Incidents of crime have been recorded for over 150 years. They had, until recently, been used mainly to inform governments of crime rates and Police performance. Since 2010 this data has been made available to the public via government controlled departments and more recently by independent organisations. The following gives some background information to these organisations and provides links to the various data provided.
In the UK criminal offences are split into two categories summary and indictable.
A summary offence is an offence that can be heard by a magistrate sitting alone, rather than a judge and jury. They can also be heard in the absence of the defendant.
Summary offences are usually considered to be less serious offences.
Indictable offences are more serious offences that cannot be heard in the absence of the defendant. These offences are usually heard in the Magistrates' court for a committal hearing. The offence may then be committed for trial before a judge in a higher court such as the Crown court.
Types of indictable offences include:
All recorded crime data comes from the police force recording systems.
The crime recording practice is governed by the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). This was introduced in April 2002 to promote greater consistency and transparency of crime recording between forces.
Crime data is collected from each police force for all crimes within the Notifiable Offence List and according to Home Office Counting Rules.
There are 1,400 notifiable offences (2014/15), most being indictable offences, ranging from the possession and use of a nuclear weapon to falsely describing food.
A list of notifiable offences can be found here.
Police recorded crime data is used to produce a number of different data outputs that can be used by police forces, government departments and the public alike. Although all are based on data from police forces, the coverage and presentation of the outputs differ.
It should be noted that the records are from the 43 Police forces operating within England and Wales only.
The Police.UK website uses this data to present maps of local areas showing the numbers of crimes that have occurred in them. An overview of the mapped data can also be viewed in the form of pie charts and line graphs.
The data is divided into the 43 Police forces, the following is the link to Essex Police.
The data is a snapshot directly from Essex Police and is not subject to rigorous quality assurance process. The data also includes reports from the British Transport Police and are published monthly using 13 crime groupings. The data also lists reported anti social behaviour incidents, even though these are not criminal offences.
The crime categories are Bicycle Theft, Burglary, Robbery, Vehicle, Violent & Sexual, Drugs, Public Order, Possession of weapons, Theft from a person, CD&A (Criminal damage & Arson), Shoplifting, Other Theft and Other Crime.
Essex is divided into 14 districts, which covers the Thurrock, Southend on Sea and Essex County Council wards. These in turn are divided into 143 Neighbourhoods. The data used is reported by these Neighbourhoods.
How the data is used
The Police UK site provides the data within a 1 mile radius of any given point.
This is shown on a map with the total crime incidents and the groupings in a table.
Once on the site you can pan the map, so the area you are interested in is displayed in the centre.
By clicking on the "pin" icon the information, for that area, is displayed.
Clicking on the crime markers dispays the details of the incident.
You can also view the outcome of previous incidents in a similar way.
Other Government Sources
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) publishes comprehensive reports of police recorded crime figures. These include a series of data tables for different crime types and different geographical levels.The Police submitted recorded crime data is subjected to a rigorous quality assurance process. These are designated National Statistics and includes data from the British Transport Police (BTP). These are published quarterly and have 14 main crime groupings.
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) publish a tool that allows comparisons of data on recorded crime between all police forces in England and Wales. They use the published ONS National Statistics (as above), excluding BTP. These are published quarterly and have 17 main crime groupings.
The purpose of the Home office counting rules is to only record one crime per victim.
There are several hundreds of pages of "counting rules" to try and ensure this is done consistently by all Police forces.
All incidents are recorded at the first point of contact and are known as crime related incidents. The incident will become an offence if a victim can be identified and on balance the initial report amounts to a crime, as defined by the law.
The offence, if one of the 1,400 (2014/15) notifiable offences, is assigned to one of the 13 groups.
The following is a list of the number of offences within any group.
Bicycle Theft 2 offences
Burglary 9 offences
Robbery 4 offences
Vehicle 8 offences
Violent & Sexual 296 offences
Drugs 147 offences
Possession of weapons 60 offences
Public Order 111 offences
CD & A 22 offences
Shoplifting 1 offence
Other Theft 12 offences
Other Crime 727 offences
Theft from a person 1 offence
Therefore the category of shoplifting is always just the one offence but "other crime" could be anyone of 727 offences.
As well as the crime categories an additional record is made of Anti Social Behaviour,
which in itself is not a criminal offence. It only becomes a criminal offence if someone
is in breach of an order made against them.
ASB has recently been given 3 classifications personal, nuisance and environmental and
may include the following.
Abandoned Vehicles (not Stolen or causing an Obstruction)
Begging / Vagrancy
Hoax calls to Emergency Services
Inappropriate Sale / Use / Possession of Fireworks
Malicious / Nuisance Communications
Prostitution Related Activity
Rowdy and / or Nuisance Behaviour: Environmental Damage / Littering
Rowdy and / or Nuisance Behaviour: Neighbours
Rowdy or Inconsiderate Behaviour
Vehicle Nuisance / Inappropriate Use
The Crime Survey
Another source of crime data is the Crime Survey for England and Wales.
This measures the extent of crime in England and Wales by asking people whether they have experienced any crime in the past year.
The survey has measured crime in this way since 1982 and is a valuable source of information for the government about the extent and nature of crime in England and Wales.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales is the new name for the British Crime Survey.
A separate survey (the Scottish Crime and Justice survey) measures the extent of crime in Scotland. The survey is conducted by TNS-BMRB on behalf of the Office for National Statistics.
The Crime Survey records include crimes that may not have been reported to the police and it is therefore used alongside the police recorded crime figures to show a more accurate picture of the level of crime in the country.
In 2011/12 around 67,000 households across England and Wales were invited to participate in the survey.
The Crime Survey highlights the amount of crime that is not reported to the Police. This has remained fairly consistent over the last 10 year period and is approximately 60% of all crime.
In 2011/12 there were 3,765,000 Police reported crimes compared to 8,873,000 estimated in the crime survey.
How useful is the data
With only 40% of crime data being recorded in the statistics published by the Home office, the reports can at best be considered as an indication of crime in the UK.
The Crime Survey although considered more accurate only has a sample size of 1% of the population, which also calls into question the accuracy of its findings.
Certainly, the Home office data is more politically biased than the Crime Survey. It has long been suggested that the Home Office figures give a distorted view of crime rates in the country.
They are however useful in comparing geographical areas as the flaws are consistent throughout the data.
In January 2010 the Police UK web site was launched, the data was also opened up to the public for independent developers to use. At the end of that year UKcrimestats was launched, their aim was to provide a ranking system for streets, neighbourhoods and constituencies. For most people having the data displayed in this way helps in understanding which areas have higher crime rates and what types of crime are more common in the areas in which they live.
UKcrimestats is an open data platform of the Economic Policy Centre. It uses The Police UK data and similar style of reports are created.
The main difference being, the additional ways in which the information is presented.
For instance, you can view the crime rates for any area within England & Wales from the same site. You can also see data at a county or district level and also the individual wards within these districts.
The data is published monthly using the same groupings as Police UK.