Crime Survey for England and Wales
The Crime Survey for England and Wales (previously called the British Crime Survey) is a systematic victim study, currently carried out by BMRB Limited on behalf of the Home Office. The survey seeks to measure the amount of crime in England and Wales by asking around 50,000 people aged 16 and over (as of January 2009), living in private households, about the crimes they have experienced in the last year. From January 2009, 4,000 interviews were also conducted each year with children 10–15 years old, although the resulting statistics remain experimental. The survey is comparable to the National Crime Victimization Survey conducted in the United States.
Initially the survey covered England, Wales and Scotland and was called the British Crime Survey but now the survey is restricted to England and Wales. The Scottish Government has commissioned a bespoke survey of victimisation in Scotland called the Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey (SCVS). As a result of this, the British Crime Survey was renamed the Crime Survey for England and Wales to reflect this. The British Crime Survey had been first carried out in 1982 and further surveys were carried out in 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001. Since April 2001, BCS interviews had been carried out on a continuous basis and detailed results from that point are now reported by financial years. Headline measures are updated quarterly based on interviews conducted in the previous 12 months.
Since 1994 there has been a separate Northern Ireland Crime Survey, on a biennial basis from 2001, and continuously from January 2005. It is produced by the Statistics and Research Branch of the NIO. It is broadly comparable to the BCS in England and Wales.
The Home Office asserts that the Crime Survey for England and Wales can provide a better reflection of the true level of crime than police statistics since it includes crimes that have not been reported to, or recorded by, the police. The Home Office also claims that it measures crime more accurately than Police statistics since it captures crimes that people may not bother to report because they think the crime was too trivial or the police couldn't do much about it. It also provides a better measure of trends over time since it has adopted a consistent methodology and is unaffected by changes in reporting or recording practices.
Example of statistics gathered by the Crime Survey for England and Wales
In 2003/04 the number of robbery offences in England and Wales, for people aged 16 and over was around 283,000.
In 2004/05 the number of robbery offences in England and Wales, for people aged 16 and over was around 255,000.
The survey does not measure robbery offences among victims under 16 years.
Data from the Crime Survey for England and Wales can be downloaded for research and teaching use via the UK Data Service website. Datasets since 1982 are available under a standard End User Licence; in addition, certain data from the Crime Survey (1996 to present) are subject to more restrictive Special Licence or Secure Access conditions than the main survey. There are also bespoke versions of the survey data available for teaching purposes.
Professor Ken Pease, former acting head of the Home Office's police research group, and Professor Gary Farrell of Loughborough University, estimated in 2007 that the survey was underreporting crime by about 3 million incidents per year due to its practice of arbitrarily capping the number of crimes one can be victimised by in a given year at five. If true the error means that violent crime might actually stand at 4.4 million incidents per year, an 82% increase over the 2.4 million previously thought. Since the five crimes per person cap has been consistent since the BCS began this might not affect the long-term trends, however it takes little account of crimes such as domestic violence, figures for which would allegedly be 140% higher without the cap. Police figures are also thought[who?] to seriously undercount repeat victimisation.
Lord de Mauley has said the BCS omits rape, assault, drug offences, fraud, forgery, crime against businesses and murder, while accepting that it "is accepted as a gold standard by most British academics and internationally".
The British Crime Survey has also been criticised for its exclusion of residents of communal establishments, e.g. hostels, nursing and care homes and university halls of residence, from its surveys, and for its inability to offer statistics for so-called "victimless" crimes, such as those concerning the abuse, possession and trafficking of drugs. The BCS also fails to record crimes against businesses, commercial premises and vehicles and (because it is a victim survey) instances of murder and manslaughter.
One criticism is that both the youth survey and the adult surveys do not distinguish between a) crimes not reported to the police because they thought the police would do nothing or b)crimes not reported to the police because the victim thought them too trivial.
- Crime in the United Kingdom
- Policing in the United Kingdom
- British Social Attitudes Survey
- Social Trends (UK)
- Crime statistics
- Dark figure of crime
- Self report study
- International Crime Victims Survey
- Victim study
- British Crime Survey homeoffice.gov.uk, accessed 26 January 2012
- British Crime Survey: extension to 10 to 15 year olds. British Home Office, 2010.
- Crime Survey for England and Wales catalogue page, UK Data Service, retrieved 8 November 2013
- Government figures 'missing' two million violent crimes - Crime, UK - The Independent
- Stephen Moore, Investigating crime and deviance, ISBN 0-00-322439-2
- Van Dijk, J.J.M., van Kesteren, J.N. & Smit, P. (2008). Criminal Victimisation in International Perspective, Key findings from the 2004-2005 ICVS and EU ICS. The Hague, Boom Legal Publishers 2008 accessed at  May 7, 2008
- Van Dijk, J.J.M., Manchin, R., van Kesteren, J.N. & Hideg, G. (2005) The Burden of Crime in the EU. Research Report: A Comparative Analysis of the European Crime and Safety Survey (EU ICS) 2005 accessed at  April 3, 2007