First of all what is a crime rate?
A crime rate is a way of measuring crime relative to the size of the population in a given area. So if for example a given area had a population of 100 and there were 100 crimes over 12 months, that would represent a very high crime rate to the residents in that area. If another area had 200 crimes but it was in an area with 10,000 residents, that tells you that although the overall crime total is higher in the second area, you are much less at risk as a resident in the second area. That’s why crime rates are so important.
Incidentally, crime rates in America are calculated per 100,000 residents rather than 1,000 in the UK – so watch out for that if you are trying to make any comparison.
Ok, now for some more detail. How exactly do you calculate crime rates?
For the purposes of UKCrimeStats and the official UK Crime Rate (CR) statistic, CR is best understood in totality as “Crimes per 1,000 resident people as per the latest official Census over a selected time period”. For population, depending on the shape, we use census data and updated annual estimates thereafter when they are available.
For example, in August 2015, the constituency of the Cities of London and Westminster Constituency had a total of 4,537 crimes and ASB incidents and had a residential population of 114,475 (mid-2013 estimate). To calculate the crime rate (which in this case include ASB incidents which we know are not crimes), divide the population by 1000 to get 114.475 and then divide the number of crimes, 4,537 by 114.475. This ends in a crime rate of 39.63 registered crimes per 1,000 residents.
It would be different of course if you used the daytime population, 946,397 which is 10 x higher. I know Westminster well and you could walk across it all day during the day and never see any trouble. So it is more realistically understood with a daytime population rather than a residential population because the risks of crime are relatively low. These are all features available with a login to UKCrimeStats that you could calculate with our reports.
Now back to the big picture.
Crime rates in the United Kingdom have fluctuated over the years, with some types of crime experiencing decreases while others have seen increases. According to data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), overall crime rates in the UK have decreased in recent years, with the number of crimes recorded by the police falling by 41% between 2006/2007 and 2019/2020.
One factor contributing to the overall decrease in crime is the decline in property crime, which includes offenses such as burglary, theft, and vandalism. The number of property crimes recorded by the police has fallen by 52% since 2006/2007. This decrease is likely due to a combination of factors, including improvements in home security and the increased use of technology to track and recover stolen items.
However, while property crime has seen a significant decrease, some other types of crime have increased in recent years. One notable example is violent crime, which includes offenses such as assault and robbery. The ONS reports that the number of violent crimes recorded by the police has increased by 19% since 2016/2017. The increase in violent crime is thought to be due in part to improvements in the reporting and recording of such offenses, as well as a genuine increase in the number of incidents.
Other types of crime that have seen increases in the UK include sexual offenses and crimes related to drug offenses. The number of sexual offenses recorded by the police has increased by 27% since 2016/2017, while the number of drug offenses has increased by 15% over the same period.
Overall, crime rates in the UK have fluctuated in recent years, with some types of crime experiencing decreases while others have seen increases. While property crime has declined significantly, violent crime, sexual offenses, and drug offenses have all seen increases. It is important for authorities and policymakers to continue to monitor and address these trends in order to keep communities safe.
Some variations on Crime Rates
So as discussed above, the population of (night-time) residents or daytime people is a key input to calculating the crime rate. But what about if we were to apply a crime rate to inanimate objects like bicycles or homes or even cars?
Clearly, the pre-existing large number of bicycles in Cambridge used by students pre-disposes it to have more bicycle theft. But unlike the population of people, we don’t know exactly what the bicycle population of Cambridge is. Nevertheless, using Analysis2 on UKCrimeStats, a reporting function available to subscribers, on a total bicycle theft across all lower layer super output areas between November 2021 and and October 2022, we can see that the 3rd highest ranking LSOA for bike theft is indeed in Cambridge, E01032797 Cambridge 007G – to be precise, with 249. And the two highest?
2nd is Oxford with 252 bikes stolen – students again – E01028521 Oxford 008A. And the highest, in Cardiff, W01001939 Cardiff 032F with 279.
Equally, we don’t know what the population of cars is per given area which would obviously have measurable impact on the car crime rate.
But with burglary, I think we should be able to do something here. Clearly, a burglary rate of zero is of no use if that area is a trading estate where no one lives. So we will be looking at filtering out commercial buildings to arrive at a more precise burglary rate relative to the number of residential homes in a given area. Watch this space.