Crime Prevention Studies, Volume 22
Edited by Mike Hough & Mike Maxfield
Since its first sweep in 1982, the British Crime Survey has become an invaluable source of data for research and policy development. Whilst it has served its purpose in yielding a measure of crime that includes unreported crime, it also has incorporated a number of innovative features in its 25 years. This paper reflects on the evolution of the BCS, on its notable achievements and how these have contributed to the development of crime surveys generally. Revealing the key role of repeat victimization is especially significant. We also examine linked surveys of victimisation and offending, such as the Youth Lifestyle Survey, the Offending Crime and Justice Survey, and surveys of nonhousehold victimisation, which have expanded the scope of survey-based tools for policy and research.
The British Crime Survey (BCS) has made a major contribution to the understanding of repeat and chronic victimisation. BCS evidence on repeats has led to a range of theoretical and methodological developments capable of informing crime control and victim services. The present paper shows that BCS counting conventions mask the extent of chronic victimisation in most official BCS reports. Crucially, where a victim reports multiple linked and similar events, the series is capped at an arbitrary maximum of five incidents. By thus truncating the long statistical ”tail“ of victimisation, the incidence of personal crime was reduced by at least a third in every BCS sweep since 2001-2002, and by 52% in the 2005-2006 BCS. The incidence of property crime is reduced by up to a quarter, and by 15% in the 2005-2006 BCS. The contribution of harms against those frequently victimised to total crime suffered is thus revealed as even more important than hitherto acknowledged, and personal crime is revealed as constituting a higher proportion of all crime suffered.
One of the best predictors of an individual’s risk for criminal victimization is the extent to which that person is involved in criminal offending. Frequently referred to as the ”victim-offender overlap,“ this relationship has been found to exist in numerous countries, across various time periods, among adults as well as youths, and for many types of crime ranging from homicide to bicycle theft. Research has found that this relationship cannot be accounted for by shared individual and contextual characteristics or earlier victimization experiences. In this paper, we summarize and evaluate existing research on the victim-offender overlap. We devote particular attention to quantitative and qualitative efforts to sort out the causal mechanisms underlying these associations. To understand better the importance of this relationship, we recommend that future research use mixed methodologies that systematically combine rigorous quantitative analyses with detailed analyses of narrative data or focused interviews with offenders and victims. In addition, we speculate on why criminological theorists and policy makers have failed to take seriously the overlap between victims and offenders. Finally, we offer a modest research agenda to integrate more fully a focus on the victim-offender overlap into criminology and criminal justice.
The Offending Crime and Justice Survey (OCJS) is the first nationally representative, longitudinal, self-report offending survey of the general household population in England and Wales. Its main aim is to examine the extent of offending, antisocial behaviour and drug use. The 2003 wave covered people aged 10 to 65 and subsequent waves covered young people aged 10 to 25. Data was collected by Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) and, for more sensitive questions, audio-CASI (Computer Assisted Self-Interviewing). Key results have been obtained relating to the prevalence of offending (ever and in the last year), risk factors for offending, victimisation of young people, victim-offender relationships, antisocial behaviour, the volume and concentration of offences, co-offending and motivations.
The British Crime Survey is at once an instrument for observing crime-related phenomena, a source for the discovery of insights about crime, and a means of communication between government and citizens. These uses embed the BCS within a complex system of knowledge and action, as likely to generate error as value. This paper seeks to review some discoveries made from BCS data about the social distribution of crime victimisation risk and “community safety.” A particular focus is placed upon the role of key insights derived from the BCS, including the epidemiological components of crime rates; the concentration of property crime victimisation amongst neighbourhoods; the distribution of private security activities amongst the population; and the role of social contextual attributes of neighbourhoods in influencing individual crime victimisation risk. An attempt is made to extract insights that might help to suggest hypotheses about some of the reasons behind the trend in household property crime observed from BCS data over the past 25 years.
Although household victimization surveys such as the ICVS are a proven tool to put levels of victimization by common crime in a global perspective, they cannot be used readily to measure victimization by emerging or global crimes such as grand corruption and organised crime. The strategy of looking at the impact of crimes upon vulnerable groups may be promising in other areas as well. In this chapter, data on the perceptions of business executives of the extent of racketeering are combined with perceptional data on grand corruption and money laundering as well as with rates of unsolved murders. By integrating data on such varied markers of mafia-related activity, a composite index is constructed of organised crime. Country and regional scores on the index can be used for analyses of the macro causes of organized crime and its impact upon society. It is argued that criminology should seek to supplement the results of crime victim surveys with results of new, imaginative ways of measuring emerging forms of global crime.
The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) was initiated in 1972 because official sources of crime statistics in the United States were deemed inadequate to measure the extent and nature of the nation’s crime problem as it existed at the time. Over the past three decades, the NCVS has become the nation’s primary source of information on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization. The survey has been instrumental in helping shape the national understanding of the nature and extent of crime.
Today, violent crime rates have declined dramatically since the 1970s, but other offenses, such as identity theft, are becoming national concerns. Just as the nature of the “crime problem” has evolved and changed over time, the NCVS has changed as well. Over its 34 year history, changes have been implemented for a variety of reasons: to improve the survey's methodology; to obtain additional information about crimes, victims, and the consequences of being a victim of crime; and to reduce the cost of enumeration.
The survey faces a number of challenges, including changing national priorities, rising costs of enumeration, increasing difficulties in obtaining interviews, and changes in technology. This chapter reviews the evolving nature of the survey and the challenges it faces, and discusses the new directions that the NCVS is likely to take over the next few years.
This article considers the British Crime Survey (BCS) as a vehicle for monitoring police performance. The BCS has two complementary foci on the police: monitoring reports of general confidence in the police and tracking encounters between police and the public. These raise substantive and methodological issues, and have implications for survey design. Among these are response validity, or the issue of whether “confidence” questions actually reflect the quality of policing on the ground. We also need to ensure that the measurement process measures what it does with maximal accuracy. This paper reviews validity and reliability issues in the context of assessing general confidence and tracking public encounters with the police. It calls for a program of methodological research to document the error structure of the data and guide improvements and decisions about key features of the survey.
This chapter provides a short introduction to the use that is currently made of the British Crime Survey (BCS) in measuring performance, in particular that of police forces in England and Wales, within the wider context of using surveys as performance measurement tools. The key role the BCS plays in the Home Office's Police Performance Assessment Framework (PPAF) is examined, and the level at which data from the survey can usefully be provided is detailed, with reference to some recent findings.
Measuring public attitudes to criminal justice has become an important goal of victimization surveys in Britain and around the world. In this chapter we trace the evolution and impact of attitudinal questions on the British Crime Survey (BCS). Although some questions on attitudes to crime and punishment were included in earlier sweeps of the BCS, an important step forward was taken in the 1996 administration when an entire component was dedicated to public knowledge of, and attitudes towards, sentencing and sentencers. This module resulted in a Home Office report and subsequent scholarly publications; it sensitized politicians to issues relating to confidence in justice; and it was one of the factors that led to the adoption of confidence-performance measures by the Home Office. A number of other jurisdictions including Canada, Belgium, Barbados, Northern Ireland, South Africa, and New Zealand subsequently modified their crime or victimization surveys to include modules exploring public attitudes. Most recently the BCS has developed a range of questions on public confidence in the criminal justice system and criminal justice professionals. These developments are discussed, and we conclude by outlining a proposal to improve our knowledge of public opinion in this vital area of criminal justice.
The BCS has been the lead provider of national fear of crime data in the U.K. since 1982. In that time, the subject has become a substantial area of concern for both research and public policy. The subject has never been adequately conceptualised, however, and measurement methods - once adequate - seem increasingly outmoded. The authors outline these deficiencies and suggest how more sophisticated questions might remedy the situation in the future. Alternatives to the repeat cross-sectional approach are suggested and benefits outlined. New subjects for future questioning are discussed, with some accepted (identity theft) and some rejected (terrorism).
This chapter proposes new directions for improving the British Crime Survey and other national crime surveys. With more focus upon new and strangely neglected crime types such as fraud and high-tech crimes, these surveys can substantially enhance criminological knowledge and crime prevention policy-making. In this chapter, solutions are proposed to help overcome entrenched and growing criticisms of national crime surveys - particularly the atavistic and tautological relationship between their current criminological focus on the “usual suspects” and its resulting bias in administrative criminology. Therefore, an independent, transparent, less nebulous, and more systematic review process is proposed as a solution to improve decision making about the locations, offences, offenders, and victims to be included in national crime surveys.
The measurement of the scale and costs of fraud is a complex and underinvestigated area. This chapter examines the measurements of fraud in the U.K., covering both surveys and administrative data sources. These different pathways range from victimisation surveys, to police-recorded crime, to central government records based on whistleblowers, to private sector surveys. Each measure is investigated, and the strengths and limitations, are highlighted. The chapter then describes the main findings from each measurement of fraud, before introducing the new concept of identity fraud and some attempts to measure this type of fraud. This emerging crime type has brought more uncertainty to the measurement of fraud, beginning with conceptual difficulties. In summary, it seems clear that although at present there is no way of fully evaluating the nationwide scale and cost of fraud, in the future a combination of improved methods may provide a suitable proxy for these figures.
In the past 30 years, victimization surveys have evolved from a novelty to a mainstay of crime statistics. This evolution continues, prompted by changes in the technological and social environment of surveys as well as changes in the demand for information on crime. Rising costs, declining response rates, and the fast-moving telecommunications industry pose significant challenges to the quality of information from victim surveys. At the same time, computer-assisted interviewing and the availability of the Internet provide new tools to address these challenges. Of equal importance in guiding the evolution of crime surveys is careful consideration of the role of crime surveys in a system of crime statistics. The information goals of the survey will dictate how technology can best be used. Setting these information goals, in turn, should be guided by what we have learned about what victimization surveys can do well and what would be done better by other components of a crime statistics system. This chapter discusses the cost and error tradeoffs as well as the feasibility of employing various technologies under three different assumptions about the information goals of victimization surveys.