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Recounting Crime – helping to improve the accuracy of crime estimates

Recounting crime is a research project funded by the ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative. The project team are using data from the CDRC to explore new statistical methods to help improve the accuracy and precision of crime estimates.

About the Project

Getting an accurate picture of the true extent of crime is a central task of police forces, the Home Office, and Office for National Statistics. Annual counts of crime are used to determine the costs of crime, which is in turn used to allocate resources to the police and public services, performance manage the police, and evaluate crime reduction initiatives.

The regular publication of crime figures is also a key determinant of public confidence which in turn facilitates greater reporting of crime, whilst also being used by governments to justify – and retract – major policy initiatives. Recent reports about the rise of knife crime, and the large uptick in hate crime post-Brexit both relied on close reference to crime statistics, and the proposed extension of stop and search powers across police forces in England and Wales has also been justified with reference to these apparent increases in crime.

The problems with recorded crime figures are well known, including inconsistencies in recording practices in different forces, incentives to ‘no-crime’ incidents that are unlikely to be solved, and differences in the willingness of the public to report certain crimes (which is itself dependent on the relationship between the police and the public). So severe are these problems that police recorded crime figures recently lost their official statistics designation (following a substantial review in 2014). 

In this project the team will make use of recent developments in the study of measurement error and small area estimation to better understand the nature of the gaps in coverage of the two sources of crime data, explore the implications of relying on crime estimates prone to measurement error, develop adjustment methods and estimate new ‘corrected’ crime counts at the local area level. 

Find out more

Visit the Recounting Crime website.

Follow Recounting Crime on Twitter.

Watch the Recounting Crime project team discuss the impact of measurement error in police crime records at the UK Data Service – Crime Surveys User Conference 2020 on 8 December.