1. Introduction

This note provides an update on a comprehensive programme of work that aims to improve the design, coverage and presentation of crime statistics for England and Wales. The work has already expanded the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) to include crime types not previously incorporated and improve the population coverage.

New questions on fraud and cybercrime, which were introduced onto the CSEW in October 2015; first estimates were released as Experimental Statistics alongside the main statistical bulletin in July 2016, and have now been incorporated into the main estimates on crime and awarded National Statistics status.

A self-completion module of questions on adult respondents’ recollection of abuse experienced as a child was first included in the survey year ending March 2016; the main results of which were published in August 2016, with further analysis looking at the impact of child abuse on later life published in September 2017. The questions asked in this module have been refined in consultation with stakeholders and were implemented into the CSEW in April 2018 for the 2018 to 2019 survey year.

The upper age limit for the self-completion modules was increased from 59 to 74 from the start of the survey year in April 2017. Testing of removing the upper age limit showed that willingness to answer the self-completion module declined as age increased, with the proportion of people completing the modules decreasing significantly for those aged 75 and over.

Ongoing work includes developments to the Crime Survey to further expand its coverage and improve its estimates, work to better meet user needs for statistics on domestic violence and abuse, the development of a crime severity measure based on police recorded crime, and further improvements to the crime statistics outputs we produce.

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2. Expanding the coverage of the CSEW

With fraud and computer misuse now covered by the adult Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) questionnaire, we have instigated a programme of work to include questions on elements of cybercrime into the child survey of 10- to 15-year-olds. This would include issues such as online bullying and meeting strangers online. We aim to introduce new questions into the CSEW child questionnaire later in 2018.

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3. Improving the treatment of high-frequency repeat victimisation in CSEW estimates

The Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) was designed as a victimisation survey to measure the number of victims of crime in the population. It has also been used to measure the number of times a person is a victim of crime and hence the number of crimes experienced by adults living in households in England and Wales.

Producing such an estimate of incidents of crime is unproblematic for most crime types as the number of repeat victimisations suffered by an individual is usually small and easily recalled. For example, it is unlikely victims will not be able to remember the number of times their car was stolen or their house broken into in the previous 12 months.

However, for certain crime types, such as violence in a domestic setting, the victim may suffer repeat victimisation with a frequency that is difficult to quantify over a 12-month period. High order repeat victimisation presents considerable challenges for the CSEW as only a relatively small number of victims yield a high number of victimisations.

Since one of the strengths of the CSEW has been its ability to provide trends for the crime types and population it covers, in cases of repeat victimisation the survey has always only included the first five incidents of a series in its estimate of the total number of incidents of crime in the population. If left unaddressed, survey estimates of incidents of crime would be subject to large sample variability from year to year (although estimates of the number of victims of crime are not affected). This would result in the publication of incident rates that would fluctuate widely between survey years, making it difficult to discern trends.

We ran a consultation on proposed recommendations for changing this methodology, following a review of the current and alternative methods. Based on the results of the consultation and advice from the National Statistician’s Crime Statistics Advisory Committee in September 2016, it was agreed that:

  • the 98th percentile of victim incident counts for each crime type (calculated over a number of years) will be used as the highest value on the number of repeat incidents for any one respondent that is included within estimates

  • the time series will be revised back as far as possible

  • uncapped data will be made available as part of our methodology information; however, as these estimates of total incidents will be subject to considerable volatility from year to year, strong caveats will be given around their use

Making these methodological changes and revising the back series is a complex and substantial piece of work. In October 2016 we undertook exploratory work to help us understand the impact these changes have upon CSEW estimates and the time series for both adults aged 16 and over and children aged 10 to 15. Different approaches were assessed to consider factors important to our users, such as the level of transparency, the level of volatility introduced into time-series data, and the sensitivity of different approaches to measuring changes in repeat victimisation over time. In completing this work we unearthed other issues that needed detailed consideration, in particular the identification of large variability within design weights, which we have now adjusted. A methodological note: Improving estimates of repeat victimisation derived from the Crime Survey for England and Wales outlines in more detail the work we have undertaken to refine the methodology as well as a number of important decisions about how this methodology will be implemented.

Whilst it will be a substantial exercise, our continuing work suggests that it is feasible to apply these methodological changes at least as far back as 2003, and potentially 1995 (a year often used for comparative purposes since many CSEW crime counts peaked in this year).

We have assessed that completing this work for our annual datasets will fulfil the majority of user requirements. However, should users have further requirements for the revision of quarterly datasets we will take this into consideration, albeit at lower priority than the revision of time series based on financial year data. Whilst we had provisionally planned to publish the majority of our revised annual data in July 2018, the scale of the revisions and the volume of data to be revised means that this date has changed. The majority of the revised annual data is now provisionally planned for publication in October 2018 as part of the year ending June 2018 release. Further information on the exact date of release and any further user engagement will be published alongside the next quarterly bulletin in July 2018.

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4. Improving domestic abuse statistics

Following feedback received from users on the domestic abuse statistics we produced and published, a steering group was set up in November 2015 to review the current statistics and recommend changes to address identified issues that would result in a set of statistics that better meet user requirements. This group contains representatives from across government, academia and the voluntary sector. The work of the group identified that collecting good-quality information on the frequency of abuse and on coercive and controlling behaviour were the main priorities. New questions for the domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking self-completion module of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) were developed and tested to collect this information, and these were implemented into the survey from April 2017. The new coercive and controlling behaviour questions are very different to the previous questions on non-physical abuse. These questions are therefore currently being run on a split sample basis, to allow the impact on the long-standing time series for domestic abuse to be assessed. The new frequency of abuse question is being asked of the whole sample. Analysis of the split-sample experiment will be published in July 2018, with the aim to implement the new questions to the whole sample from October 2018 depending on the results of this analysis.

We have also been working with a range of other government departments and agencies on a new domestic abuse publication Domestic abuse in England and Wales: year ending March 2017, which was published in November 2017. This is the second phase of a new release that was developed in response to a recommendation made by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in their report Increasingly everyone’s business: A progress report on the police response to domestic abuse, regarding the availability of data to enable more thorough analysis of how domestic abuse is dealt with in local areas. The first statistical bulletin and interactive data tool published in December 2016 included data held by Office for National Statistics, the Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service. Feedback was gathered from important stakeholders on the first phase and the scope of the second phase was expanded to include new sources of data from Ministry of Justice, SafeLives and Women’s Aid.

We welcome feedback on this publication to help inform our planning of the third phase, which is planned to be released in November 2018. Please contact crimestatistics@ons.gov.uk.

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5. Developing a new “crime severity” measure based on police recorded crime

Official statistics on crime recorded by the police in England and Wales are presented as simple counts of the number of offences recorded or as a rate of offences recorded per head of population. On this basis each crime carries an identical weight regardless of seriousness. In collaboration with partners and with the support of the National Statistician’s Crime Statistics Advisory Committee we have developed an additional measure, the Crime Severity Score (CSS), which weights different types of crime according to severity, with more serious crimes carrying a higher weight to better reflect the level of harm to society and demand of the police caused by crime.

First research outputs based upon the new CSS were published at the end of November 2016. In February 2017, a successful workshop was held with analysts from police forces across England and Wales on how this new measure could help to inform decisions in front-line policing and the prioritisation of police resources. Based on feedback from the workshop we made a number of improvements to our methodology. Experimental Statistics on the updated CSS were released for the first time alongside the statistical bulletin “Crime in England and Wales: year ending June 2017”. We intend to issue an updated CSS dataset alongside each quarterly crime statistics bulletin.

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6. Improving child abuse statistics

There is no single source reporting the scale and nature of child abuse, and it has been recognised that the official statistics in England and Wales are limited in respect to their coverage of child abuse. Therefore in September 2015, the National Statistician’s Crime Statistics Advisory Committee established a Child Abuse Statistics Task and Finish Group to make recommendations for improvements to the official statistics. We have already developed and implemented a module into the CSEW asking adults about their experiences of abuse as a child. In addition, following the recommendations made by the task and finish group in 2016 and the progress we have made in this area since, we will be taking forward the following work in relation to improving statistics on child abuse:

  • producing a compendium of data sources to provide the best evidence of child abuse – this is planned for publication in 2019, with work on identifying the content beginning in 2018

  • investigating the use of multiple system estimation methods using administrative data sources to estimate the number of victims of child abuse

  • conducting a feasibility study to determine whether a prevalence study of child abuse could be effective

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7. Reviewing and refreshing crime statistics outputs

As part of the programme of work to improve crime statistics for England and Wales we are reviewing our full range of statistical outputs. This will include an extensive review of the data tables published with each release, focusing on improving the accessibility of the data. As part of this review we will be seeking users’ views on whether there is a continuing need for all of the data we publish and whether there are new needs for data we are not currently producing. We will also be looking at opportunities to exploit new data sources to meet user needs for more detailed information on the nature of crime.

This is ongoing work and as a first step in response to feedback from users, we have reduced the length of our quarterly statistical bulletins on crime and changed the format to make the main messages more accessible.

We welcome feedback on the new-format quarterly bulletin at crimestatistics@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

We have replaced our “Focus on” compendium publications with separate articles covering the different crime types included within the compendiums. This is because although there were links between the different crime types, there were also many differences and presenting each individually has enabled us to provide a clearer and more concise summary for that crime type. We were also aware that many users of the compendiums had specific interests and therefore only looked at part of the publications rather than the whole.

Following user demand we are planning to work with the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office to produce an up-to-date overview of sexual offending. A report published in 2013 brought together, for the first time, a range of official statistics from across the crime and criminal justice system to provide an overview of sexual offending in England and Wales. We will be reviewing the content and format of the last publication to ensure we present the main messages in a concise and user-friendly way. Publication is planned for autumn 2018. We welcome any feedback on priorities for this publication at crimestatistics@ons.gov.uk.

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Contact details for this Methodology

Telephone: +44 (0)20 7592 8695