Guest Blog By: Emma Williams (Deputy Director, Canterbury Centre for Policing Research) and Dr Helen Innes (Research Fellow, Crime and Security Research Institute)
New cost-saving measures applied to the Crime Survey for England and Wales from 2017/18 will reduce the number of people interviewed each year and so challenge the ability of academics, police forces and policy makers to draw on a robust local evidence-base that is much needed to inform and steer decision-making and service delivery tailored to local needs. That the Crime Survey is being squeezed again at a time when the in-house analytic capability of police forces is at an all-time low, when forces are no longer mandated to routinely survey victims of crime and many have stopped local public surveys to save money, is of major concern when all the signs point to rising crime and vulnerability in society.
Emma Williams – a little history
Last night (November 15th) I attended Professor Ben Bradford’s inaugural lecture at City Hall in London. The paper was focused on policing diversity, immigration and the impact of this on police legitimacy. It was a brilliant paper which yet again highlighted to me the clear ignorance around the governments’ decision to reduce the questions in the Crime Survey England and Wales.
I will avoid making this blog a history of certain criminological theories and the influence they had on the development of victimisation surveys in the UK. But I cannot write this without making reference to Jock Young and the Left Realist school. These writings exploring and questioning ‘the truth’ of official crime statistics and the lack of discussion about the dark figure of crime led to the development of victimisation surveys and the British Crime Survey, which later became the Crime Survey England and Wales (managed by ONS). Such data finally shed light on the reality of victimisation for many communities and groups in the UK. Without such insight we would not effectively understand multiple and repeat victimisation, incidences of hate crime, the reality of domestic abuse or the reality of how certain areas and groups experience crime and violence differently and disproportionately. Plus, critically, just how much of this goes unreported to the police.
The crime survey plays a vital role in helping us understand how the public view the police which is essential to understanding the level of legitimacy the public feel the police have in the UK. The surveys reveal issues around differing definitions of what constitutes a crime, personal narrative about harm or an act of violence. Such insight helped to confirm feminist criminologists’ exposure of the level of threat women feel as a result of their gender. This allowed for some real challenge to the notions of women’s fear of crime being irrational as it revealed the type of everyday perceived violence that women can experience. The dark figure of crime and victimisation is vital to understand – it facilitates (or should) more focused resource deployment, policy and strategic initiatives aimed at informing the community and dealing with their concerns, local policing plans and targeted work where certain groups are overly represented or have lower levels of confidence in the police. Force data and local surveys have largely gone due to severe cuts but now it seems it is deemed as ‘not a priority’ by our government also.
Helen will talk more about some of the practical implications of these cuts later in the paper but I want to briefly discuss them in relation to something Ben raised last night...