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Tuesday, 2 October 2023

Explanation of crime statistics

Crime rates are published each year in a report that looks at both reported and unreported crimes. National, local and street level crime information is now available online. Find out how to access this information to see how your own street and community measure up.

How crime is measured

Crime is measured in two ways:

  • the police keep a record of all crimes reported to them
  • the government carries out a large household survey, called the British Crime survey, to ask the public about their experience of crime

Why are both crime measurements needed?

Neither method gives a complete count of all crime, and they have different strengths and weaknesses.

Police records cover all crime reported to or identified by the police. This includes both commercial and ‘victimless’ crime (such as possession of drugs) as well as crimes reported by the public. However, only about 40 per cent of crimes are actually reported to the police.

To fill that gap of unreported crime, the British Crime Survey asks thousands of people each year about their own experiences with crime. This means that crimes that are never reported to the police are included. However, the British Crime survey does not cover commercial crime or so-called ‘victimless’ crimes (such as possession of drugs). Also, because it is a survey of crime victims, it cannot cover murder.

Used together, though, the police records and the annual crime survey form a picture of crime trends in the country. A detailed report covering both measurements is published each year called ‘Crime in England and Wales’, with brief updates published quarterly.

Find out what's happening with crime

The most recent annual crime report is ‘Crime in England and Wales 2009-10’. It looks at all the crimes committed that year, and compares crime rates to previous years.

You can read the report online, or download it to your own computer as a PDF.

Crime statistics in your area

You can now find out about the crime and anti-social behaviour for your street.

Using the local crime link below, just type in your postcode, town, village or street. You’ll get street-level crime maps and information and details of your local policing team and beat meetings.

The justice system where you live

There are several different ways of bringing offences to justice. Many offences result in convictions in court, others are 'taken into consideration' by judges and magistrates when criminals are sentenced for different crimes. Less serious offences are handled outside of courts through cautions, penalty notices (on-the-spot fines) or verbal warnings given by police.

Generally, it's hard to fairly compare the number of crimes reported to police with the number of crimes brought to justice. There are several reasons for that, including:

  • it can take months or years for criminals to go on trial for their crimes
  • one arrest can solve many crimes
  • one crime can involve several offenders

You can find out what's happening in your community by using the link below.

Additional links

Local crime information

Find out what's being done about crime and anti-social behaviour where you live

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