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Released: 26 November 2015 Download PDF

Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW)

The CSEW is a face-to-face survey in which people resident in households in England and Wales are asked about their experiences of crime in the 12 months prior to the interview. It covers both children aged 10-15 and adults aged 16 and over, but does not cover those living in group residences (such as care homes, student halls of residence and prisons), or crimes against commercial or public sector bodies. Respondents are interviewed in their own homes by trained interviewers using a structured questionnaire that is administered on a laptop computer using specialist survey software. The questions asked do not use technical terms or legal definitions but are phrased in plain English language. The information collected during the interview is then reviewed later by a team of specialist coders employed by the survey contractors (currently TNS-BMRB) who determine whether or not what was reported amounts to a crime in law and, if so, what offence has been experienced. This ‘offence coding’ aims to reflect the Home Office Counting Rules for recorded crime which govern how the police record offences reported to them.

The CSEW is able to capture all offences experienced by those interviewed, not just those that have been reported to, and recorded by, the police. It covers a broad range of victim-based crimes experienced by the resident household population. However, there are some serious but relatively low volume offences, such as homicide and sexual offences that are not included in the survey. Other crimes such as plastic card fraud are limited in their scope and are not part of the main estimates. To help meet the increasing demand for better statistics, ONS have been working to improve the collection and presentation of official statistics on fraud by drawing in new sources and expanding current collections. This includes work to extend the CSEW to cover fraud and elements of cyber crime into the surveys main crime estimates. A large scale field trial to extend the main victimisation module in the CSEW to cover fraud and elements of cyber-crime was carried out between May and August 2015 (more information is available in the methodological note ‘Extending the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) to include fraud and cyber crime’).

The new questions on fraud and elements of cyber crime are designed to cover a broad spectrum of fraud and computer misuse crimes, including those committed in person, by mail, over the phone and online. They also encompass a range of harm or loss, including incidents where the victim suffered no or little loss or harm, or experienced significant harm or loss and cases where losses were reimbursed by others (such as bank or credit card company). The preliminary results (published as research outputs and not official statistics) from this field trial are now available, see ‘Methodological note - CSEW Fraud and Cyber-crime development: Field trial - October 2015’ (382.4 Kb Pdf) .

Since it began, the CSEW has been conducted by an independent (from government or the police) survey research organisation using trained interviewers to collect data from sampled respondents. The interviewers have no vested interest in the results of the survey. For the crime types and population groups it covers, the CSEW has a consistent methodology and is unaffected by changes in levels of public reporting to the police, recording practice or police activity. As such, the survey is widely seen to operate as an independent reality-check of the police figures. The independence of the survey has been further strengthened by the transfer of responsibility from the Home Office to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in April 2012.

The CSEW has a higher number of reported volumes than police recorded crime as the survey is able to capture all offences by those interviewed, not just those that have been reported to the police and then recorded. However, it does cover a narrower range of offences than the recorded crime collection.

The CSEW has necessary exclusions from its main count of crime (for example, homicide, crimes against businesses and other organisations, and drug possession). The survey also excludes sexual offences from its main crime count given the sensitivities around reporting this in the context of a face-to-face interview. However, at the end of the main interview there is a self-completion element (also via a computer) where adults aged 16 to 59 are asked about their experience of domestic and sexual violence and these results are reported separately – for more detailed information, see ‘Focus on: Violent Crime and Sexual Offences, 2012/13’.

Since the survey started in 1982 (covering crime experienced in 1981) a core module of victimisation questions has asked about a range of offences experienced either by the household (such as burglary) or by the individual respondent (such as robbery). The offences covered by this core module have remained unchanged since the survey started.

The survey is based on a sample of the population, and therefore estimates have a margin of quantifiable (and non quantifiable) error associated with them. The latter includes: when respondents have recalled crimes in the reference period that actually occurred outside that period (‘telescoping’); and crimes that did occur in the reference period that were not mentioned at all (either because respondents failed to recall a fairly trivial incident or, conversely, because they did not want to disclose an incident, such as a domestic assault). Some may have said they reported a crime to the police when they did not (a ‘socially desirable’ response); and, some incidents reported during the interview could be miscoded (‘interviewer/coder error’).

In 2009, the CSEW was extended to cover children aged 10 to 15, and this release also incorporates results from this element of the survey. The main analysis and commentary however is restricted to adults and households due to the long time series for which comparable data are available.

The CSEW has a nationally representative sample of around 35,000 adults and 3,000 children (aged 10 to 15 years) per year. The response rates for the survey in 2014/15 were 70% and 60% respectively. The survey is weighted to adjust for possible non-response bias and to ensure the sample reflects the profile of the general population. For more details of the methodology see the CSEW technical report. An updated technical report for 2014/15 is planned for publication in December 2015.

Police recorded crime

In accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, statistics based on police recorded crime data have been assessed against the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and found not to meet the required standard for designation as National Statistics. The full assessment report can be found on the UK Statistics Authority website. Data from the CSEW continue to be badged as National Statistics.

Police recorded crime figures are supplied by the 43 territorial police forces of England and Wales, plus the British Transport Police, via the Home Office to ONS. The coverage of police recorded crime statistics is defined by the Notifiable Offence List, which includes a broad range of offences, from murder to minor criminal damage, theft and public order offences. However, there are some, mainly less serious offences, that are excluded from the recorded crime collection. These ‘non-notifiable’ crimes include many incidents that might generally be considered to be anti-social behaviour but that may also be crimes in law (including by-laws) such as littering, begging and drunkenness. Other non-notifiable offences include driving under the influence of alcohol, parking offences and TV licence evasion. These offences are not reported on in this release.

Police recorded crime is the primary source of sub-national crime statistics and for crime types where only a relatively low volume of crimes are experienced. It covers people (including, for example, residents of institutions and tourists as well as the resident population) and sectors (for example commercial crime) excluded from the CSEW sample. Recorded crime has a wider coverage of offences, for example covering homicide, sexual offences, and crimes without a specific, identifiable victim (referred to as ‘Other crimes against society’) not included in the main CSEW crime count. Police recorded crime also provides good measures of well-reported crimes but does not cover any crimes that are not reported to or discovered by the police. It is also affected by changes in reporting and recording practices. Like any administrative data, police recorded crime will be affected by the rules governing the recording of data, by the systems in place, and by operational decisions in respect of the allocation of resources.

As well as the main police recorded crime series, there are additional collections providing detail on offences involving a particular ‘aggravating factor’ (such as those involving the use of knives and firearms, which are too low in volume to be measured reliably by the CSEW). One other collection provides details on offences involving metal theft.

The Home Office included metal theft as an annual data requirement (ADR) from April 2012 due to the growing concern surrounding the costs to individuals and state caused by metal theft offences. The Home Office offers guidance to police forces on how metal thefts should be interpreted. The following definitions were provided to differentiate between infrastructure and non-infrastructure:

  • infrastructure related metal thefts involve the removal of metal that has a direct impact on the functioning of infrastructure and/or fabric of a building or machinery. This includes all metals that are connected to live services such as water, heating, electricity, other service cabling and railway cabling; roofing lead, a catalytic converter removed from a vehicle and manhole covers

  • non-infrastructure related metal thefts involve the removal of metal that has no direct impact on the functioning of infrastructure and/or fabric of a building or machinery. This includes metal that is not connected to services, redundant metal, war memorial plaques, and metal gates/fencing

Police forces were required to record metal theft data as a mandatory data requirement in April 2012. As this was a new ADR, it took time for all forces to develop a consistent approach to recording their metal thefts. As a result, some forces were unable to provide a full data set for 2012/13 one force1 provided partial data for this year. A further three forces2 were unable to provide a break down between infrastructure and non-infrastructure related metal thefts. An additional two forces3 recorded metal theft offences as infrastructure only by default. When comparing 2012/13 figures with 2013/14 and 2014/15 figures, these forces have been excluded from some of the analysis to ensure data are comparable across the years.

When a force is unsure if an offence is infrastructure or non-infrastructure related, or is considered to involve the theft of both types of metals, they are advised to record the offence as infrastructure related only to avoid double counting. This should not affect the overall number of metal theft offences recorded by the police, however it may have some affect on the proportion of the breakdown between infrastructure and non-infrastructure related metal thefts. Some forces4 recorded a handful of offences as both infrastructure and non-infrastructure, but due to the small number of these cases the data from these forces were not excluded from analysis. However, the data from one force5 was excluded due to offences being recorded as both infrastructure and non-infrastructure in a vast amount of cases.

There is likely to be some variation in the way forces interpret and define offences. It can be unclear when a particular offence is a metal theft offence or not. Caution should be taken when comparing figures over time and between different forces, although the figures represent a good picture of the overall trends in metal theft offences.

Since 1 April 2013, Action Fraud has taken responsibility for the central recording of fraud offences previously recorded by individual police forces. To allow for piloting and development of the Action Fraud service this transfer had a phased introduction between April 2011 and March 2013. For example, by the end of December 2012, 24 police force areas had transferred responsibility with the remaining transferring by the end of March 2013. From 2011/12 onwards, all fraud figures encompass all police recorded fraud under Action Fraud.

Although Action Fraud receives reports of fraud from victims across the UK, data presented in ONS’ crime statistics publications cover fraud offences where the victim resides in England or Wales only, based on the victim’s postcode. Action Fraud collects data at a national level and includes types of fraud where it is difficult to attribute it to a specific police force (for example, internet based fraud).

The police recorded crime series also incorporates fraud data from two industry bodies. These are Cifas and Financial Fraud Action UK (FFA UK) who refer offences of fraud to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB)6. The coverage of police recorded crime statistics on fraud was extended to include Cifas and FFA UK for the first time in the ONS Crime Statistics quarterly bulletin for year ending June 2015 published in October 2015. The current remit of these organisations is outlined below:

  • Cifas is a UK-wide fraud prevention service representing around 300 organisations from the public and private sectors. These organisations mainly share data on confirmed cases of fraud, particularly application, identity and first party frauds, via the Cifas National Fraud Database. Data supplied by Cifas to the NFIB are recorded in line with the Home Office Counting Rules (HOCR) for recorded crime

  • FFA UK is responsible for coordinating activities on fraud prevention in the UK payments industry. FFA UK collates information relating to cheque, plastic card and online bank accounts via its Fraud Intelligence Sharing System (FISS) database, and this is in turn provided to NFIB. The data supplied by FFA UK also conforms to HOCR, however FISS is an intelligence tool rather than a fraud reporting tool, and its main purpose is to share intelligence relating to fraud offences rather than count the number of victims of fraud

Both sets of industry data relate only to those organisations that are part of the respective membership networks; therefore coverage can also change as new members join or previous members withdraw.

Types of plastic card fraud recorded by the National Fraud Database include fraudulent applications for plastic cards (including ID fraud), fraudulent misuse of plastic card accounts, and takeover of plastic card accounts (for example changing the address and getting new cards issued). CIFAS do not collect data on ‘card not present’ fraud, where the cardholder and card are not present at the point of sale, for example, use of the card online, over the phone or by mail order. In addition they do not include data on fraud relating to lost or stolen cards and ATM fraud. This means that a high proportion of plastic card fraud is not included in the NFIB figures.

FFA UK data contain intelligence for Mail Not Received (MNR) fraud, Card ID fraud (includes Account Takeover and Application Fraud), Payment fraud (includes fraud relating to telephone banking and online banking), Cheque fraud (includes forged, altered and counterfeit) and Mule accounts (accounts used for laundering the proceeds of fraud). Like CIFAS, FFA UK do not feed through to the NFIB data on ‘card not present’ fraud, lost or stolen cards and ATM fraud – these frauds are reported separately to FFA UK via a fraud reporting mechanism which does not feed through to NFIB, and so do not appear in ONS’ crime statistics. This accounts for a high proportion of plastic card fraud which is not included in the NFIB figures, although information relating to plastic card fraud in terms of levels of financial fraud losses on UK cards is published annually by FFA UK.

CIFAS and FFA UK provide separate feeds to NFIB via their individual databases, however a proportion of organisations are members of both industry bodies (CIFAS, UK Cards Association).

It is possible that there may be some double or triple counting between both these sources and the offences recorded via direct reports from victims to Action Fraud. For example, police are called to a bank and apprehend an offender for a fraud offence. Police record this crime with Action Fraud and the bank report the same crime to CIFAS or FFA UK as part of their processes.

Notes for Police recorded crime

  1. Norfolk provided only partial data for 2012/13.

  2. Devon and Cornwall were unable to provide breakdown between infrastructure and non-infrastructure for 2012-15. Cleveland were unable to provide a breakdown between infrastructure and non-infrastructure for 2012/13. Leicestershire were unable to differentiate between infrastructure and non-infrastructure prior to January 2013.

  3. North Wales recorded all metal theft offences as infrastructure by default in 2012/13 and West Midlands recorded all offences as infrastructure prior to August 2012.

  4. The Metropolitan police force recorded 11 offences as both infrastructure and non-infrastructure and West Mercia recorded 6 offences with both the infrastructure and non-infrastructure flags over the three year period.

  5. Wiltshire recorded some offences as both infrastructure and non-infrastructure in 2012/13.

  6. A government funded initiative run by the City of London Police, who lead national policing on fraud.

Commercial Victimisation Survey (CVS)

In order to address the significant gap in crime statistics that existed for crimes against businesses, the National Statistician’s review of crime statistics (National Statistician, 2011), recommended the Home Office implement its plans for a telephone survey of businesses to provide information on the volume and type of crime committed against businesses in England and Wales.

The CVS is a telephone victimisation survey in which businesses in England and Wales are asked about their experiences of a range of crimes in the 12 months prior to interview. The CVS is annual, not continuous. A total of 4,017 businesses (approximately 1,000 from each of the four sectors) were interviewed in the 2012 CVS; a total of 4,041 businesses (again approximately 1,000 from each of the four sectors) were interviewed in the 2013 CVS. In 2014 the number of business interviewed was 4,180 in three sectors. Approximately 1,000 businesses were interviewed in sector one, approximately 1,000 in sector two and the sample size was doubled to around 2,000 businesses in sector three. The 2012, 2013 and 2014 surveys used similar methodology and questions to the previous surveys and although not directly comparable between all sectors some comparisons can be made, notably in the ‘wholesale and retail’ sector.

In 2012 the businesses selected were across four sectors: ‘manufacturing’; ‘wholesale and retail’; ‘transportation and storage’; and ‘accommodation and food’. The 2013 CVS covered a slightly different set of business sectors; it continued to include the ‘accommodation and food’, and ‘wholesale and retail’ sectors, but the ‘manufacturing’ and ‘transportation and storage’ sectors were replaced by the ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’ and the ‘arts, entertainment and recreation’ sectors. The 2014 CVS covered three business sectors ‘accommodation and food’, ‘wholesale and retail’ and ‘agriculture, forestry and fishing’.

For more information, see the Home Office’s ‘Headline findings from the 2012 Commercial Victimisation Survey’ and ‘Headline findings from the 2013 Commercial Victimisation Survey‘ and ‘Headline findings from the 2014 Commercial Victimisation Survey’ releases.

More details on all these sources can be found in the User Guide to Crime Statistics for England and Wales (1.36 Mb Pdf) .

Background notes

  1. If you have any queries regarding crime statistics for England and Wales please email: crimestatistics@ons.gsi.gov.uk.

  2. Details of the policy governing the release of new data are available by visiting www.statisticsauthority.gov.uk/assessment/code-of-practice/index.html or from the Media Relations Office email: media.relations@ons.gsi.gov.uk

    The United Kingdom Statistics Authority has designated these statistics as National Statistics, in accordance with the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 and signifying compliance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

    Designation can be broadly interpreted to mean that the statistics:

    • meet identified user needs;
    • are well explained and readily accessible;
    • are produced according to sound methods; and
    • are managed impartially and objectively in the public interest.

    Once statistics have been designated as National Statistics it is a statutory requirement that the Code of Practice shall continue to be observed.

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