Figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) published on 16th October 2014 show that, for the offences it covers, there were an estimated 7.1 million incidents of crime against households and resident adults (aged 16 and over) in England and Wales for the year ending June 2014. This represents a 16% decrease compared with the previous year’s survey, and is the lowest estimate since the survey began in 1981.
The CSEW covers a broad range of victim based crimes and includes crimes which do not come to the attention of the police. Decreases were evident for all major crime types compared with the previous year; violence saw a 23% fall, criminal damage fell by 20%, and theft offences decreased by 12%.
In contrast, police recorded crime shows no overall change from the previous year, with 3.7 million offences recorded in the year ending June 2014. Prior to this, police recorded crime figures have shown year on year reductions since 2003/04.
The renewed focus on the quality of crime recording is likely to have prompted improved compliance with national standards in some police forces, leading to more crimes being recorded. This is thought to have particularly affected the police recorded figures for violence against the person (up 11%) and public order offences (up 6%).
The number of police recorded shoplifting offences showed a 5% increase compared with the previous year. Anecdotal evidence suggests that this rise is more likely to be a result of a genuine increase in crime rather than any change in recording practice.
There was also an increase in the volume of fraud recorded (8% year on year), though it is difficult to judge to what extent that reflected an improvement in recording practices, an increase in public reports or a rise in actual criminality. It is thought that levels of fraud are thought to be substantially under-reported and thus these figures simply provide a measure of such offences brought to the attention of the authorities.
Sexual offences recorded by the police saw a 21% rise from the previous year and continues the pattern seen in recent publications. Current, rather than historic, offences account for the majority of the increase in sexual offences (73% within the last 12 months). Despite these recent increases, it is known that sexual offences are subject to a high degree of under-reporting.
The CSEW is a face-to-face victimisation survey in which people resident in households in England and Wales are asked about their experiences of a selected number of offences 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.
For the population and offence types it covers, the CSEW is a valuable source for providing robust estimates on a consistent basis over time, as it has a consistent methodology and is unaffected by changes in levels of reporting to the police, recording practice or police activity.