Crime data: Ultimate guide for risk managers

Crime data ultimate guide for risk managers looks at why crime data is available and, when and where to get it. Importantly, we also look closely at the publicly available data found on the Police.uk website and assess its value. 

Crime data: Ultimate guide for risk managers

ADT

Crime Data Ultimate guide ADT crime in my area website

Police UK

Crime Data Ultimate guide police uk crime in my area website

British Transport Police

Crime Data Ultimate guide British transport police crime in my area website

Introduction to crime data

The UK police were the first police force in the world to begin recording and publishing crime data; the practice goes back to the early 1800s. But, data became far more accessible with the launch of the police.uk website in 2011.

Other countries such as the USA publish crime data. However, authorities such as the FBI publish results more slowly than the UK’s police.uk website. Therefore, for real-time USA crime reports check out Local Police and Sheriff’s Department websites or LexisNexis Community Crime Map.

At SIRV crime data is seen as one important component of an overall threat picture.

Police.uk website crime data

The police.uk website provides an interface (UK police API), that allows the automatic download of data. However, the data has its limitations:

Data is historic

Data is published approximately two months after it was recorded.

Large download

The volume is data is considerable, about 7GB. Therefore, a download of data is significant and time-consuming.

Crime data lacks detail

Data is in summary format only; it gives period, location, volume and category only.

Location of crime is approximate

The exact location of crime is withheld. Instead, a street is associated with a crime that occurred in that vicinity.

Crime without location

Not all crime is given a location. Therefore, not all crime can be mapped. 

Not all data is made available

Not all data is available for example, murder or cyber crime is not identified.

Categories are broad

Categories of crime are broad. As a result, it’s not possible to examine specific crimes such as assault against women. The crime categories are:

  • Anti-social behaviour
  • Violent behaviour
  • Theft from the person
  • Other theft
  • Shoplifting
  • Public order
  • Criminal damage/arson
  • Drugs
  • Robbery
  • Bicycle theft
  • Possession of weapons
  • Other crime

Presentation of police.uk data

Presentation of the police.uk data requires careful consideration. For example, the below heat map shows crime category, volume and location. However, because it treats bicycle theft and violent behaviour as the same severity, at first sight a heat map could mislead an audience. Therefore, the data’s presentation should always be given context – check out these five presentation tips.

We recommend trends and comparisons

Two options to enhance the value of police.uk data are to trend its change over time and to make comparisons. For example, show anti-social behaviour’s (ASB) change over months and years. Alternatively, compare ASB in one location against another location. Both trends and comparisons help orientate a risk manager’s view.

ADT

Crime Data Ultimate guide ADT crime in my area website

Police UK

Crime Data Ultimate guide police uk crime in my area website

British Transport Police

Crime Data Ultimate guide British transport police crime in my area website

Why the police release crime data

The release of crime data supports the principles of an open, democratic society. In other words, it promotes:

  1. Transparent and accountable police: It helps hold the police accountable to the public and government bodies for their performance.
  2. Public awareness: People who know about crime trends in their area make better decisions around security measures.
  3. Better policy and decisions: The data informs decisions on resource allocation, law enforcement strategies, and the development of public policies.
  4. Research and analysis: Risk managers, researchers and analysts use the data to study trends and identify patterns.
  5. Community engagement: Publicly available crime data helps communities engage and address specific issues.
  6. Benchmark and performance measurement: Crime data allows for the comparison of performance across different police forces.

The two ways to record crime

We can measure UK crime in two ways::

1. Police record crime

Crimes reported to or identified by the police that meet the legal definition.

2. Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW)

Victimisation survey that gathers data from households in England and Wales about their experiences with crime. This includes crime  unreported to the police. Alternatively, in the USA there’s the National Crime Victimisation Survey

The value of these two methods

These two methods complement each other because they offer a broad view of crime in the UK. For example. police data is more accurate for well-known crimes, such as homicide or vehicle theft. Therefore, its useful for evaluation of police workload and resource allocation. However, crime surveys capture other less known crimes such as, domestic abuse or sexual crimes.

How crime data is made flow chart ultimate crime guide by SIRV

The 12 categories of crime

The categorisation of crime changes over time. For example, cyber crime is a new category. Today, there are 12 crime categories:

How crime data is made

The police record crime in line with specific guidelines:

  1. Crime report: The police record a crime reported by a victim, a witness, or by the police themselves.
  2. Initial assessment and classification: Once a crime is reported, the police make an initial assessment to determine if it meets the legal definition of a crime. In England and Wales The National Crime Recording Standard provides these rules.
  3. Create crime record: A record is created in the police’s crime record system with information such as offence, location and time.
  4. Investigation and outcome: An investigation begins and given an outcome. For example, charges being brought, the crime being undetected, or the matter being resolved in another way.
  5. Review and audit: To maintain accuracy and standards some crime records undergo an internal review and audit.
  6. Data submission and report: Periodically, crime data is submitted to central bodies like the Home Office or the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in England and Wales for analysis and publication.
  7. Public Access: Finally, summary data is made available to the public through various platforms like the Police.uk website.

  1. Violence against the person: This includes crimes such as homicide, assault, harassment, and other violent offences.
  2. Sexual: Crimes such as rape and sexual assault.
  3. Robbery: The use of force or threat to steal from someone.
  4. Theft: Burglary, theft from a person, vehicle-related theft, shoplifting, and other thefts.
  5. Criminal damage and arson: Damage to property, graffiti and fires.
  6. Drugs: Includes possession, distribution, and production of controlled substances.
  7. Possession of weapons: Involves crimes related to carrying or possessing weapons such as guns or knives.
  8. Public order: These are crimes that disturb the public peace. For example, violent protests, drunk and disorderly behaviour, and affray.
  9. Miscellaneous crimes against society: This category includes a variety of crimes such as perjury, handling stolen goods, and making or possessing indecent images of children.
  10. Fraud and forgery: Bank fraud, credit card fraud, and forgery of documents.
  11. Cyber crimes: Hacking, cyber fraud, and online harassment.
  12. Traffic: Although not always included in the main crime statistics, this covers offences like dangerous driving, driving under the influence, and other traffic-related offences.

 SIRV crime line graph shows crime in a location by category, volume and month. 

Where to find crime data

In the UK, you can access crime data from several official sources:

  1. ONS: The ONS provide reports and datasets, including analyses of crime trends and breakdowns of different types of crime, available from their official website.
  2. Police.uk: This site gives a user-friendly way to explore crime at a more local level, including street-level crime maps and data, visit Police.uk for more details.
  3. Scottish Government Statistics: For data specific to Scotland, you can refer to the Scottish Government’s official statistics website. 
  4. Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA): NISRA provides statistical data and research on various aspects including crime for Northern Ireland.
  5. UK Data Service: This service provides access to a range of social and economic data, including crime statistics.
  6. Individual Police Force Websites: Many local police forces in the UK publish their own crime statistics and reports on their websites.

SIRV provides crime data to meet client needs, this often focusses on asset locations.

How quickly crime data is made available

The publication of data is not uniform or consistent. For example, the ONS releases crime statistics every quarter and year. However, there may be a lag between the end of a data collection period and the publication of the statistics. In addition, specific police forces in the UK might release their own crime statistics at different intervals.

The most current information on crime statistics in the UK is available from:

  1. ONS: Typically releases crime statistics quarterly and annually. 
  2. Police.uk website: Publication of data is usually two months after the period in which it is recorded.
  3. Individual Police Force Websites: Many local police forces publish their own data, which can sometimes be more current than the national statistics.

Because of the time it takes to collect and analyse crime, there is a delay between the time a crime record is made and its publication. 

Conclusion: Crime data ultimate guide for risk managers

Crime data provides good orientation for risk managers. However, as is the case with all statistics, context is important and all data should be qualified before a decision is made.

It is our view crime data from the police.uk website is an important barometer of risk in a vicinity. However, it should not be the only source upon which decisions are made.

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