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How much crime is there?
There are two main measures of crime in the UK. The crime recorded by the police and the crime estimated by the annual Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), which was previously called the British Crime Survey. Scotland and Northern Ireland publish their own data separately.
The police record crime reported to them under Home Office counting rules. These rules have been open to interpretation over the years, but it’s fair to say that the accuracy of police recorded crime is a lot better than it used to be.
The CSEW is a study of victim’s experiences of crime, many of which will not have been captured by police records and so some might argue that the CSEW total figures for crime are more accurate than that recorded by the police. That said, Professor Ken Pease, a criminologist and researcher (and friend of this website) has criticised the survey because it does not capture crimes experienced by under 16 year olds and there is also a cap of five crimes per victim recorded. Ken, and his colleague, Professor Graham Farrell of Loughborough University, reckon the survey could underestimate the overall level of crime by around 3 million incidents a year. So next time you hear politicians talking about crime figures do bear that fact in mind!
2010/11 Crime Survey for England and Wales
The CSEW does reveal some interesting information about the risks of experiencing different crimes, but as this section is focussing on home security let’s take a look at the statistics for burglary.
Total domestic burglaries estimated by the CSEW 745,000
Domestic burglaries with entry 452,000
Attempted domestic burglaries 293,000
Total domestic burglaries recorded by the police in the same period 258,148
The very large discrepancy between the CSEW and police recorded burglaries above is due to a number of reasons. Many burglaries are not reported to police because they are very minor and the victim doesn’t want to bother the police. In some cases they don’t get reported because the victim isn’t insured and doesn’t see the point in reporting the crime.
The burglary estimate by the CSEW in 2010/11 shows an increase of 14% on the previous year, but this year's figures are almost exactly the same as the estimate for 2008/09. The fact is that burglary recorded by the police and estimated by the CSEW both show huge reductions since the peak for domestic burglary in 1995. The CSEW figure for that year was 1,770,000, so the overall reduction is well over one million!
Falls in most crime categories have occurred over the past few years and similar reductions have been experienced across Europe. It is suggested by the CSEW that much of the reduction in property crime, which includes burglary and vehicle crime, is due to advances in and adoption of crime prevention techniques, which, of course, is what this whole website is about.
The risk of burglary is not the same for all of us and here’s some further information drawn from the British Crime Survey of 2008/09 to demonstrate this. The average risk of being the victim of one or more burglaries in that year was 2.5% (This year it's 2.6%). That is, 2.5% of interviewees (equivalent to 25 out of 1,000 households) had experienced one or more burglaries during the previous 12 months. This equates to about 600,000 households being burgled during that year. Take a look at the table below to compare risks between people. The higher the number, the higher the risk
Burglary risks - people types
Average risk 2.5% (1.5% with entry and 1% attempts)
Persons aged between 16 and 24 years 7.2%
Single adult with children 6.8%
Full time students 6.7%
Unemployed people 4.5%
Employed people 2.5%
People older than 74 years 0.9% (The older you get the lower the risk)
Notice that disadvantaged people seem also to suffer more burglary, with the unemployed standing almost twice the chance and single parents almost three times the chance. Age too makes a difference, with risks reducing as the householder gets older.
Whether you rent or own your property makes a difference when you look at the statistics, with rented homes experiencing quite a few more burglaries than private housing. Take a look at the table below. However, it would be fair to say that modern Housing Association developments are at least as safe, if not safer, than owner occupier homes due to the Associations’ adoption of the highly successful police crime prevention building standard called ‘Secured by Design’ , which is all about designing out crime before the new homes are even built. There will be a separate section about this initiative on this website when I've completed it.
Burglary risks - tenure and location
Average risk 2.5% (1.5% with entry and 1% attempts)
The local area is poorly maintained 5.4% (The BCS call this high physical disorder)
People lived in the home less than a year 4.6%
The home is social rented accommodation 4.2%
The home is private rented accommodation 3.7%
The home is located in an urban area 2.8%
The local area is well maintained 2.2% (The BCS call this no physical disorder)
The home is owned by the occupier 1.7%
People lived there for more than 10 years 1.7%
The home is located in a rural area 1.1%
Now although those of you who live in the countryside may feel vulnerable to burglary because of your isolation the statistics seem to suggest that it’s those who live in our towns and cities that suffer most burglary. That’s probably because most of the criminals live in the urban areas and there’s a greater reward from committing burglary in a place where there are lots of targets grouped together.
That said, there have been rises in agricultural crime in recent years, with more theft of plant and machinery and increased livestock rustling, so the countryside has its own problems.
One of the key findings of the BCS and CSEW is the affect that home security has on individuals becoming victims. The BCS says this about burglary: “The level of home security remains an important factor in risk of burglary victimisation”. The figures below clearly demonstrate that even the most basic security measures can reduce your risk of burglary by more than half.
Burglary risks – security levels
The 2009/10 BCS tells us the following about the effectiveness of home security.
Less than basic home security measures 5.8%
Basic security 0.9%
Enhanced home security measures 0.6%
The trouble with statistics, of course, is that they are very general. They definitely help the police do their job by helping them to decide where to patrol and how to divide up their resources and they also help the Crime Prevention Officer when it comes to planning a crime prevention campaign. However, just because you happen to live in a flat, which is much less likely to be burgled than a detached house, doesn’t mean to say that you won’t fall victim to burglary and you, like all of us, should at least take sensible measures to keep yourself safe.
The author’s experience of crime since 1992
I live in a semi-detached house in West London with, according to the police statistics, has a generally low to average crime risk. I have experienced one burglary in the 18 years I’ve lived here. I’ve had the side window of my car smashed by a thief who saw the marks left by the Sat Nav mounting arm on the windscreen and thought I’d been stupid enough to leave the thing in the car (I hadn’t). I’ve had a wing mirror pulled off the car and a bottle of beer smashed over it – what was that all about? I got badly assaulted trying to arrest a burglar in my neighbour’s house (5 months off work) and some plants were stolen from a plant pot out the front. Somebody once jumped over the side gate and stole a broken electric drill from the garden while I was in the lounge watching telly (he didn’t know it was broken). The bonnet of my wife’s car got ‘keyed’ one night and my last car was the subject of no less than three fail to stop accidents outside my home.
So that’s 11 incidents in 18 years, which works out to an average of one incident every 19 ½ months. Now I’m not sure if that is good or bad? Out of the 11 incidents I would personally classify two of them as serious – the assault on me and the burglary. The rest, although annoying, were fairly minor in cost terms and were quickly forgotten about. So now I’m thinking that’s 2 serious incidents in 18 years; 1 every 9 years. This seems worse to me, a serious crime every 9 years, that’s about 9 serious crimes in the average lifetime – not good times.
Now what is interesting is that had my neighbour and I followed the advice from this website or from my books and papers and so on neither my burglary nor the assault on me by my neighbour’s burglar would have happened, leaving me with no serious crimes in 18 years - good times!
Hence the old adage ‘do as I say, not as I do!’