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Methodological information about the British Crime Survey

The British Crime Survey (BCS) is a well-established study and one of the largest social research surveys conducted in England and Wales. It is a victimisation survey in which adults living in private households are asked about their experiences of crime in face-to-face interviews.

The most recent review of the BCS methodology is available here. This review was carried out by the National Centre for Social Research.

We previously commissioned Peter Lynn (National Centre for Social Research) and Dave Elliott (Office for National Statistics) to carry out a methodological review of the BCS in the context of plans to move the survey to an annual cycle and to substantially increase the sample size. This review was published in 2000.

Following this review, the BCS moved to an annual cycle (April to March) with continuous interviewing in 2001/02. The BCS currently interviews over 51,000 people aged 16 or over every year. This includes around 47,000 interviews in the main survey, with an additional boost to the number of interviews with 16- to 24-year-olds. The survey was also extended in January 2009 to include 4,000 interviews with children aged 10–15 each year.

Previous sweeps of the BCS were carried out in 1982, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000 and 2001. The first survey was carried out in England, Wales and Scotland (hence the study was referred to as the British Crime Survey), as was the third survey. Scotland now has its own survey (Scottish Crime & Justice Survey), as does Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Crime & Victimisation Survey).

Although there have been changes to the design of the survey over time, the wording of the questions that are asked to elicit victimisation experiences has remained constant throughout the life of the BCS.

At present, the sample is designed to provide adequate numbers (around 1,000 interviews) in each Police Force Area. The overall response rate is currently 75 per cent – one of the highest for the large continuous government surveys.


Technical reports

We produce a technical report providing information on survey design, weighting and survey response every survey year. The latest technical report available is:
2009-10 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I

Technical reports for previous survey years are also available.
2008-09 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I
2007-08 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I
2006-07 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I

2005-06 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I
2004-05 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I
2003-04 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I
2002-03 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I
2001 BCS (England and Wales) Technical Report Volume I


BCS datasets

Anonymised datasets from the BCS are available in SPSS format through the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex. They can be obtained by bona fide researchers, including students, who need data for dissertations or practical work. It is worth emphasising that the BCS is a complex study with data organised at different levels (households, individuals and incidents) but that full supporting documentation and metadata are available with access to the data. Users who need help in analysing the data can contact the ESDS Government helpdesk.


Fairness and effectiveness in the Criminal Justice System: development of questions for the BCS

Research was commissioned to develop a new set of questions for measuring people’s perceptions of fairness and effectiveness in the CJS for the 2007/08 BCS. The report, which provides information about the design of and the results of the research, is available here.


Interpersonal violence: question development for the BCS

Research was commissioned to review questions in the BCS relating to interpersonal violence and develop an alternative set of questions to be tested in the 2010/11 survey. The report, detailing the results of the research and subsequent recommendations can be found here.


Measuring Public Confidence in the Police

A report summarising research that was carried out to develop questions on public confidence in the police is available below.

Measuring Public Confidence in the Police


The 2001 Census-linked Study of Survey Non-response

The BCS, like all voluntary surveys, suffers from some non-response among people whose households have been randomly sampled to participate in the survey. There has always been a concern that differential response to a survey may result in some groups being under-represented in the achieved sample, for example, men aged 16 to 24 years who are less likely to respond to surveys.

The Office for National Statistics conducted a study in 2005 linking the 2001 Census to information on the characteristics of non-respondents from the BCS. The report compared the census characteristics of different categories of responding and non-responding households and identified the census variables which were independently associated with non-response. Read the full report:

Report of the 2001 Census-linked Study of Survey Non-response

Non-response is also covered by the recent (2010) review of the BCS methodology available here.


Crime statistics reviews

Two independent reviews on the national crime statistics carried out by the Statistics Commission and Professor Adrian Smith reported during 2006. The reviews recommended that the BCS should be extended to cover crimes against those aged under 16, those living in institutions, communal establishments or on the streets, and businesses.

In response to the reviews, the Home Office commissioned methodological advice to examine the feasibility of extending the BCS (British Crime Survey: options for extending the coverage to children and people living in communal establishments).

We have reviewed the Commercial Victimisation Survey scope and methodology but decisions about a new survey remain pending.



BCS Extension to 10-15s

The BCS was extended to cover children aged 10 to 15 in January 2009. A consultation was carried out in 2008 to invite users’ views on the proposals, the consultation and response document are available:

A methodological report of the development of the BCS extension to children aged 10 to 15 is available:

The BCS was extended to cover children aged 10 to 15 in January 2009; experimental statistics from the year to December 2009 dataset were published in June 2010. A consultation was launched at that time to sekk users' views on the statistics. The consultation and the Home Office Statistics response to views received are available.




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