2. Overview of crime in Scotland
In this report, overall crime measured by the SCJS is a product of two distinct groups being combined, violent and property crime.
SCJS Crime Groups
Violent crime includes the following distinct groups:
- Assault (includes serious assault, minor assault with injury, minor assault with no or negligible injury, and attempted assault)
Property crime includes the following distinct groups:
- Vandalism (including motor vehicle and property vandalism)
- All motor vehicle related theft (including theft and attempted theft of and from a vehicle)
- Other household theft (including bicycle theft)
- Personal theft (excluding robbery)
Further details on each of these groups is provided in the Technical Report.
What was the extent and prevalence of crime in Scotland in 2016/17?
There were an estimated 712,000 crimes experienced by adults in Scotland in 2016/17.
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey ( SCJS) provides an estimate of the number of crimes (or incidence) occurring within Scotland, rounded to the nearest 1,000 crimes. Taking property and violent crime together, the SCJS estimates that overall there were 712,000 crimes committed against adults in Scotland in 2016/17.
As a sample survey of the general public, SCJS results are estimated values with margins of error, rather than exact counts. Further information on the process used to calculate estimates is contained within the Technical Report. Taking into account confidence intervals, the SCJS estimates that there were between 627,000 and 797,000 incidents of crime in Scotland in 2016/17. The following analysis is focused on the best estimates derived for results across each sweep of the survey  .
The overall level of crime experienced in Scotland has fallen by nearly a third since 2008/09, but has shown no change since 2014/15.
Figure 2.1  displays the trend in the estimated number of SCJS crimes since 2008/09 and shows a declining trend over the longer-term.
Figure 2.1: Estimated number of incidents of
crime, 2008/09 - 2016/17
The volume of crime experienced by adults has decreased since 2008/09, but is unchanged since 2014/15.
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2009/10 (16,040); 2010/11 (13,010); 2012/13 (12,050); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME
- decreased by almost a third (32%) between 2008/09 and 2016/17, from 1,045,000 to 712,000 – a estimated decrease of just over 330,000 incidents;
- has shown no change since the last SCJS – the apparent increase from 688,000 incidents in 2014/15 is not statistically significant.
Table 2.1: Estimated number of all SCJS crimes (2008/09, 2014/15, 2016/17)
|Number of SCJS crimes||2008/09||2014/15||2016/17||Change since 2008/09||Change since 2014/15|
|Best estimate||1,045,000||688,000||712,000||⇩ by 32%||No change|
|Number of respondents||16,000||11,470||5,570|
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME
The proportion of adults in Scotland experiencing crime has also fallen since 2008/09.
Consistent with previous years, the SCJS results show that most adults were not victims of any crime in 2016/17, with 13.4% estimated to have experienced at least one SCJS (property or violent) crime.
As with incident numbers, crime prevalence rates are also estimates derived from a sample survey of the population with associated margins of error around them. Taking into account these confidence intervals, between 12.4% and 14.5% of the adult population were estimated to have experienced at least one SCJS crime in 2016/17, with 13.4% representing the best estimate  . Again, as with incident counts, analysis from this point onwards will focus on the best estimates for results across the survey for each sweep  .
The proportion of adults experiencing crime has fallen from 20.4% in 2008/09 to 13.4% in 2016/17. In other words, the level of victimisation has dropped from around one in every five adults experiencing crime to fewer than one in seven, between 2008/09 and 2016/17.
Since the last SCJS, the proportion of adults who were the victim of crime has shown no change – the apparent fall from 14.5% in 2014/15 to 13.4% in 2016/17, shown in Figure 2.2, is not statistically significant.
Figure 2.2: Proportion of adults experiencing any
crime by year
The proportion of adults experiencing crime has:
- Fallen by 7.0 percentage points since 2008/09.
Shown no change since 2014/15.
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: PREVSURVEYCRIME
What sort of crime was experienced in Scotland in 2016/17?
Property crime incidents accounted for the majority of all crime in 2016/17.
The SCJS collects data on the adult population's experiences of two main types of crime – property and violent crime. In 2016/17, the SCJS estimates that just over two-thirds of all crimes (68%) were property-related, with the remaining 32% being violent incidents.
Figure 2.3 below shows a breakdown of the proportion of all crime accounted for by key sub-categories of property and violent crime. It shows that vandalism and minor assault resulting in no or negligible injury each accounted for just under one-quarter of all crimes measured by the SCJS in 2016/17 (23% each respectively). Other forms of violence in particular represented small proportions of all crime in Scotland.
Figure 2.3: Categories of crime as proportions of all
crime in 2016/17
Base: 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: Prevalence (PREV) variables
In line with property crime being much more common than violence, when we look at prevalence rates, the SCJS has consistenly shown that adults in Scotland are much more likely to have experienced property crime than violent crime in any given year. The SCJS estimates that 11.5% of adults were victims of property crime in 2016/17, whilst 2.9% experienced violent crime. The prevalence of both property crime and violent crime have fallen since 2008/09.
More detailed results about the extent, prevalence and nature of property and violent crime experienced in Scotland in 2016/17, including how experiences varied across the population and trends over time are provided in the respective ' Focus on violent crime' and ' Focus on property crime' chapters of this report.
How did the likelihood of experiencing crime in 2016/17 vary across the population?
The likelihood of experiencing crime in 2016/17 was higher amongst younger adults, those living in deprived areas and people from urban locations.
The proportion of adults who were victims of any SCJS crime in 2016/17 varied according to demographic and geographic characteristics. For instance, as shown in Figure 2.4, the likelihood of experiencing crime in 2016/17:
- Decreased with age.
- Was greater for adults in the 15% most deprived areas compared to those living in the rest of Scotland.
- Was higher in urban areas compared to rural locations.
There was no significant difference in the proportion of men and women who were victims of SCJS crime in 2016/17, at 13.9% and 13.0% respectively.
Figure 2.4: Proportion of adults experiencing any
crime measured by
Base: 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: PREVSURVEYCRIME, QDAGE, SIMD_TOP, URBRUR.
The proportion of adults experiencing crime has fallen since 2008/09 across many population groups.
Looking at trends over time reveals that the crime victimisation rate has decreased since 2008/09 across many key groups in the population - including both males and females; all age groups; those living in the most deprived areas as well as those living elsewhere in Scotland; and adults in both urban and rural locations  .
For example, the proportion of those in the 15% most deprived areas experiencing SCJS crime has fallen from just over one-in-four (26.0%) to just under one-in-five (19.4%) since 2008/09. Over the same period, the prevalence rate for those living elsewhere in Scotland fell from 19.4% to 12.3%.
In line with the national average, most groups have experienced no change in the overall likelihood of being a victim of crime since 2014/15. That said, the prevalence rate did fall from 9.9% to 6.8% for adults living in rural areas over this period.
What can the SCJS tell us about multiple victimisation?
As outlined previously, the SCJS estimates that 13.4% of the population were victims of at least one property or violent crime in 2016/17, meaning that the majority of adults did not experience any crime during the year. However, the survey also enables us to further explore how experiences varied amongst victims and examine the concentration of crime, including what proportion of victims experienced more than one crime (of any type) during the year, known as 'multiple victimisation'. Further information about the approach taken to process and derive SCJS results, including on multiple victimisation, is provided in the Technical Report.
What is multiple and repeat victimisation?
Multiple victimisation examines the proportion of the population which experienced two or more property crimes or two or more violent crimes (known as repeat victimisation), or have been victims of both crime types ( i.e. two or more incidents of any crime).
Repeat victimisation is a subset of multiple victimisation, the proportion of adults who have been the victim of the same type of crime more than once ( e.g. repeat property crimes). Findings on the extent of repeat victimisation for property and violent crime are presented separately in the relevant ' Focus on property crime' and ' Focus on violent crime' sections of this report.
4.3% of adults experienced two or more crimes in 2016/17, accounting for more than 60% of all SCJS crime.
As discussed above, the majority of adults (86.6%) did not experience any crime measured by the SCJS in 2016/17, and conversely 13.4% were victims of at least one property or violent crime.
Examining the volume of crime experienced by individual victims more closely reveals that just under one in ten adults (9.2%) were victims of a single incident of SCJS crime in 2016/17, accounting for 39% of all crime.
It is therefore estimated that multiple victimisation affected 4.3% of the adult population in 2016/17, and that this group experienced more than three-fifths of all SCJS crime (61%) during the year. These victims are estimated to have experienced 2.3 crimes each on average.
Table 2.2 highlights these results in more detail. It shows the proportion of adults who experienced single incidents of crime and different levels of multiple victimisation over the year, and the proportion of SCJS crime overall experienced by each group.
Table 2.2: Proportion of all
crime experienced by multiple victims, by number of crimes
0.7% of adults experienced five or more crimes during 2016/17.
Taken together, their experiences accounted for 23% of all SCJS crime over the year.
|Number of crimes||% of population||% of SCJS crime|
|Five or more||0.7%||23%|
|Two or more||4.3%||61%|
Base: SCJS 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME, PREVSURVEYCRIME.
The likelihood of experiencing multiple victimisation has fallen since 2008/09.
Figure 2.5 explores trends in single and multiple victimisation over time. It highlights that between 2008/09 and 2016/17 there were decreases in the proportion of adults experiencing:
- single incidents of SCJS crime – from 12.2% to 9.2%;
- multiple victimisation (two or more incidents of SCJS crime) – from 8.2% to 4.3%; and
- high frequency multiple victimisation (five or more incidents of SCJS crime) – from 1.5% to 0.7%.
Since the last SCJS in 2014/15, there has been no change in the proportion of adults experiencing single or multiple victimisation – the apparent differences shown in Figure 2.5 are not statistically significant.
Figure 2.5: Proportion of adults experiencing
The proportion of adults experiencing multiple victimisation fell from 8.2% to 4.3% between 2008/09 and 2016/17.
High frequency multiple victimisation has more than halved over this period.
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2009/10 (16,040); 2010/11 (13,010); 2012/13 (12,050); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570). Variable: INCSURVEYCRIME, PREVSURVEYCRIME.
In summary these findings show that, compared to 2008/09, adults in 2016/17 were less likely to be victims of:
- at least one crime SCJS crime,
- one SCJS crime specifically, and
- more than one SCJS crime.
What proportion of crime was reported to the police in 2016/17?
It is estimated that the police became aware of 37% of SCJS crime in 2016/17, a similar proportion to previous years.
One of the key strengths of the SCJS is that it provides evidence on the extent of crime experienced by the population, including incidents which are not reported to the police. For this reason, the SCJS and Police Recorded Crime statistics are complementary sources that, together, present a fuller picture of crime in Scotland. The ' Bringing Together Crime Statistics' chapter of this report explores the differences and similarities between the SCJS and recorded crime (including trends over time) in more detail.
Looking at the headline rate of crime reported to the police, the SCJS estimates that 37% of all SCJS (property and violent) crime in 2016/17 came to the attention of the police. This proportion has shown no change since 2008/09. It is estimated that 34% of property crime was reported to the police in 2016/17, compared to 43% of violent incidents – although this apparent difference in reporting rates is not statistically significant. Further information on the reporting rates and the reasons behind non-reporting are presented in the respective ' Focus on violent crime' and ' Focus on property crime' chapters.
How did the likelihood of experiencing crime in Scotland compare to England and Wales?
A similar proportion of adults experienced crime in both Scotland and England & Wales in 2016/17.
Victimisation surveys take place in many jurisdictions across the world to obtain information on the relevant population's experience of crime, however comparisons between surveys are often challenging due to methodological differences.
That said, the SCJS is similar to the Crime Survey for England and Wales ( CSEW), with both surveys following on from the British Crime Survey ( BCS). Although there are some differences between the surveys, for example the coding of crimes varies between the SCJS and the CSEW to reflect the different criminal justice systems in which they operate, the overall results on the proportion of adults experiencing crime are broadly comparable. Further information on the similarities and differences between the SCJS and CSEW are provided in the SCJS 2016/17 Technical Report.
Looking at the overall crime victimisation rates, in previous years, such as 2014/15, the proportion of adults estimated to have experienced crime was lower in Scotland than in England and Wales. However, as depicted in Figure 2.6, in 2016/17 there was estimated to have been no statistically significant difference between the 13.4% victimisation rate in Scotland and the 13.9% rate in England and Wales.
Figure 2.6: Proportion of adults experiencing crime
Base: SCJS 2008/09 (16,000); 2009/10 (16,040); 2010/11 (13,010); 2012/13 (12,050); 2014/15 (11,470); 2016/17 (5,570). SCJS prevalence - Variable: PREVSURVEYCRIME.CSEW prevalence - https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/datasets/crimeinenglandandwalesbulletintables