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The British Crime Survey (BCS) collects information about experience of victimisation and allows examination of risk factors associated with victimisation. The Offending, Crime and Justice Survey (OCJS) is a self-report survey of offending but has also included questions on experience of personal victimisation.


Crime Statistics
Department: Office for National Statistics
Crime statistics from the Crime Survey for England and Wales and police recorded crime.

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The BCS is a nationally representative survey with an achieved sample of approximately 47,000 adults living in private households in England and Wales each year. It is a face-to-face victimisation survey in which respondents are asked about their experiences of crime in the 12 months prior to their interview. The BCS collects information about the victims of crime; the circumstances in which incidents occur; and the behaviour of offenders in committing crimes. The survey can be used to examine which factors are associated with the risk of becoming a victim of crime and of multiple, and repeat, victimisation.

The OCJS is a nationally representative sample survey of adults aged 10-25 living in private households in England and Wales. It provides measures of self-reported offending; indicators of repeat offending; trends in the prevalence of offending; and information on the nature of offences committed, such as the role of co-offenders and the relationship between perpetrators and victims. The OCJS also provides some information on the extent and nature of young people's personal victimisation.

BCS data are reported annually in the Home Office Statistical Bulletin ‘Crime in England and Wales’. The OCJS was carried out in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 and the latest results ‘Young people and crime: findings from the 2006 Offending, Crime and Justice Survey’ were published in July 2008.

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Technical Data

British Crime Survey

The British Crime Survey (BCS) is a nationally representative survey with an achieved sample of approximately 47,000 adults living in private households in England and Wales each year. The BCS started in 1981 and has been running as a continuous survey since 2001/02. It is a face-to-face survey in which respondents are asked about their experiences of crime in the 12 months prior to their interview and their perceptions of crime and crime-related topics, such as anti-social behaviour and the police. The BCS is a key source of information on experience of victimisation as it provides a rich source of data on the background characteristics of respondents and the circumstances of victimisation.

As a survey of members of the public living in private households, the BCS does not cover commercial victimisation, for example, thefts from businesses and shops, and frauds. The BCS also excludes crimes termed as victimless (for example, possession of drugs) and so, as a victim-based survey, murders are not included. The BCS does not currently cover crimes against people aged under 16 or those in communal establishments. However, one of the key recommendations of the crime statistics reviews carried out in 2006 was that the BCS should be extended to include populations currently not covered by the survey. As a result, the Home Office is extending the BCS to cover under 16s from January 2009.

Offending, Crime and Justice Survey

The OCJS is a nationally representative longitudinal self-report survey which asks young people in England and Wales about their attitudes towards, and experiences of, offending. Its main aim is to examine the extent of offending, anti-social behaviour and victimisation among the household population, particularly among young people aged from 10 to 25.

The first survey was carried out in 2003 and covered around 12,000 people aged from ten to 65 living in private households in England and Wales. Subsequent annual surveys carried out in 2004, 2005 and 2006, focused on young people aged from 10 to 25. In 2004, and in each of the subsequent years, young people who had previously been interviewed and agreed to further contact were followed up for re-interview. In addition to these ‘panel’ respondents, ‘fresh sample’ respondents aged from 10 to 25 were also introduced to ensure the total sample was around 5,000 young people each year. Longitudinal data (information from the same individuals over time) allows the examination of the pathways into and out of delinquency, and the impact various risk and protective factors have on these pathways.

The OCJS covers ‘mainstream’ offences against households, individuals and businesses such as burglary, shoplifting and assault. It also covers fraud and technology offences. The main focus of the OCJS is on the 20 core offences, and the wording of these questions was carefully considered to reflect legal definitions in simple, understandable language which was suitable for a survey including respondents aged as young as ten.

As a sample survey of the general population, the OCJS will pick up relatively few ‘serious’ offenders. In particular, very serious offences including homicide and sexual offences are omitted. People in institutions (including prisons) or who are homeless are not covered in the OCJS sample.

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  • Confidence interval

    Surveys produce statistics that are estimates of the real figure for the population under study. These estimates are always surrounded by a margin of error of plus or minus a given range. The confidence intervals for a particular statistic provide a range of values around that statistic where the ‘true’ (population) statistic is located with a given level of certainty. Confidence intervals can also be constructed for changes in estimates between years of the BCS and for differences between population subgroups (see the definition of statistical significance).

  • Sampling error

    A sample, as used in the British Crime Survey (BCS), is a small-scale representation of the population from which it is drawn. As such, the sample may produce estimates that differ from the figures that would have been obtained if the whole population had been interviewed. The size of the error depends on the sample size, the size and variability of the estimate, and the design of the survey. It can be computed and used to construct confidence intervals. Sampling error is also taken into account in tests of statistical significance.

  • Statistical significance

    Statistical significance is the probability that an observed difference or relationship in a sample occurred by chance, and that in the population no such difference or relationship exists. The BCS estimates are subject to sampling error, so differences between estimates from successive years of the survey or between population subgroups may occur by chance. Tests of statistical significance are used to identify which differences are unlikely to have occurred by chance. In this publication, tests at the 5 per cent significance level have been applied (the level at which there is a one in 20 chance of an observed difference being solely due to chance).

  • Weighted data

    Two types of weighting are used to ensure the representativeness of the BCS sample. Firstly, the raw data are weighted to compensate for unequal probabilities of selection. These include: the individual's chance of participation being inversely proportional to the number of adults living in the household; the over-sampling of smaller police force areas; and the selection of multi-household addresses. Secondly, calibration weighting is used to adjust for differential non-response.

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Contact Details

For statistical enquiries about this topic, please contact:

Crime Statistics

Email: crimestats.rds@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7035 6823

Home Office Statistics 5th Floor Peel 2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF

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