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26 June 2007 PR 07/89

British Crime Survey misleads public by omitting three million crimes, say Loughborough researchers

The British Crime Survey is omitting three million crimes and therefore misleading the public as to the true volume of crime, according to a report by two Loughborough experts, published today by independent think-tank Civitas.

The report, ‘Crime in England and Wales: More Violence and More Chronic Victims’, is written by Graham Farrell, professor of criminology at Loughborough University, and Ken Pease, visiting professor at Loughborough and former acting head of the Police Research Group at the Home Office.

It reveals that, ever since its inception in 1981, the British Crime Survey (BCS) has omitted many crimes committed against people who have been repeat victims. If people are victimised in the same way by the same perpetrators more than five times in a year, the number of crimes is recorded as five. The justification for this was ‘to avoid extreme cases distorting the rates’. But as Farrell and Pease point out, if the people who say they suffered ten incidents really did, capping the series at five distorts the rate.

By recalculating the figures without the arbitrary ‘If (number greater than 5) = 5’ rule, Farrell and Pease have revealed that there are over three million crimes omitted from the BCS as it is now published.

In their report the authors state:

“In its most recent published sweep, BCS estimated an annual total of some 6.8 million ‘household’ crimes (covering burglary; theft in a dwelling; other household theft; thefts of and from vehicles; bicycle theft; and vandalism to household property and vehicles). It also estimated some 4.1 million ‘personal’ crimes (which covers assault, sexual offences, robbery, theft from the person, and other personal theft).

“Our re-analysis reveals that, if we believe what the respondents tell us, there would be 7.8 million household offences and 6.3 million personal crimes. Thus, removing the arbitrary five offence limit, over three million extra offences come to light… Household crime is increased by 15% and personal crime by a staggering 52%. As the sum of personal and household crimes, total crime would have been understated by 29%.”

The increase in the number of crimes is not evenly spread across all types of crime. For example, theft of vehicles is not increased at all, but levels of vandalism are almost a quarter more than reported, and there are 20 per cent more burglaries. Violent crime of all types increases by 83 per cent. Violence perpetrated by an acquaintance increases by 156 per cent and domestic violence by 140 per cent. ‘Stranger’ violence increases by 24 per cent. As Farrell and Pease say, these are not minor differences.

Farrell and Pease describe this arbitrary exclusion of certain crimes as ‘the worm in the BCS bud’ that has led to ‘a blighted bloom ever since’. Its effect on data collection is so serious that crime control, police training and criminal justice action are now substantially misdirected.

– Ends –

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Notes for editors:

Crime in England and Wales in thousands (BCS 2005-6, crimes in the last 12 months)

Crime category ‘Official’ Crime Count (000’s) Actual Crime Count (000’s) % Difference when all series crimes included


PROPERTY CRIME
Vandalism
Vehicle vandalism
Other vandalism

Burglary

With entry
Attempts

With loss
No loss (incl. attempts)

All vehicle thefts
Theft from vehicle
Theft of vehicles
Attempts of and from

Bicycle theft
Other household theft


Theft from the person
Snatch theft from person
Stealth theft from person

Other theft



2731
1697
1034

733

440
293

315
418

1731
1121
185
425

439
1158

576
71
504

1196



3376
1846
1528

877

515
362

342
535

1779
1159
185
436

446
1361

584
71
512

1213



23.6
8.8
47.8

19.7

17
23.6

8.7
27.9

2.8
3.4
0
2.7

1.7
17.5

1.4
0
1.6

1.4

VIOLENCE

Common assault
Wounding
Robbery

 

1490
547
311

 

2956
1060
333

 

98.4
93.8
7.2


All BCS violence*
Domestic violence
Acquaintance
Stranger
Mugging


2420
357
817
863
382


4421
857
2093
1067
404


82.7
140
156.2
23.6
5.8

ALL HOUSEHOLD CRIME
ALL PERSONAL CRIME
6792
4120
7838
6250
15.4
51.7

* All BCS Violence includes common assault, wounding, robbery and snatch theft.

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