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Scottish Crime Survey 2003




The 2003 Scottish Crime Survey (SCS) was a household survey of people's experiences and perceptions of crime, based on interviews with 5,041 adults (aged 16 or over) throughout Scotland. This was the sixth such survey, and last in its current format.

A fundamental review of the design, content and management of the SCS was commissioned by the Scottish Executive in February 2003. The findings of this review led to the re-launch of the survey as the larger Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey (SCVS) in June 2004. The SCVS represents a major shift in design, methodology and sample size from previous surveys and is now a continuous survey with an annual sample of 27,500 adults (aged 16 or over) interviewed over the telephone rather than face-to-face.

The SCS provides an index of crime in Scotland which complements the official police recorded crime statistics by estimating the extent of crimes which are experienced by households and individuals, whether or not they are reported to, or recorded by, the police. This report presents the main findings from the 2003 SCS, providing comparisons with the previous sweeps of the survey and the Scottish police recorded crime statistics. From the 2001/2002 survey the British Crime Survey (BCS) moved from reporting by calendar year to financial year, and so data for Scotland for 2002 are not comparable with published data from England and Wales for the same year. This problem will be resolved by the SCVS, which will also report by financial year.

Chapter 1 of this report explains the background to, and the purpose and advantages of, conducting social surveys of victimisation, as well as the limitations of attempting to measure the extent of crime in this way. Chapter 2 provides estimates of the extent of crime and victimisation in Scotland for 2002, while Chapter 3 provides information on the trends in self-reported victimisation by comparing the results from the 2003 SCS to those found in previous sweeps. Chapter 4 provides a comparison of the findings with official police recorded crime statistics. Chapter 5 explores the risk of victimisation and Chapter 6 examines the public's perception of crime and their worry about crime. Finally, Chapter 7 looks at the prevalence of drug use in Scotland.

The main findings from the 2003 SCS are detailed below.

Extent and nature of crime in Scotland: 1992 to 2002

  • Estimates from the 2003 SCS suggest that just over 1 million incidents of the crimes asked about were committed against individuals and households in Scotland in 2002. This represents an increase of 30 per cent from the number of crimes estimated for 1999, but is very similar to the estimate for 1992. Two thirds of all crimes were committed against property, the remainder against individuals.
  • Housebreaking accounted for 8 per cent of all SCS crimes in 2002. This crime has shown a significant decline over the ten years from 1992 to 2002, falling by 51 per cent. The definition of housebreaking includes both attempted and successful entry. The proportion of housebreaking incidents that has involved successful entry has also decreased over time, from 69 per cent in 1992 to 54 per cent in 2002.
  • Vandalism accounted for 34 per cent of the total number of crimes reported to the SCS. Vandalism rose sharply by 68 per cent between 1999 and 2002. This is due to a rise in both vandalism against motor vehicles and vandalism against other private property. Although there has undoubtedly been a genuine increase, there is some evidence to suggest that this might include a greater proportion of trivial vandalism incidents reported to the SCS than was in the case in previous survey sweeps.
  • Crimes of violence (robbery and assault) accounted for 24 percent of SCS crimes. There was no statistically significant change in the incidence of violent crime between 1999 and 2002. However, there was a significant increase of 46 per cent between 1992 and 2002. This was the result of a 125 per cent increase in petty assault. Serious assault, in contrast, decreased by 38 per cent over the same period.

Comparison with police recorded crime statistics

  • Only 68 per cent of SCS crimes were directly comparable with police recorded crime statistics (that is reported and non-reported housebreaking, vandalism, theft of a vehicle, theft of a bicycle, assault and robbery). Of these, it is estimated that only 24 per cent were recorded by the police in 2002. This is lower than the 30 per cent estimated to have been recorded in 1999 and the 36 per cent in 1995 and 1992. The decrease in crimes recorded between 1999 and 2002 is mainly explained by a significant reduction in the proportion of incidents of vandalism that was reported and recorded.
  • The crimes most likely to be reported to the police in 2002 were theft of a motor vehicle (97%), housebreaking (64%), and theft from a motor vehicle (60%). The crimes which were least likely to be recorded by the police were other types of household theft (16%) and theft from the person (28%).

Risks of victimisation

  • Twenty-three per cent of respondents were victims of at least one personal or household crime in 2002. This represents a small increase from 20 per cent in 1999 but remains lower than the risk in 1992 (27%).
  • One in six (18%) households experienced an incident of property crime in 2002. The most common property crime was vandalism, experienced by one in ten households.
  • Just under 3 per cent of households were victims of housebreaking in 2002. This represents a continuation of the downward trend in the prevalence of housebreaking since 1992.
  • Only 6 per cent of respondents were victims of a personal crime in 2002. The most common personal crimes were assault (3%) and personal theft (2%). Less than one per cent experienced robbery.
  • In terms of the variation of risk among different sections of the population, the following observations can be made:
    • Men were slightly more likely than women to become victims of both household and personal crime in 2002. This is particularly evident amongst 16 to 24 year old men in relation to personal crime.
    • The high prevalence of personal crime against young men is primarily due to the high prevalence of violent crime amongst this group.
    • Those aged 60 or over were the least likely to become the victim of both household and personal crime.
    • Vehicle owners living in the most deprived areas were most likely to be victims of vehicle theft.

Public perceptions of crime

  • When respondents were asked to describe how serious they considered a range of social issues in Scotland over three quarters (83%) described crime as being 'extremely' or 'quite' serious. Only drug abuse was considered by more (91%) to be an 'extremely' or 'quite' serious problem.
  • Forty-two per cent of respondents felt there was more crime in their local area than two years previously. This proportion is similar to that found in the 2000 SCS (41%).
  • When asked how common they felt particular crimes were in their local area the proportions who felt various household crimes (people having their vehicles damaged by vandals, people having things stolen from their vehicles, people's homes being broken into and people having their vehicles stolen) were 'very' or 'fairly' common decreased from that in 2000. However, the proportion who felt personal crimes (people being assaulted or attacked in public places, people being assaulted by people they live with and people being mugged or robbed) were 'very' or 'fairly' common showed an increase from 2000.
  • One in ten people thought it was 'very' or 'fairly' likely that their home would be broken into within the next year. This represents an increase from 7 per cent in 2000 and is higher than the proportion of households who were, in fact, the victims of housebreaking in 2002 (3%) and 1999 (4%). Thus, although housebreaking has shown signs of decreasing since 1999, people's perception of their likelihood of falling victim to this type of crime has increased.
  • Eight per cent believed it was 'very' or 'fairly' likely they would be a victim of a violent crime in the following year. Again, this is a rise from 5 per cent in 2000 and is double the actual prevalence of violent crime in 2002, which was 4 per cent.

Drug use

  • Over a quarter of 16 to 59 year olds reported ever having taken an illicit drug (27%). Nine per cent had taken an illicit drug in the year before they were interviewed and 5 per cent in the month before they were interviewed.
  • The peak age of drug use was between 20 and 24 years of age, with 28 per cent reporting having taken an illicit drug in the previous year. Men were significantly more likely to have taken an illicit drug in the last year than women (12% versus 7%).
  • Cannabis was the most commonly used drug. It was taken by one in four (24%) of respondents at some point in their lives and by 8 per cent in the year before they were interviewed. The use of all other drugs asked about was very low.
  • A higher proportion of respondents reported using an illicit drug in the previous year in 2003 than in 2000 (9% versus 7%).