Methods in Context: Crime in England and Wales

Keeping abreast of the various statistical sources and data on crime can be both time-consuming and somewhat confusing for teachers and students – both in terms of the volume of data and the reliability and validity of different data sources.

For these reasons the Office for National Statistics statistical bulletin is a brilliant resource for a-level sociologists in terms of both crime statistics and the research methodologies underpinning their production (so it’s good for information covering both Crime and Deviance and Crime and Methods in Context).

While the statistical bulletin contains all your favourite statistics:

• an 18% increase in total crime, driven by a 54% increase in fraud and computer misuse offences
• a 15% decrease in theft offences.

it’s particularly interesting this year (2022) because of the effect of the Covid-19 pandemic – both in terms of crime (“Crime recorded by police in England and Wales fell by 8% in 2020 as periods of lockdown caused theft reports to drop by more than a quarter”) and how it was recorded.

In the latter respect the ONS trialled a new “Telephone-operated Crime Survey for England and Wales (TCSEW)” in 2020 “to capture trends in crime while normal face-to-face interviewing was suspended because of restrictions on social contact during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic“.

This change raises a range of reliability, validity and comparability issues that might prove a fruitful source of discussion and instruction…

More generally, the ONS web site provides a wide range of accessible information on the major sources of crime statistics (such as police recorded crime, the British Crime Survey and Victimisation surveys) in terms of:

• how crime data is collected (including detailed methodologies

• the accuracy, reliability and validity of the sources

• the strengths and limitations of each source

• detailed statistics on different types of offence

• suggested explanations for changes in crime trends.

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