Public Attitudes to Crime and Confidence in the System

It is an interesting social phenomenon that we are prepared to believe things in general are worse, while our own experience might be different. For example, people repeat mantras like ‘the health service is getting worse’, but relate their own good experience. This also appears to apply to crime. Whether this is fuelled by the media is a separate debate. Adults were more than twice as likely to believe that the crime rate had increased in Scotland as a whole (52%) than they were to believe it had increased in their local area (25%) [i.e. from personal  experience] [55] .
The Scottish Crime and Justice Survey of 2009/10 measured the percentage of people who perceived there to have been a lot or a little less crime, or that it had stayed the same over the last two years. It found that 71% of adults perceived the crime rate in their local area to have stayed the same (61%), reduced a little (8%) or reduced a lot (2%) in the past two years [56]. This is a 6% improvement from the baseline of 65% in 2005/06. 8% thought there was a lot more crime in the local area compared with 13% in 2006. This is shown in the figure below.



The crimes adults thought were likely to happen to them in the next 12 months were:

  • Fraudulent use of credit card or bank details (17%).
  • Damage to vehicles (13%).
  • Identity theft (12%).

The perceived risk was around twice the actual risk for most crimes, except for card fraud (4 times), housebreaking (9 times), robbery (20 times), and identity fraud (20 times) where the
difference between perceived and actual risk was even greater. Looking at what adults worried about most, the same four crimes figured top of the list:

  • Fraudulent use of credit card or bank details (58%).
  • Identity theft (50%).
  • Damage to vehicles (42%).
  • Home damaged by vandals (25%).

For the latest Scottish Crime and Justice Survey information please see the web pages for the 2010-2011 survey.

In the last decade since 2000, the largest decrease in worry about crimes was by women worrying about being sexually assaulted which decreased from 41% to 26% in 2009/10.
Feelings of safety: The question “how safe do you feel walking alone in your local area after dark” has been commonly used to measure public anxiety about crime. In Scotland 67% of adults said they felt safe (very 32%; fairly 35%). However 21% said they felt a bit unsafe and 12% of adults said they felt very unsafe. Re-offending reconviction rates for offenders  released from custody or given a non-custodial sentence peaked at 45.2% for the 2002-03 cohort. Those in the cohort (released from custody or given a non-custodial sentence in a specific year) are monitored to see if they are re-convicted. After one year, some will have re-offended, and after two years, some more. The one year figure was at 32.5%, but last year for the most recent cohort, those in 2007-08 year group, their reconviction rate fell by over 1.5%. The two year figures for the 2006-07 group also fell, but by a smaller amount, just under 1%. However, adding the growth figure (between the first and second years) from the 2006-07 cohort, to the most recent cohort would predict a reconviction rate of 42.5%, a significant improvement. The reconviction rate is one of the Scottish Government National Indicators with a target to reduce overall reconviction rates by 2 percentage points by 2011. However, there is a difference between prison and community sentences. Prison has a 62% reconviction rate, probation 58% while Community Service Orders currently lead(non-financial) community based penalties with 42% reconvictions.











55 2009/10 Scottish Crime and Justice Survey: Main Findings.(2010) Leon Page, Pat MacLeod, Andrea Kinver, Aibek Iliasov and Patricia Yoon, TNS-BMRB. Scottish Government Social Research, published in November 2010. (Chapter 6 from page 84).
56 The November 2010 SCJS results are used to monitor one of the Scottish Government National Indicators: that of “Increase positive public perception of the general crime rate in local area”.

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