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2010/11 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Main Findings

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6 Public Perceptions of Crime

6.1 Chapter summary

Perceptions of crime

The SCJS is used specifically to monitor one of the national indicators in Scotland Performs: Increase positive public perception of the general crime rate in the local area.

This national indicator is measured by the percentage of adults who perceive that the amount of crime in their local area has either decreased or stayed the same in the last two years. [51]

  • The SCJS 2010/11 estimated that 74% of adults perceived the crime rate in their local area to have stayed the same or reduced in the past two years. This is a statistically significant increase in the national indicator measure compared with the baseline of 65% in 2006;
  • The proportion of adults who think that the crime rate has stayed the same or improved has increased by three percentage points in the last year from 71% in 2009/10 to 74% in 2010/11.

As well as being asked about perceived changes to the crime rate in their local area, respondents were also asked about how they thought the crime rate had changed in the last two years in Scotland overall.

  • Adults were more than twice as likely to believe that the crime rate had increased in Scotland as a whole than they were to believe that it had increased in the local area (45% and 23% respectively).

Crimes perceived to be most common in the local area were:

  • Drug dealing / drug abuse (with 48% of adults believing it to be very or fairly common);
  • Anti-social behaviour, (with 45% of adults believing it to be very or fairly common).

Public anxiety about crime

To understand public anxiety about crime respondents were asked how much they worried about a range of crimes happening to them, and how likely it was that those crimes might happen to them in the next year.

  • Adults were most worried about someone using their credit / bank details to obtain money, goods or services (58%) and having their identity stolen (48%);
  • Fraudulent use of credit or bank details (15%), damage to vehicles (11%) and identity theft (10%) were the crimes that adults most commonly thought were likely to happen to them in the next 12 months;
  • More than half (52%) of all adults did not think it was likely that they would experience any of the listed crimes in the next 12 months.

Trends in public perceptions of crime

  • The percentage of adults who believed that particular crimes were common in the local area has generally decreased from the first crime surveys of the early 1990s. The percentage of adults worrying that particular crimes might happen to them has also generally decreased over time;
  • Since the last survey in 2009/10, there has been very little change in the perception of how common each of the crime types are. The biggest change was a decrease in the perceived commonness of deliberate damage to property (from 35% in 2009/10 to 31% in 2010/11).

Perceived versus actual risk

Comparing perceptions of the risk of being a victim of specific crimes to the actual risk:

  • In most cases the perceived risk was around twice the actual risk (prevalence) on average across the population;
  • However, for being mugged or robbed in the street, having a motor vehicle stolen or having one's home broken into, the perceived risk was much higher than the actual risk (25, 15 and 6 times higher, respectively).

6.2 Introduction

One of the key indicators in the Scottish Government's national performance framework, 'Scotland Performs', [52] is the public's perception of the general crime rate in the local area. Understanding the links between perceptions of crime and community safety is important to policy makers in Scotland. As a result, various questions exploring perceptions of crime were included in the SCJS and the results are presented in this chapter.

The first section of this chapter explores adults' perceptions of crime; how much of a problem they believe it to be in Scotland as a whole, whether they perceive crime rates in their local area to be changing, and finally how common they believe specific crimes were in their local area. The sources that inform opinions on the frequency of crime in the local area and whether adults have taken any action as a result of these opinions are also explored.

The chapter then moves on to investigate anxiety about crime, specifically;

  • Feelings of safety after dark;
  • Worry about various types of crime;
  • Perceptions of the likelihood of being a victim of crimes.

Finally the chapter examines perceptions of the likelihood of an adult becoming the victim a particular crime over the next 12 months versus the actual risk of them being a victim.

6.3 Perceptions of crime

The SCJS is used specifically to monitor one of the national indicators in Scotland Performs: [53]

Increase positive public perception of the general crime rate in the local area.

This national indicator is measured by the percentage of adults who perceive that the amount of crime in their local area has either decreased or stayed the same in the last two years. [54]

6.3.1 Perceptions of changing local crime levels

The SCJS 2010/11 estimated that 74% of adults perceived the crime rate in their local area to have stayed the same or reduced in the past two years. This is a statistically significant increase in the national indicator measure compared with the baseline of 65% in 2006. Less than one in four adults (23%) thought that the crime rate in their area had increased over the last two years compared with 32% in 2006.

The proportion of adults who think that the crime rate has stayed the same or improved has increased by three percentage points in the last year from 71% in 2009/10 to 74% in 2010/11.

Examining changes between 2006, the baseline year for the national performance indicator, and 2010/11 in more detail, there has been a decrease in the percentage of adults who perceive that there was a lot more crime in the local area, and an increase in the percentage of adults who perceive that the level of crime had remained about the same:

  • 7% of adults thought there was a lot more crime in the local area, compared with 13% in 2006;
  • 64% of adults thought that the crime rate in the local area had remained the same compared with 57% of adults in 2006.

This trend is a continuation of one that started in the 2003 SCS (Figure 6.1).

It should be noted that many factors influence adults' perceptions of the crime rate in the local area (for example personal experience, experiences of friends and family, media etc) and they do not necessarily reflect true rates of crime.

Figure 6.1: Perceptions of how crime rates have changed in respondents' local area over the past two years
Scottish crime surveys.
Base: Adults who had lived in local area for two years or more, SCS 2000 (4,512); 2003 (4,443); SCVS 2006 (4,433); SCJS 2008/09 (14,214); 2009/10 (14,381); 2010/11 (11,699).
Variable name: QS2AREA.

Figure 6.1: Perceptions of how crime rates have changed in respondents' local area over the past two years

Note: The dashed line indicates a break in the survey methodology, moving to a rolling reference period, increased sample size and continuous fieldwork ( section 1.1).

Table 6.1 shows the differences in perceptions of the crime rate in the local area between different groups of adults:

Table 6.1: Public perceptions of crime in local area by various characteristics, 2010/11
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Adults who have lived in the local area for two years or more (11,699).
Variable name: QS2AREA.

There is 'about the same' or 'less' crime in this area than two years ago
%
There is 'a lot' or 'a little' more crime in this area than two years ago
%
MALE (TOTAL)7720
16-247918
25-447620
45-597622
60 or over7720
FEMALE (TOTAL)7125
16-247324
25-447027
45-597026
60 or over7124
VICTIM OF CRIME
Victim6235
Non-victim7620
DEPRIVATION
Living in 15% most deprived areas [55]6730
Living in rest of Scotland7522
ALL ADULTS7423

6.3.2 Perceptions of changing national crime levels

As well as being asked about changes to the perceived crime rate in their local area, respondents were also asked about how they thought the crime rate had changed in the last two years in Scotland overall.

Figure 6.2 compares opinions of how the national crime rate had changed in the last two years with those on how the local crime rate had changed in the same period.

  • 45% of adults perceived that the crime rate in Scotland had increased but only 23% perceived that there had been any increase in their local area;
  • Correspondingly, 39% of adults perceived that that the crime rate in Scotland overall had stayed the same compared with 64% of adults who perceived that that the crime rate in their local area had stayed the same.

Figure 6.2: Perceptions of how crime rates have changed nationally and locally over the past two years
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Adults (13,010); adults who have lived in the local area for two years or more (11,699).
Variable name: QS2AREAS and QS2AREA

Figure 6.2: Perceptions of how crime rates have changed nationally and locally over the past two years

6.3.3 Perceptions of particular types of crime

As well as being asked how the local crime rate had changed, respondents were asked how common specific crimes were in their local area (Figure 6.3). Those crimes perceived to be most common in the local area were drug dealing/abuse and anti-social behaviour, with almost half of adults believing them to be very or fairly common (48% and 45% respectively).

Figure 6.3: Perceptions of how common specific crimes are in local area
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Adults answering module A (3,223).
Variable name: QACO.

Figure 6.3: Perceptions of how common specific crimes are in local area

Those who viewed a crime as common in their local area were asked where they got this impression from. Figure 6.4 presents the results of this question for the two crimes perceived to be most common in the local area (drug dealing/abuse and anti-social behaviour). Adults most commonly responded that they had formed their impression that these crimes were common because they had seen the crimes happening, had heard others talking about them or from local media coverage of the crimes.

Figure 6.4: Where adults have got impressions that anti-social behaviour and drug dealing / drug abuse are common in their local area
SCJS 2010/11
Base: Adults answering module A who think people behaving in an anti-social manner in public is common in their local area (1,179); drug dealing / drug abuse is common in their local area (1,318).
Variable name: QACM1.

Figure 6.4: Where adults have got impressions that anti-social behaviour and drug dealing / drug abuse are common in their local area

6.3.4 Acting on perceptions

Respondents were asked if they had changed anything or done anything differently in their everyday life because of the types of problems listed in Figure 6.3.

Just 15% of adults had changed their behaviour, although this may reflect the fact that activities such as locking doors and avoiding areas perceived to be unsafe have become part of people's everyday lives and are therefore not seen as a "change".

Figure 6.5 lists the type of behaviours that respondents said they had changed in response to worry about crime. The most common change was for people to be more careful about shutting and locking car or property doors and windows (mentioned by 43% of those taking any action). 36% of adults taking action avoided certain areas and 22% had stopped going out at night or started accompanying others when doing so.

Figure 6.5: What adults have changed or done differently as a result of problems in the past year (main mentions)
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Adults answering module A who have changed something in their everyday life as a result of crime problems (469).
Variable name: QACOM3.

Figure 6.5: What adults have changed or done differently as a result of problems in the past year (main mentions)

6.3.5 Safety after dark

The question 'how safe do you feel walking alone in your local area after dark' is commonly used to measure public anxiety about crime. Across Scotland, the majority of adults (68%) said that they felt safe (very safe 33%; fairly safe 35%) while 31% of adults said they felt unsafe walking alone in their local area after dark (very unsafe 10%; a bit unsafe 21%) (Table 6.2).

Females were more likely than males to report feeling unsafe (44% of females compared with 17% males).

Table 6.2: Safety when walking alone after dark by gender within age
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Males (5,595); Females (7,415).
Variable name: QSFDARK.

Adults who felt:
Adults:Very safe %Fairly safe %A bit unsafe %Very unsafe %
MALE (TOTAL)4636134
16-244837123
25-444737124
45-594836114
60 or over4234167
FEMALE (TOTAL)21342816
16-2422362813
25-4422382712
45-5925362514
60 or over16273123
ALL33352110

Adults were also asked how safe they felt in their home alone after dark (Table 6.3). The majority said that they felt safe (94%), with just 5% reporting feeling unsafe.

Looking at differences by groups of adults:

  • Females were more likely to express feeling unsafe at home alone after dark than males (9% compared with 3% of males);
  • The youngest females were most likely to report feeling unsafe at home alone after dark; 15% of females aged 16-24 compared with 9% of females overall.

Table 6.3: Safety at home alone after dark by gender within age
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Males (5,595); females (7,415).
Variable name: QSFNIGH.

Adults who felt:
Adults:Very safe %Fairly safe %A bit unsafe %Very unsafe
%
MALE (TOTAL)811721
16-24811611
25-44811721
45-59811721
60 or over811711
FEMALE (TOTAL)642772
16-245629123
25-44622882
45-59672652
60 or over672742
ALL722241

6.4 Public anxiety about crime

To understand public anxiety about crime respondents were asked how much they worried about a range of crimes happening to them, and how likely it was that those crimes might happen to them in the next year.

6.4.1 Worry about specific types of crime

Respondents were first asked how worried they were that a range of crimes might happen to them. [56]

Figure 6.6 shows the percentage of adults who were very or fairly worried about these crimes:

  • 58% of adults worried that someone would use their credit / bank details to obtain money, goods or services;
  • 48% of adults worried about having their identity stolen;
  • 41% of adults worried about having their car or other vehicle damaged by vandals; and
  • 35% of adults worried about their home being broken into.

Figure 6.6: Worry that specific types of crime might happen
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Adults (13,010); adults in households with regular use of a motor vehicle (9,445).
Variable name: QWORR.

Figure 6.6: Worry that specific types of crime might happen

6.4.2 Perceived likelihood of being a victim of specific types of crime

To assess adults' perceptions of their personal risk of being a victim, the survey also asked respondents which, if any, crimes they thought they were likely to experience in the next year.

As shown in Figure 6.7 fraudulent use of credit or bank details (15%), damage to vehicles (11%) and identity theft (10%) were the crimes that adults most commonly thought were likely to happen to them in the next 12 months.

Over half (52%) of adults did not think it was likely that they would experience any of the listed crimes in the next 12 months.

Figure 6.7: Crimes adults think are likely to happen to them in next 12 months
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Adults (13,010).
Variable name: QHAPP.

Figure 6.7: Crimes adults think are likely to happen to them in next 12 months

6.5 Trends in public perceptions of crime

Three measures of public concern about crime in the SCJS 2010/09 have also been included in past surveys, allowing analysis of the following trends:

  1. How the perceived crime rate in the local area had changed;
  2. Perceptions of how common specific crimes were in the local area;
  3. Worry about being the victim of specific crimes.

As discussed in section 6.3.1, there was a shift in the public's perception of the crime rate in the local area. Between the 2006 and 2010/11 surveys, an increasing proportion of adults thought that the crime rate in their area had remained at about the same level while fewer adults thought that there was more crime in the local area.

The following two sections examine trends over time for perception of how common crimes are and worry about crimes happening.

6.5.1 Perception of how common crimes are over time

Comparing the percentage of adults who believe that particular crimes were common in the local area with previous crime surveys in Scotland shows there is a general downward trend over time. In 2010/11 adults perceived most of these particular crimes to be less common in their local area than in the past. Figure 6.8 shows trends since the 1993 and 1996 surveys, including four crimes which were first asked about in 2006 (anti-social behaviour, drug dealing / drug abuse, physical assault motivated by skin-colour, ethnicty or religion and sexual assault).

Since 1996, the largest decreases have been for perceptions of how common having things stolen from vehicles and homes being broken into were. In 1996, around two in five adults thought these crimes were common (42% and 39% respectively) while the SCJS 2010/11 estimated that around one in five adults thought that these crimes were common (both 20%).

Since the last survey in 2009/10, there has been very little change in the perception of how common each of the crime types are. The biggest change was a decrease in the perceived commonness of deliberate damage to property (from 35% in 2009/10 to 31% in 2010/11).

Figure 6.8: % of adults who believe particular crimes are 'very' or 'fairly common' in their local area (1993 to 2010/11)
Scottish crime surveys.
Base: SCS 1993 (2,517); 1996 (2,511); 2000 (2,542); 2003; (2,530); SCVS 2006; (2,512); SCJS 2008/09; (4,027); 2009/10; (3,995); 2010/11 (3,223).
Variable name: QACO.

Figure 6.8: % of adults who believe particular crimes are 'very' or 'fairly common' in their local area (1993 to 2010/11)

Note: The dashed line indicates a break in the survey methodology, moving to a rolling reference period, increased sample size and continuous fieldwork ( section 1.1).

6.5.2 Worry about crimes happening over time

In addition to being asked for their perceptions of how common crimes were respondents were also asked how worried they were that specific crimes would happen to them. Similar to perceptions of how common crimes are, there has been a reasonable steady decrease in the proportion of adults worrying that most crimes might happen to them (Figure 6.9).

Since 2000, the largest decreases were for:

  • Women worrying about being sexually assaulted (a 15 percentage point decrease since 2000 from 41% to 26% in 2010/11);
  • Adults worrying about having their home damaged by vandals (a 13 percentage point decrease since 2000 from 37% to 24% in 2010/11);
  • Adults worrying about having their home broken into (a 10 percentage point decrease since 2000 from 45% to 35% in 2010/11).

Although there has been a general decrease in worry about crimes since 2000, a higher proportion of adults appeared to be worried about having their car or vehicle damaged (a four percentage point increase from 37% to 41% between 2000 and 2010/11).

Figure 6.9: % of adults 'very' or 'fairly worried' about particular crimes (1993 to 2010/11)
Scottish crime surveys
Base: Adults; SCS 1993 (5,030); 1996 (5,045); 2000 (5,059); 2003 (5,041); SCVS 2006 (4,988); SCJS 2008/09 (16,003); 2009/10 (16,036); 2010/11 (12010).
Variable name: QWORR.

Figure 6.9: % of adults 'very' or 'fairly worried' about particular crimes (1993 to 2010/11)

Note: The dashed line indicates a break in the survey methodology, moving to a rolling reference period, increased sample size and continuous fieldwork ( section 1.1).

6.6 Perceived and actual risk of crimes

Adults' perceptions of how likely they are to be the victims of some types of crime can be compared with their actual risk.

In most cases the perceived risk was around two or three times higher than the actual risk (prevalence) on average across the population (Figure 6.10). For example, 11% of adults thought it was likely that their vehicle would be damaged by vandals in the next 12 months, whereas the actual risk of their vehicle being damaged in this way was 4%.

For three crimes the difference between perceived and actual risk was much larger:

  • Adults were 25 times more likely to think that they were likely to be mugged or robbed in the street than they actually were (5% compared with the actual risk of robbery of 0.2%);
  • 20 times as many adults thought they were likely to have a motor vehicle stolen than were actually likely to experience this (4% compared with the actual risk of theft of a motor vehicle of 0.2%);
  • 6 times as many adults thought that they were likely to have their home broken into than actually did have their home broken into (6% compared with the actual risk of housebreaking of 1%). [57]

Figure 6.10: Perceived risk (% saying likely to happen) versus actual risk (% who were victims of each type of crime in past 12 months)
SCJS 2010/11.
Base: Adults (13,010).
Variable name: QHAPP and prevalence variables. [58]

Figure 6.10: Perceived risk (% saying likely to happen) versus actual risk (% who were victims of each type of crime in past 12 months)

The risk of being a victim of card or identity fraud was identified through a separate section from the victim form ( section 2.7.4). [59] Comparing results of the actual risk with the perceived risk:

  • Over three times as many adults thought that they were likely to become a victim of card fraud than were actually likely to experience this fraud (15% thought this likely to happen compared with the actual risk of 4.5%);
  • 20 times as many adults thought they were likely to become a victim of identity fraud than were likely to experience this (10% thought this likely to happen compared with the actual risk of 0.5%).