part of the main survey.

Whilst the CSEW has changed little over the last 30 years, the ways in which some crimes are being committed has. Criminals can now take advantage of new technologies such as the internet to both expand the scope of existing crime types and develop new ones, particularly in the area of fraud which has spawned new methods of committing crimes. As questions aimed at identifying fraud and other cyber offences were not part of the original survey design, it has not been possible to include these new offences in the main estimate of CSEW crime.

To address this issue, we have been engaged in a programme of work to place questions relating to fraud and cybercrime onto the survey. The research has involved several stages of development culminating in a large scale field trial, which took place between 20 May and 9 August 2015. The aim of the trial was to replicate the existing CSEW with the addition of the new fraud and cyber-crime questions. The findings of the field trial and its recommendations, including estimates of fraud and cybercrime, were published in a report Methodological note - CSEW Fraud and Cyber-crime development: Field trial - October 2015 (382.4 Kb Pdf) alongside the statistical bulletin for the year ending June 2015.

Following the success of the field trial we introduced the new questions relating to fraud and cybercrime onto half the survey sample from October 2015. This means that from March 2016 sufficient data will have been gathered to produce estimates of fraud and cybercrime using these new data. These estimates will be released in July 2016 with the regular quarterly release for the year ending March 2016.

Since it began, the CSEW has been conducted by an independent (from government or the police) survey research organisation using trained interviewers to collect data from sampled respondents. The interviewers have no vested interest in the results of the survey. For the crime types and population groups it covers, the CSEW has a consistent methodology and is unaffected by changes in levels of public reporting to the police, recording practice or police activity. As such, the survey is widely seen to operate as an independent reality-check of the police figures. The independence of the survey has been further strengthened by the transfer of responsibility from the Home Office to us in April 2012.

The CSEW has a higher number of reported offences than police recorded crime as the survey is able to capture all offences by those interviewed, not just those that have been reported to the police and then recorded. However, it does cover a narrower range of offences than the police recorded crime collection.

The CSEW has necessary exclusions from its main count of crime (for example, homicide, crimes against businesses and other organisations, and drug possession). The survey also excludes sexual offences from its main crime count given the sensitivities around reporting this in the context of a face-to-face interview. However, at the end of the main interview there is a self-completion element (via a computer), where adults aged 16 to 59 are asked about their experience of domestic and sexual violence, and these results are reported separately1.

Since the survey started in 1982 (covering crime experienced in 1981) a core module of victimisation questions has asked about a range of offences experienced either by the household (such as burglary) or by the individual respondent (such as robbery). The methodologies employed have remained unchanged since the survey started enabling a consistent measure of crimes committed against individuals to be created over the last 30 years. One such methodology involves the estimates only including the first 5 incidents in any series of repeat crimes (known as capping) in order to ensure that estimates are not affected by respondents who report an extremely high number of crimes which may be variable between years. With recent attention placed on where the cap currently sits2 (with only the first 5 incidents included), we have initiated a programme of work to investigate the effect of capping on a range of crime types and whether increasing the cap (or removing it entirely) would improve the estimates. Further information on the programme of work being conducted by us in relation to capping is available in the methodological note ‘High frequency repeat victimisation in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (100.1 Kb Pdf)’.

Since the survey is based on a sample of the population, estimates have a margin of quantifiable and non quantifiable error associated with them. Non quantifiable includes:

  • when respondents have recalled crimes in the reference period that actually occurred outside that period (“telescoping”)

  • crimes that did occur in the reference period that were not mentioned at all (either because respondents failed to recall a fairly trivial incident or, conversely, because they did not want to disclose an incident, such as a domestic assault)

  • respondents saying they reported a crime to the police when they did not (a “socially desirable” response)

  • some incidents reported during the interview being miscoded (“interviewer/coder error”)

In 2009, the CSEW was extended to cover children aged 10 to 15, and this release also incorporates results from this element of the survey. However, the main analysis and commentary is restricted to adults and households due to the long time series for which comparable data are available.

The CSEW has a nationally representative sample of around 35,000 adults and 3,000 children (aged 10 to 15 years) per year. The response rates for the survey in year ending March 2015 were 70% for adults and 60% for children. The survey is weighted to adjust for possible non-response bias and to ensure the sample reflects the profile of the general population. The CSEW technical report has more details of the methodology.

Police recorded crime and other sources of crime statistics

Police recorded crime figures are supplied by the 43 territorial police forces of England and Wales, plus the British Transport Police, via the Home Office, to us. The coverage of police recorded crime is defined by the Notifiable Offence List3, which includes a broad range of offences, from murder to minor criminal damage, theft and public order offences. However, there are some, mainly less serious offences, that are excluded from the recorded crime collection. These ‘non-notifiable’ crimes include many incidents that might generally be considered to be anti-social behaviour, but that may also be crimes in law (including by-laws) such as littering, begging and drunkenness. Other non-notifiable offences include driving under the influence of alcohol, parking offences and TV licence evasion. These offences are not covered in either of the main 2 series and are separately reported on in this release to provide additional context.

Police recorded crime is the primary source of sub-national crime statistics and for relatively serious, but low volume, crimes that are not well measured by a sample survey. It covers victims (including, for example, residents of institutions and tourists as well as the resident population) and sectors (for example, commercial bodies) excluded from the CSEW sample. Recorded crime has a wider coverage of offences, for example covering homicide, sexual offences, and crimes without a specific, identifiable victim (referred to as “other crimes against society”) not included in the main CSEW crime count. Police recorded crime also provides good measures of well-reported crimes, but does not cover any crimes that are not reported to, or discovered by, the police. It is also affected by changes in reporting and recording practices. Like any administrative data, police recorded crime will be affected by the rules governing the recording of data, by the systems in place, and by operational decisions in respect of the allocation of resources.

As well as the main police recorded crime series, there are additional collections providing detail on offences involving the use of knives and firearms, which are too low in volume to be measured reliably by the CSEW.

This quarterly statistical bulletin also draws on data from other sources to provide a more comprehensive picture. These include incidents of anti-social behaviour recorded by the police (which fall outside the coverage of notifiable offences), non-notifiable crimes dealt with by the courts (also outside the coverage of recorded crime or the CSEW), crime reports from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau and the results of the Commercial Victimisation Surveys (based on a nationally representative sample of business premises in selected sectors each year).

More details of these sources can be found in the User Guide to Crime Statistics for England and Wales. Information on UK and international comparisons can be found in the ‘International and UK comparisons’ section of this bulletin.

Notes for data sources - coverage and coherence

  1. Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2013/14 has more detailed information.

  2. For example, the article ‘Official Statistics Mask Extent of Domestic Violence in the UK’ authored by Professor Sylvia Walby, published on The Conversation, 15 June 2015.

  3. The Notifiable Offence List includes all indictable and triable-either-way offences (offences that could be tried at a crown court) and a few additional closely related summary offences (which would be dealt with by magistrates’ courts). Appendix 1 of the User Guide has more information on the classifications used for notifiable crimes recorded by the police.

  4. From 1 October 2015, the offence coverage of the CSEW was extended to include fraud experienced by the adult population. Estimates from these new questions will not be available until mid-2016 and are not currently included in the headline CSEW estimates.

  5. Section 3.3 of the User Guide has more information.

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22. Accuracy of the statistics

Being based on a sample survey, Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimates are subject to a margin of error. Unless stated otherwise, all changes in CSEW estimates described in the main text are statistically significant at the 5% level. Since the CSEW estimates are based on a sample survey, it is good practice to publish confidence intervals alongside them; these provide a measure of the reliability of the estimates. Details of where these are published, including further information on statistical significance can be found in Chapter 8 of the User Guide.

Police recorded crime figures are a by-product of a live administrative system that is continually being updated as incidents are logged as crimes and subsequently investigated. Some incidents initially recorded as crime may, on further investigation, be found not to be a crime and are then described as “cancelled records”. Other justifications for a previously recorded crime being a “cancelled record’’ include, an incident being recorded in error, or transferred to another force. Some offences may change category, for example from theft to robbery (Section 3.2 of the User Guide has further details of the process involved from recording a crime to the production of statistics). The police return provisional figures to the Home Office on a monthly basis and each month they may supply revised totals for previously supplied months. The Home Office Statistics Unit undertake a series of validation checks on receipt of the data and query outliers with forces who may then re-submit data. Details of these validation checks are given in Section 3.3 of the User Guide, and the differences in data published between the current and preceding publications can be found in Table QT1a (227.5 Kb Excel sheet).

Police recording practice is governed by the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) and the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). The HOCR have existed in some form since the 1920s, with substantial changes in 1998.

The NCRS was introduced in April 2002 following a critical report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in 2000 (Povey, 2000), which showed there was a problem with differing interpretation of the HOCR that resulted in inconsistent recording practices across forces.

The Audit Commission carried out regular independent audits of police data quality between year ending March 2004 and year ending March 2007. In their final assessment, published in September 2007 (Audit Commission, 2007), they commented that “The police have continued to make significant improvements in crime recording performance and now have better quality crime data than ever before”.

However, both the UK Statistics Authority (2010) and the National Statistician (2011) have highlighted concerns about the absence of such periodic audits. A HMIC quality review in 2009 into the way in which police forces record the most serious violence (which at the time was part of a central government target) found some variation in recording, which they partly attributed to the lack of independent monitoring of crime records. In line with a recommendation by the National Statistician, HMIC carried out a review of police crime and incident reports in all forces in England and Wales during 2011 (The crime scene: A review of police crime and incident reports HMIC, 2012) and a full national inspection of crime data integrity was undertaken during 2014 (Crime-recording: making the victim count HMIC, 2014).

Our analysis published in January 2013 used a “comparable” sub-set of offences covered by both the CSEW and police recorded crime in order to compare the relationship between the 2 series. This analysis showed that between the years ending March 2003 and 2007 the reduction in the volume of crime measured by the 2 series was similar, but between the years ending March 2007 and 2012 the gap between the 2 series widened, with the police recorded crime series showing a faster rate of reduction. A possible explanation for this is a gradual erosion of compliance with the NCRS, such that a growing number of crimes reported to the police were not being captured in crime recording systems. The Analysis of Variation in Crime trends (175.4 Kb Pdf) methodological note has more details.

Statistics based on police recorded crime data do not currently meet the required standard for designation as National Statistics.

Additionally, as part of the inquiry by the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) into crime statistics allegations of under-recording of crime by the police have been made. In the PASC inquiry, the Chief Inspector of Constabulary, Sir Tom Winsor, outlined how HMIC would be undertaking an inspection of the integrity of police recorded crime during 2014. Findings from the inspections of crime recording processes and practices have helped provide further information on the level of compliance across England and Wales.

HMIC’s inspection methodology involved audits of a sample of reports of crime received either through incidents reported by the public, crimes directly reported to a police crime bureau, and those reports referred by other agencies directly to specialist departments within a force. HMIC’s aim was to check whether correct crime recording decisions were made in each case. Inspections were carried out between December 2013 and August 2014; a total of 10,267 reports of crime recorded between November 2012 and October 2013 across all 43 police forces in England and Wales were reviewed.

The final report on findings from the HMIC inspections, Crime-recording: making the victim count, was published on 18 November 2014 and separate crime data integrity force reports for each of the 43 police forces in England and Wales were published on 27 November 2014.

Based on an audit of a large sample of records, HMIC concluded that, across England and Wales as a whole, an estimated 1 in 5 offences (19%) that should have been recorded as crimes were not. The greatest levels of under-recording were seen for violence against the person offences (33%) and sexual offences (26%). However, there was considerable variation in the level of under-recording across the different offence types investigated. For other crime types: an estimated 14% of criminal damage and arson offences that should have been recorded as crimes were not; 14% of robbery offences; 11% of burglary offences; and 17% of other offences (excluding fraud).

The final HMIC report outlines several recommendations to strengthen recording practices in forces including improved training for those involved in crime recording, better auditing and tightening of recording processes. More detail can be found in the User Guide.

Current increases seen in both certain crime types in police recorded crime data, and across various police forces, are likely to be influenced by the implementation of the HMIC recommendations. As a result these trends should be interpreted with caution.

Further evidence suggesting that there has been a recent improvement in compliance with the NCRS can be seen from updated analysis comparing trends in the CSEW and police recorded crime (presented in Section 4.2 of the User Guide). This shows that the gap between the 2 series is narrowing; suggesting that improvements to recording practices may be partly responsible for increases in recorded crime.

Interpreting data on police recorded crime

The renewed focus on the quality of crime recording means that caution is needed when interpreting statistics on police recorded crime. While we know that it is likely that improvements in compliance with the NCRS have led to increases in the number of crimes recorded by the police, it is not possible to quantify the scale of this, or assess how this effect varied between different police forces. Police recorded crime for England and Wales as a whole has increased by 6% when compared with the previous year, and 33 police forces have recorded overall increases in levels of crime.

Apparent increases in police force area data may reflect a number of factors including tightening of recording practice, increases in reporting by victims and also genuine increases in the levels of crime.

It is thought that incidents of violence are more open to subjective judgements about recording and thus more prone to changes in police practice. A number of forces have also shown large increases in sexual offences, which are likely to be due to the “Yewtree effect”, although improved compliance with recording standards for sexual offences is also likely to have been a factor.

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23. Users of crime statistics

There is significant interest in crime statistics and a diverse range of users. These include elected national and local representatives (such as MPs, Police and Crime Commissioners and local councillors), police forces, those delivering support or services to victims of crime, lobby groups, journalists, academic researchers, teachers and students.

These statistics are used by central and local government and the police service for planning and monitoring service delivery and for resource allocation. The statistics are also used to inform public debate about crime and the public policy response to it. Further information about the uses of crime statistics is available in the Crime Statistics Quality and Methodology Information report.

From November 2014 to January 2015 we conducted a user engagement exercise to help assess the extent to which police recorded crime statistics meet users’ needs in light of concerns over the quality of the data raised by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) in its recent report Crime Recording: making the victim count. We asked users if the findings would affect how people used the data, and how we might improve the statistics to better meet user needs. Feedback from users who took part indicated that:

  • the majority will continue to use Police Recorded Crime Statistics, despite some concerns over their accuracy

  • many said that it was now more important to continue to have clear commentary in statistical bulletins to highlight the limitations of the data

  • many said they would use the data more cautiously in future and apply more caveats

  • the majority used Police Recorded Crime data, because it is the best source available or the only data that fulfils their purpose

  • the majority thought it was very important or fairly important to have an improved level of accuracy for them to continue using the statistics

A fuller report detailing responses to the user engagement exercise was published in May 2015.

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24. International and UK comparisons

There are currently no recognised international standards for crime recording. International comparisons are limited due to the differing legal systems that underpin crime statistics and processes for collecting and recording crimes.

Crimes recorded by the police

The system for recording crime in England and Wales by the police is widely recognised by international standards to be one of the best in the world. Few other jurisdictions have attempted to develop such a standardised approach to crime recording and some of those that have base their approach on the England and Wales model (for example, Australia, Northern Ireland). Therefore, it is difficult to make international comparisons of levels of recorded crime given the lack of consistency in definitions, legal systems and police or criminal justice recording practices.

The legal system in Northern Ireland is based on that of England and Wales and the Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) has the same notifiable offence list for recorded crime as used in England and Wales. In addition, the PSNI has adopted the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) and Home Office Counting Rules for recorded crime that applies in England and Wales. Therefore there is broad comparability between the recorded crime statistics in Northern Ireland and England and Wales.

However, recorded crime statistics for England and Wales are not directly comparable with those in Scotland. The recorded crime statistics for Scotland are collected on the basis of the Scottish Crime Recording Standard, which was introduced in 2004. Like its counterpart in England and Wales, it aims to give consistency in crime recording. The main principles of the Scottish Crime Recording Standard are similar to the National Crime Recording Standard for England and Wales with regard to when a crime should be recorded.

However, there are differences between the respective counting rules. For example, the “Principal Crime Rule” in England and Wales states that if a sequence of crimes in an incident, or alternatively a complex crime, contains more than 1 crime type, then the most serious crime should be counted. For example, an incident where an intruder breaks into a home and assaults the sole occupant would be recorded as 2 crimes in Scotland, while in England and Wales it would be recorded as 1 crime.

Differences in legislation and common law have also to be taken into account when comparing the crime statistics for England/Wales and Scotland.

Victimisation surveys

A number of countries run their own national victimisation surveys and they all broadly follow a similar model to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) in attempting to obtain information from a representative sample of the population resident in households about their experience of criminal victimisation. The US National Crime and Victimisation Survey (NCVS) is the longest running, established in 1973, and there are similar surveys in other countries including Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and New Zealand. However, while these surveys have a similar objective they are not conducted using a standard methodology. Sampling (frames and of households or individuals) and modes of interview (for example face-to-face interviewing, telephone interviewing, self-completion via the web) differ, as do the crime reference periods (last 5 years, last 12 months, last calendar year) over which respondents are asked about their victimisation experience. Similarly, there is a lack of standardisation in question wording and order. Response rates vary considerably across the world, as do methods to adjust for any resulting possible non-response bias; therefore, it becomes extremely difficult to make valid comparisons between the surveys.

There have been attempts in the past to run international surveys on a standard basis and the International Crime and Victimisation Survey (ICVS) was initiated by a group of European criminologists with expertise in national crime surveys. The survey aimed to produce estimates of victimisation that could be used for international comparisons. The first survey was run in 1989 and was repeated in 1992, 1996 and year ending March 2005. All surveys were based upon a 2,000 sample of the population, and in most countries, surveys were carried out with computer-assisted telephone interviewing. A pilot ICVS-2, intended to test alternative and cheaper modes of data collection including self-completion via the web, was carried out in a limited number of countries in 2010.

However, despite the attempt to obtain a standardised and comparable approach to all of the surveys, this was never successfully achieved. While a standard questionnaire was used in all countries, alongside a standard mode of interviewing, important differences remained in the approach to sampling, translation of questions into different national languages, interview lengths and response rates, which make comparisons problematic.

Both Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own separate victimisation surveys that, like the CSEW, complement their recorded crime figures.

The Northern Ireland Crime Survey (NICS) closely mirrors the format and content of the CSEW, using a very similar methodology with continuous interviewing and a face-to-face interview with a nationally representative sample of adults (16 years and over), using a similar set of questions. Therefore, results from the 2 surveys are broadly comparable.

The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (SCJS) also follows a similar format to the CSEW, having a shared antecedence in the British Crime Survey (whose sample during some rounds of the survey in the 1980s covered Scotland, south of the Caledonian Canal). There are differences in the crimes or offence classifications to reflect the differing legal systems, but the results from the surveys are broadly comparable.

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25 .Background notes

  1. The Crime in England and Wales quarterly releases are produced in partnership with the Home Office who collate and quality assure the police recorded crime data presented in the bulletins. Home Office colleagues also quality assurance the overall content of the bulletin.

  2. National Statistics are produced to high professional standards set out in the Code of Practice for Official Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs. They are produced free from any political interference.

  3. Next quarterly publication - 21 April 2016

    Future thematic report due to be published: Focus on Violent Crime, year ending March 2015 – 11 February 2016.

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    Email: crimestatistics@ons.gsi.gov.uk

  4. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs
    • are well explained and readily accessible
    • are produced according to sound methods
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

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Contact details for this Statistical bulletin

John Flatley
crimestatistics@ons.gov.uk
Telephone: +44 (0)20 7592 8695