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2009/10 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Technical Report

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7 Offence Codes, Survey Statistics and Crime Groups

The offence coding process assigns offence codes to each victim form completed by a respondent (see section 6.1). This chapter examines the offence codes which are used in the analysis and reporting of the survey, and how they are grouped and defined.

7.1 Crime types / offence codes covered by the survey

A list of all of the offence codes which can be assigned to a victim form, including in-scope codes and out-of-scopes codes is provided in Annex 10. The following section also looks at what is not covered by the survey.

7.1.1 Offence codes

The offence coding manual for SCJS 2009/10 contained 66 offence codes ( Annex 10). An offence code is assigned to every victim form which is triggered as a result of the victim form screener section (3.2.2). These can be split into two groups: in-scope and out-of-scope codes:

  • In-scope codes: 33 offence codes were used in the calculation of 'all SCJS crime' (section 7.1.5) and therefore the incidence and prevalence statistics from the survey;
  • Out-of-scope codes: these can be grouped into two categories;
  • Sexual offence or threat codes: 12 offence codes related to sexual offences or threats which were not included in the 'all SCJS crime' statistics produced by the survey (see section 7.1.3);
  • Non-valid codes: the offence coding manual also contained 21 offence codes for classifying incidents recorded in the victim form which were not within the scope of the survey (outside of Scotland or the reference period, duplicate incidents), where not enough information was collected to make an accurate classification, where the respondent or household was not the victim or the victim form was skipped (section 3.3.1). These 21 codes were not included in the 'all SCJS crime' statistics produced by the survey.

Details of the offence codes and the incidents that they cover are provided in the SCJS Coding Manual. 66 The variables OFFENCE in the victim form file ( VFF) data file and the VICFORM variables in the respondent file ( RF) data file show the offence code assigned to each victim form.

7.1.2 A note on crime types not covered

The SCJS only collects information about incidents which occurred within Scotland (or, if an incident happened online, if the respondent was living in Scotland at the time) and within the reference period (see section 5.1).

In addition, the SCJS does not collect data about all types of crime occurring in Scotland and has notable exclusions:

  • Crimes against adults living in circumstances other than private households (for example, adults living in institutions, such as prisons or hospitals, or other shared accommodation, such as military bases and student halls of residence - section 2.3.3);
  • Crimes against children and young people (aged under 16); 67
  • Crimes against businesses; 68
  • 'Victimless' crimes, such as speeding, or crime where the victim cannot be interviewed, such as homicide.

7.1.3 Sexual offences and threats

The SCJS victim form collected information on threats and, where respondents provided information, sexual offences. Coders assigned offence codes to incidents of these crimes in the normal way. However, the 'all SCJS crime' statistics (section 7.1.5) produced from the survey, including the estimates of incidence and prevalence, do not include these crimes for the reasons outlined below.

Sexual offences

The victim form screener did not include questions specifically on sexual assault for two reasons:

1. Victims are often reluctant to disclose information on these sensitive crimes in a face-to-face interview and therefore that surveys using face-to-face data collection rather than self-completion tend to under-represent them.

2. On ethical grounds, a decision was taken that it was important to identify respondents' experiences of sexual assault (and to gather limited key information about them) in as sensitive a way as possible without putting them in an uncomfortable position (either by asking questions face-to-face or asking lots of detailed questions).

A separate self-completion questionnaire was therefore used to collect information on sexual victimisation. 69 The statistics and analysis from the self-completion survey are reported separately and a separate data file is available on the UK Data Archive. 70

Details of sexual offences were recorded in the victim form where the respondent did provide details of the incident (for example, as part of the victim form screener question which asks " Has anyone, including people you know well, deliberately hit you with their fists, or with a weapon of any sort, or kicked you, or used force or violence on you in any other way?" respondents may have provided details of an incident of sexual assault). However, as the evidence shows that estimates based on this method of data collection for these types of incidents are not reliable, all such incidents were excluded from the 'all SCJS crime' statistics.

Incidents reported only in the self-completion questionnaire could not be assigned offence codes in the same was as those collected in the victim form as only a limited number of follow-up questions were asked about incidents (reflecting an ethical decision based on potential respondent distress at having to disclose detailed information on very sensitive incidents).

Threats

Following established practice in previous crime surveys in Scotland, threats, although assigned offence codes, were not included in the estimates of crime due to the difficulty of establishing whether or not a crime actually occurred (Anderson and Leitch, 1996).

7.1.4 Duplicate victim forms

Duplicate victim forms can occur where the same actual incident is recorded in two separate victims forms or the victim form is part of a series of the same type of incident (section 3.3.2). This can occur for two reasons:

  • Firstly, if the incident contains two or more different types of incidents described in the victim from screener section (for example, an incident of where something is taken from a victim may also involve the offender using force or violence against the victim) the respondent may not have understood or misheard the qualifier to the victim form screener question: 71 " Apart from anything you have already mentioned". If the respondent mentions the same incident in two separate victim form screener sections, then this may only become apparent after the victim form has been triggered;
  • Secondly, a series of incidents may not be correctly identified / disclosed in the victim from screener section and separate victim forms triggered for very similar incidents.

Duplicate victim forms are marked as 'same duplicate' (code 3) or 'series duplicate' (code 4) according to why the duplicate form has been marked. The 2009/10 survey included a set of questions which were added in order to allow interviewers to better record where this was happening. However, of all victim forms (4,847) only two per cent (103) were coded as duplicates.

7.1.5 List of in-scope offence codes

The list of the 33 in-scope SCJS offence codes (crimes) which were included in the 'all SCJS crime' incidence and prevalence statistics produced from the survey is shown in Table 7.1. It also shows the crime groups used in the 2009/10 SCJS Main Findings report into which each in-scope offence code is grouped (also displayed in Annex 10).

Table 7.1: Offence codes included in the estimates of 'all SCJS crime' by crime group

Code / Description

Crime group

11

Serious assault

Assault

12

Minor assault with injury

13

Minor assault with no / negligible injury

14

Serious assault and fire raising

15

Serious assault and housebreaking

21

Attempted assault

41

Robbery

Robbery

42

Attempted robbery

43

Snatch theft from the person

Personal theft (excluding robbery)

44

Other theft from the person

45

Attempted theft from the person

67

Other theft

73

Other attempted theft

51

Housebreaking in a dwelling (nothing taken)

Housebreaking 72

52

Housebreaking in a dwelling (something taken)

53

Attempted housebreaking in a dwelling

50

Attempted housebreaking to non-connected domestic garage / outhouse

Other household theft (including bicycle theft)

55

Theft in a dwelling

56

Theft from a meter

57

Housebreaking: non-connected domestic garage / outhouse - nothing taken

58

Housebreaking: non-connected domestic garage / outhouse - something taken

64

Theft of pedal bicycle

65

Theft from outside dwelling (excluding theft of milk bottles)

60

Theft of car / van

All motor vehicle theft related incidents

61

Theft from car / van

62

Theft of motorbike, motor scooter or moped

63

Theft from motorbike, motor scooter or moped

71

Attempted theft of / from car / van

72

Attempted theft of / from motorcycle, motor scooter or moped

80

Fire raising

Vandalism

82

Vandalism to a motor vehicle

84

Vandalism to the home

86

Other vandalism

7.2 Survey statistics

The SCJS produces two key measures of crime: incidence (the numbers of crimes) and prevalence (the risk of being a victim of crime or the victimisation rate). It also provides data on repeat victimisation. These are all presented in the 2009/10 SCJS Main Findings report.

Incidence and prevalence statistics were estimated for Scotland using data supplied by General Register Office for Scotland ( GROS); Estimates of Households and Dwellings, 2009 (2,344,450 households) and Mid-2009 Population Estimates Scotland (4,281,650 adults). 73

7.2.1 Household and personal crimes

All of the 33 in-scope offence codes which are assigned in the SCJS relate either to crimes against the individual respondent (such as assault) or to crimes experienced by the respondent's household (such as housebreaking). With regard to crimes against individuals (personal crimes), respondents were asked to only provide information about incidents in which they themselves were the victim. If other household members had experienced personal crimes then this was not recorded in the survey (see section 3.2.2).

This important distinction between personal and household crimes affects how the survey statistics were calculated (sections 7.2.2 and 7.2.3) and how the data is analysed (section 8.10). Annex 15 provides detail of which crimes are classified as household crimes and should therefore be analysed using the household weights (section 8.10).

7.2.2 Incidence and incidence rate

Incidence is defined as:

" The number of crimes experienced per household or adult."

To calculate incidence, the number of crimes experienced by respondents or their household (section 7.2.1) was aggregated together for each offence code, based on up to five separate victim forms, and on the number of incidents in a 'series' (capped at five - section 8.9.2) recorded in the victim forms.

The incidence rate has also been calculated for key crime groups. This is calculated as the gross number of incidents divided by 10,000 to give an incidence rate per 10,000 households (for household crimes) or per 10,000 adults (for personal crimes). The incidence rate enables comparison between areas with differing populations and between data from the SCJS and from the British Crime Survey ( BCS) 2009/10.

Incidence and incidence rates were estimated using incidence weights which include a grossing factor based on population estimates for the household and adult populations depending on whether the crime was classified as a household or personal crime.

Incidence variables are present in the respondent file ( RF) data file and begin with INC.

7.2.3 Prevalence

Prevalence is defined as:

" The proportion of the population who were victims of at least one crime in the specified period."

Prevalence takes account of whether a household or person was a victim of a specific crime once or more in the reference period, not the number of times they were victimised. These figures were based on information from the victim form which was used to designate respondents and / or their households as victims, or non-victims. The percentage of households or individuals in the population that were victims provides the prevalence. This equates to the risk of being a victim of crime and is also referred to as the rate of victimisation.

Prevalence was estimated using population estimates for the household and adult populations depending on whether the crime was classified as a household or personal crime (section 7.2.1).

Where crimes are grouped together in a way that includes both household and personal crime, prevalence was calculated using the population estimates for adults. This follows the practice adopted by the BCS and includes;

  • Property crime;
  • Comparable crime;
  • 'All SCJS crime' (crime overall).

Prevalence variables are included in the respondent file ( RF) data file and begin with PREV.

7.2.4 Repeat victimisation

The SCJS classifies a household or adult is classed as a repeat victim if they are the victim of the same crime more than once in the 12 month reference period. If all victims had only been the victim of one crime in the reference period, incidence and prevalence would be the same. Repeat victimisation accounts for differences between incidence and prevalence. Higher levels of repeat victimisation mean there is a relatively lower prevalence compared with incidence.

Repeat victimisation is calculated as a percentage of household or adult victims according to the crime group. Where both household and personal crimes are grouped together, repeat victimisation is calculated as a percentage of the population of adult victims.

Repeat victimisation variables are included in the respondent file ( RF) data file and begin with REP.

7.3 Crime groups

'All SCJS crime' (overall crime) can be broken down into various subgroups for analysis purposes. The two principal crime groups are property crime and violent crime. The level of risk associated with these groups of crimes differs, along with their characteristics, and victims' experience and perception of them. These two principal groups, used in the analysis in the 2009/10 SCJS Main Findings report, can also be further broken down into seven groups, shown in Figure 3 below. Some further subgroups are also shown for vandalism and assault. All of these crime groups are discussed in more detail below.

As well as these crime groups, the respondent file ( RF) data file also includes a number of other crime group variables which have been used or analysis of past Scottish crime surveys.

Each of the crime groups has a variable for incidence and one for prevalence.

Figure 3: Crime groups used in the SCJS 2009/10 Main Findings report

Figure 3: Crime groups used in the SCJS 2009/10 Main Findings report

7.3.1 Crime group descriptions

The descriptions of the crime groups below follow the basic order of Figure 3 above and the Annex 1 tables in the used in the SCJS 2009/10 Main Findings report. Descriptions for comparable crime groups are also included (section 7.3.2). Variable names are included in square brackets after the heading for each crime group. 74

'All SCJS crime' [variable surveycrime]

'All SCJS crime' includes all property crime and all violent crime, but excludes threats and sexual offences (section 7.1.3).

'All SCJS crime' is used throughout the Main Findings report and all of the other crime groups are subgroups of 'all SCJS crime'. Estimates of overall incidence and prevalence of crime in Scotland are calculated using 'all SCJS crime'. As 'all SCJS crime' includes both household and personal crimes, prevalence and repeat victimisation are calculated based on the adult population.

Property crime [variable property]

This crime group includes vandalism; all motor vehicle theft related incidents; housebreaking; other household theft (including bicycle theft); and personal theft (excluding robbery).

Property crime is one of the main crime groups used in the Main Findings report (together with violent crime). As property crime includes both household and personal crimes, prevalence and repeat victimisation are calculated based on the adult population.

Vandalism [variable vand]

Vandalism involves intentional and malicious damage to property (including houses and vehicles). In the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, vandalism became a separate offence defined as wilful or reckless destruction or damage to property belonging to another. Cases which involve only nuisance without actual damage (for example, letting down car tyres) are not included. Where criminal damage occurs in combination with housebreaking, robbery or violent offences it is these latter crimes that take precedence.

Vandalism is a subgroup of property crime.

Motor vehicle vandalism [variable motovvand]

This crime group includes any intentional and malicious damage to a vehicle such as scratching a coin down the side of a car, or denting a car roof. It does not, however, include causing deliberate damage to a car by fire. These incidents are recorded as fire-raising and therefore included in vandalism to other property. The SCJS only covers vandalism against vehicles belonging to private households; that is, cars, vans, motorcycles, scooters and mopeds which are either owned or regularly used by anyone in the household. Lorries, heavy vans, tractors, trailers and towed caravans were generally excluded from the coverage of the SCJS as these are usually the property of an employer and not for personal use.

Motor vehicle vandalism is a subgroup of vandalism.

Property vandalism [variable propvand]

Vandalism to the home and other property involves intentional or malicious damage to doors, windows, fences, plants and shrubs for example. Vandalism to other property also includes arson where there is any deliberate damage to property belonging to the respondent or their household (including vehicles) caused by fire, regardless of the type of property involved.

Property vandalism is a subgroup of vandalism.

All motor vehicle theft related incidents [variable allmvtheft]

The SCJS covers three main categories of vehicle theft: 'theft of motor vehicles' referring to the theft or unauthorised taking of a vehicle, where the vehicle is driven away illegally (whether or not it is recovered); 'theft from motor vehicles' which includes the theft of vehicle parts, accessories or contents; and 'attempted thefts of or from motor vehicles', where there is clear evidence that an attempt was made to steal the vehicle or something from it ( e.g. damage to locks). If parts or contents of the motor vehicle are stolen in addition to the vehicle being moved, the incident is classified as theft of a motor vehicle. Included in this category are cars, vans, motorcycles, scooters and mopeds which are either owned or regularly used by anyone in the household. Lorries, heavy vans, tractors, trailers and towed caravans were generally excluded from the coverage of the SCJS as these are usually the property of an employer and not for personal use.

All motor vehicle theft related incidents are a subgroup of property crime.

Housebreaking [variable housebreak]

In Scottish law, the term 'burglary' has no meaning although in popular usage it has come to mean breaking into a home in order to steal the contents. Scottish law refers to this as 'theft by housebreaking'.

Respondents who reported that someone had broken into their home with the intention of committing theft (whether the intention was carried out or not) were classified as victims of housebreaking. Entry must have been by forcing a door or via a non-standard entrance. Thus, entry through unlocked doors or by using false pretences, or if the offender had a key, were not housebreaking (they would fall into 'other household theft'). The definition of housebreaking used in this report is the same as the definition used in the 2003, 2006 and 2008/09 reports but differs from the definition used prior to that. The definition was changed in 2003 to mirror more accurately the Scottish police recorded crime definition of domestic housebreaking by including housebreakings to non-dwellings (such as sheds, garages and out-houses) which are directly connected to the dwelling.

Housebreaking is a subgroup of property crime.

Other household theft (including bicycle theft) [variable otherhousetheftcycle]

This crime group includes actual and attempted thefts from domestic garages, outhouses and sheds that are not directly linked to the dwelling. The term also includes thefts from gas and electricity prepayment meters and thefts from outside the dwelling (excluding thefts of milk bottles etc. from the doorstep). 'Thefts in a dwelling' are also included in this group; these are thefts committed inside a home by somebody who did not force their way into the home, and who entered through a normal entrance (examples include guests at parties, workmen with legitimate access, people who got in using false pretences, or if the respondent left a door open or unlocked). Theft of a bicycle is also included.

Other household theft (including bicycle theft) is a subgroup of property crime.

Personal theft (excluding robbery) [variable perstheft]

This group of crime includes actual and attempted 'snatch theft', 'theft from the person' where the victim's property is stolen directly from the person of the victim but without physical force or threat of force and 'other personal theft' which refers to theft of personal property outside the home where there was no direct contact between the offender and the victim.

Personal theft is a subgroup of property crime.

Violent crime [variable violent]

The coverage of violent crime consists of actual and attempted minor assault, serious assault and robbery. Sexual offences are not included (section 7.1.3).

Violent crime is one of the main crime groups used in the Main Findings report (together with property crime).

Assault [variable assault]

In the SCJS, the term assault refers to two categories:

  • Serious assaults, comprising incidents of assault which led to an overnight stay in hospital as an in-patient or which resulted in specific injuries regardless of whether or not the victim stayed in hospital overnight;
  • Minor assaults, which are actual or attempted assaults resulting in no or negligible injury.

Assault is a subgroup of violent crime.

Serious assault [variable serassault]

An assault is classified as serious if the victim sustained an injury resulting in an overnight stay in hospital as an in-patient or any of the following injuries whether or not they was detained in hospital: fractures, internal injuries, severe concussion, loss of consciousness, lacerations requiring sutures which may lead to impairment or disfigurement or any other injury which may lead to impairment or disfigurement.

Serious assault is a subgroup of assault.

Robbery [variable rob]

This term refers to actual or attempted theft of personal property or cash directly from the person, accompanied by force or the threat of force. Robbery should be distinguished from other thefts from the person which involve speed or stealth.

Robbery is a subgroup of violent crime.

7.3.2 Comparable crime group descriptions

Comparable crime groups are used to compare SCJS data with police recorded crime statistics (section 11.1).

Comparable crime [variable comparcrime]

Only certain categories of crime covered by the SCJS are directly comparable with police recorded crime statistics (section 11.1). These categories are collectively referred to as comparable crime. Comparable crime can be broken down into the following three crime groups:

  • Acquisitive crime: comprising housebreaking, theft of a motor vehicle and bicycle theft;
  • Vandalism: including both vehicle and property vandalism;
  • Violent crime: comprising assault and robbery.

Section 7.3.1 provides definitions of vandalism and violent crime. Acquisitive crime is defined below.

Acquisitive crime [variable acquis]

Acquisitive crime consists of three crime groups / offence codes: housebreaking, theft of a motor vehicle and bicycle theft. Housebreaking is defined in section 7.3.1 and theft of a motor vehicle is part of the all motor vehicle theft related incidents crime group (section 7.3.1). Bicycle theft is defined as theft of a bicycle from outside a dwelling. Almost all bicycles were stolen in this way. Bicycle thefts which take place inside the home by someone who is not trespassing at the time are counted as theft in a dwelling (a subgroup of other household theft including bicycle theft); and thefts of bicycles from inside the home by a trespasser are counted as housebreaking.