2 Trends in crime and re-offending |
Trends in recorded crime since
12. Crime has continued to fall since
2010, as measured by both the Crime Survey for England and Wales
and offences recorded by the police. The latest survey figures
estimate that there were 8.0 million crimes against households
and resident adults in the twelve months in the year to September
2013, down 10% compared with the previous year's survey, and the
lowest estimate over the history of the survey, which began in
1981. The reduction
in crime measured by the survey was led by statistically significant
decreases in both household (vehicle and property related) crime
and personal (theft from the person and violent) crime, which
were down 10%, and 9% respectively on the preceding year. These
categories include high volume crimes such as burglary and criminal
damage which make a major contribution to the overall crime rate,
masking rises in some offences.
13. The recorded crime figures for the
same period show that the police recorded 3.7 million offences,
giving a 3% reduction over the previous twelve months.
Again, there were decreases across most of the main categories
of police recorded crime, but signs of increasing upward pressures
in some offence types. For example, shoplifting showed a 4% increase
and theft from the person increased by 7%. The number of sexual
offences recorded by the police increased by 17%, which has been
partly attributed to a continuation of a 'Yewtree effect', whereby
a greater number of victims have come forward to report historical
sexual offences to the police.
Concern has been expressed that neither self-reported nor police
recorded figures capture adequately some types of offences, including
e-crime. In the year
ending September 2013, 201,035 fraud offences were recorded by
the police and Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud and internet
crime reporting centre, based on reports from members of the public.
This represents a volume increase of 34%, and should be seen in
the context of a move towards improved centralised recording of
fraud by the police.
14. While our inquiry was under way,
the Public Administration Select Committee took an in-depth look
at crime statistics. One aspect of their inquiry was to examine
the reasons for increasing divergence between the two measures:
since 2004/05 the police recorded crime dataset has shown a steeper
decline than the survey for comparable offences. The Committee
found strong evidence that police recording data under-record
crime, and therefore the rate of decrease in crime may be exaggerated,
and concluded that this is due to lax police compliance with the
agreed national standard of victim-focused crime recording.
As a consequence of this inquiry, this data set lost its designation
as a National Statistic.
Trends in recorded re-offending
15. The Government also publishes several
series of data on trends in recorded re-offending. The Ministry
of Justice publishes National Statistics on proven re-offending
in England and Wales for both juvenile and adult offenders on
a quarterly basis.
The one year proven reoffending rate for adult offenders discharged
from prison or commencing a court order was 35.9% for the representative
cohort from July 2008 to June 2010, against a baseline of 40.9%
in 2000. The most
recent figures suggest that there has been little change since
then, with the rate relating to the year to June 2012 being 35.4%.
Less than 1% of all proven re-offences committed over the one
year follow-up period were serious violent or sexual offences,
with very little change in that proportion since 2000.
16. Other figures include: the impact
of sentencing on proven re-offending for adult offenders in England
and Wales; re-offending rates at the end of sentence; and local
adult reoffending (giving data at both local authority and local
probation trust level). The latest data for the first two, which
relate to 2009-10, demonstrated that:
· offenders sentenced to fewer
than 12 months in custody have higher reoffending rates than similar
offenders receiving a community order or suspended sentence;
· offenders receiving suspended
sentences had lower re-offending rates than similar offenders
receiving a community order;
· offenders receiving a conditional
discharge had lower re-offending rates than similar offenders
receiving a community order or a fine; and
· offenders sentenced to between
1 and 4 years have lower re-offending rates than similar offenders
receiving a sentence of less than 12 months. 
The local adult reoffending data show
that from 2007/08, the baseline for the series, to September 2013,
the picture has been mixed:
· 14% of Probation Trusts (5)
show an increase in reoffending and 29% (10) show a decrease,
with the remainder (20) demonstrating no significant change;
· 5% of local authorities (8)
show an increase in reoffending, and 20% (35) show a decrease,
with the remainder demonstrating no significant change.
· The progress of both probation
trusts and local authorities has retreated since the year to March
2013, when 14 Trusts and 48 local authorities were demonstrating
a decrease in relation to the baseline.
17. Crime rates have continued to
decline since 2010. Falls in reoffending were achieved up to 2010,
but since then reoffending rates have stabilised and remained
high. Local data demonstrate that efforts to reduce reoffending
in local areas, by probation trust, or local authority, have had
mixed results. Over the last year there has been a fall in the
proportion of local authority areas and probation trust areas
achieving a decrease in reoffending.
The relationship between rates
of crime and re-offending and crime reduction policies
18. The range of explanations suggested
by our academic witnesses illustrate that the fall in crime is
an extremely complex phenomenon to explain. Professor Stephen
Farrall believed that it was important also to seek explanations
for why crime had risen in the period up to that time.
Demographics, opportunity, culture and societal structure all
play a role in explaining trends in different types of crime.
For example, there are fewer young people, and they are drinking
less and taking fewer drugs than the 1970s.
There are fewer opportunities for car crime and burglary due to
better car and home security; this is thought to explain the initial
drop in crime from the mid-1990s.
In broader structural terms, countries with lower rates of poverty
and inequality and more generous social safety nets are typically
safer, had lower rates of violence and lower rates of imprisonment.
Professor Farrall's modelling of crime trends in the UK indicated
a link between property crime and levels of economic inequality,
rates of unemployment and social welfare benefits.
Limited research has been conducted on the geographical distribution
of crime in England and Wales.
19. The Centre for Crime and Justice
Studies (CCJS) presented a range of research evidence to submit
that the main influences on levels of harm and victimisation are
social arrangementsfor example rates of wealth and poverty,
levels of employment and unemployment, unequal power relationsrather
than the criminal justice system and its individual agencies.
For example, they cite studies by both Professor Pridemore, University
of New York, and Professor Dorling, University of Oxford, on homicide
rates that each found that higher levels of homicide were associated
with higher rates of poverty; the latter found that in Britain
between 1979 and 1999, those living in the richest neighbourhoods
saw their risk of being a victim of homicide fall, whereas in
the poorest neighbourhoods the risk of being a victim of homicide
went up sixfold.
Professor Tseloni echoed this, she suggested that "people
in the most vulnerable population groups are much worse off compared
with others than before the crime drop".
One consequence of this is that crime should be much easier to
target. Recent analyses
of fear of crime suggest that it tends to reflect neighbourhood
20. Falling crime rates are to some
extent an international trend, meaning that explanatory factors
related to the functioning of individual justice systems and other
policies have generally been assumed to have limited relevance.
Having reviewed international evidence explaining falls in official
crime rates, Professor Tseloni said that the drop cannot be explained
by criminal justice changessuch as sentencing, rates of
imprisonment, police numbers, or policing strategieswithin
any specific jurisdiction.
Professor McDougall believed that the adoption of evidence-based
approaches to reducing reoffending, including offender behaviour
programmes, in prisons and probation, was "bound to have
had an effect", although she was unable to quantify this.
Independent evaluations of individual integrated offender management
initiatives have demonstrated significant reductions in acquisitive
crime in the localities in which they have operated.
The doubling of rates of imprisonment is also thought to have
had an impact, albeit a small one.
21. In a 2010 article Exploring the
international decline in crime rates Professor Tseloni and
her colleagues said the consequence of the variation in explanations
for the fall in crime was that potential lessons for policy and
practice may not have been learned.
Professor Garside considered that it was important to distinguish
between various crime types in seeking underlying causes for their
trends and assessing the policy implications.
22. Crime can be sensitive to changes
in national policy agendas: these can facilitate crime, or they
can make its commission more difficult. Professor Laycock explained
that just as burglary went down because homes became more secure,
removing regulations on securing houses as part of any agenda
to promote house building might mean the burglary figures would
rise again. Crime
can also be sensitive to socio-economic trends: there is general
accord that crime rates tend to rise during periods of economic
downturn, although violent crime typically drops. Yet the
ongoing falls in crime rates since 2010 have confounded expectations.
When we put this to Professor Hough, he said "I was one of
the people who said that the recession would kick crime up at
some stage. I have yet to be proved right. I suspect that different
recessions have different cultural meanings, and that the '70s
and '80s recessions meant different things to people at risk of
crime, compared with now, but I have not really got much further
than that to explain it."
The latest police recorded crime statistics indicated a 4% rise
in shoplifting, but it is too soon to predict whether this is
indicative of a longer-term trend.
23. Our predecessor Committee recommended
that the Ministry of Justice undertake work to identify the key
factors influencing changes in the rate of reoffending and crime
as a priority. The
question of causation is important as this can be used to reduce
criminality amongst individuals or groups and to predict crime
trends and seek to influence them. When we questioned the Minister
for Crime Prevention, Norman Baker MP, about what the Government
was doing in this regard he explained that he had just set up
two panels, one to examine what steps could be taken now to reduce
crime, and the other to look at future crime trends. He said "It
is not sensible to have a Department which simply fire-fights
the whole time. We have to anticipate where crime is going and
try to head it off."
This is reflected in his work with the mobile phone industry to
tackle the rise in mobile phone theft, and international research,
in which the Government is involved, to examine the fall in use
of heroin and crack cocaine and fall in crime.
24. Falling crime rates have continued
and are welcome, but the extent to which falls in crime can, in
practice, be attributed to the success of national or local crime
reduction policies is unclear. What is clear is that there are
multiple factors at play, and that it is difficult to attribute
falls in crime directly to particular crime reduction policies
or practices. Crime rates and reoffending rates are simple measures
used to reflect the effectiveness, or otherwise, of an extensive
and complex series of policies and processes, and offenders' responses
to them. It is concerning that some local reoffending rates appear
to indicate setbacks in the progress of local areas on this agenda.
Similarly, while there has been a significant fall in crime,
criminal victimisation is now more concentrated on a few vulnerable
population groups and the poorest neighbourhoods, providing a
greater opportunity for more targeted crime reduction initiatives.
The economic downturn, which some commentators suggest had potential
to impact on crime rates, has not yet done so, or that impact
is not yet apparent. It is only at a relatively late stage
in this Parliament that Ministers appear to have taken steps to
increase their understanding of crime trends. The Government should
seek to recognise more explicitly where reoffending has fallen
and seek to understand why.
26 Office for National Statistics,
Crime in England and Wales, year ending September 2013, Statistics
are now available for the year to December 2013. Back
Q327 [Professor Hough]. See also, for example, Crime expert attacks
'deceptive' Home Office figures showing fall in offences, The
Observer, 5 May 2013 Back
Crime in England and Wales, year ending September 2013. See also
Q327 [Professor Hough] Back
Public Administration Select Committee, Thirteenth Report of Session
2013-14, Caught red-handed: Why we can't count on Police Recorded
Crime statistics, HC 760 Back
See, for example, Ministry of Justice, Proven Reoffending Quarterly
Bulletin July 2011-June 2012, England and Wales, April 2014.
Proven re-offending is defined as any offence committed in a one
year follow-up period and receiving a court conviction, caution,
reprimand or warning in the one year follow-up. Following this
one year period, a further six month waiting period is allowed
for cases to progress through the courts. Back
National Offender Management Service, National Offender Management
Service Annual Report and Accounts 2011-2012, HC 436 Back
Proven Reoffending Quarterly Bulletin July 2011-June 2012, England
and Wales Back
Ministry of Justice, 2013 Compendium of re-offending statistics
and analysis, July 2013. This refers to one year reconviction
Ministry of Justice, Local Adult Reoffending 1 October 2012-30
September 2013 England and Wales, February 2014 Back
Q345 [Mr Page]; See for example, Health and Social Care Information
Centre, Smoking, Drinking and Drug Use Among Young People in England
- 2012, July 25, 2013. Back
Q272 [Professor Farrington]; Q277 [Professor Laycock]; Q342 [Professor
See Mills, H. and Roberts, R. (2012) Reducing the numbers in
custody: looking beyond criminal justice solutions
Centre for Crime and Justice
Q274 [Professor Farrall] Back
Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, (PPC0022) Back
See also Q327 [Professor Garside]; Q330 [Professor Tseloni] Back
Q330 [Professor Tseloni] Back
See, for example, Pease, K. and Tseloni, A. (2014) Using Modeling
to Predict and Prevent Victimization, Springer Briefs in Criminology,
Vol 13. Back
Q348 [Professor Tseloni]; Q334 [Mr Page] Back
See also Q340 [Professor Tseloni]. In 2012 the NAO produced a
briefing for our inquiry on the budget and structure of the Ministry
of Justice, Comparing International Criminal Justice Systems,
in which it found 'no consistent correlations' between falls in
official crime rates and the numbers in prison across a range
of countries. HM Inspector of Constabulary has said that there
is no simple link between police officer numbers and crime levels,
between numbers and the visibility of the police in the community,
or between numbers and the quality of service provided. Back
See, for example, National Policing Lead for Integrated Offender
Management (PPC0008), Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon &
Somerset (PPC0019), Napo (PPC0031); Q60 [Ms Mountstevens], Qq71,
78 [Ms Bourne] Back
Q346 [Professor Hough] Back
Tseloni, A., Mailley, J., Farrell, G. and Tilley, N. (2010) Exploring
the international decline in crime rates, European Journal
of Criminology 7(5) 375-394 Back
Q343. See also Q343 [Professor Garside] Back
Justice Committee, First Report of Session 2009-10, Cutting
crime: the case for justice reinvestment, HC 94-I Back
Qq507, 518 Back
Qq507, 509 Back