Crime and deviance: Topic 9B

Victim surveys

  • Created by: Sasha127
  • Created on: 19-05-15 10:51


The second way of estimating hte extent and patterns of crime is victim surveys in these a sample of the population either locally or nationally is asked which offences have been commited against them over a period of time. They are designed to overcome the short comings of the under reporting of crime to official bodies.

1 of 9


  • Victim surveys are an attempt to gain a better understanding of the reality of crime than is provided by the official stats. The british crime survey (BCS) conducted by the home office is a major victim survey with started in 1983 and is now conducted anually.
  • The CSEW is a face to face survey which originlly targeted between 8000 and 11,000 people betwen 1983-2006 however the 2008 survey conducted 46,983 face to face structured interveiws with a sample of people aged 16 and over living in private households in england and wales.
  • 22 trained interveiwers use laptop computors to record their responces the sample is then randomly selected from the postcode adress file its designed to be as nationlly representative a sample as possible in order to generalise the results to the country as a whole. The overall responce rate in 2007 was 76% although its lower in inner city areas.
  • The interview schedual or questionaire is composed of pre coded closed questions with fixed choice responces to make it easy to quantify and turn into stats. The interviews take about 48 mins to complte those who take part are asked about their experience of property crimes such as vehicle theft and buglary and violent crimes such as assalt.
  • Positivists veiw the methodology of the CSEW as highly scientific as its standadised measuring tool in that nearly 47,000 people are exposed to the same set of questions they veiw it as highly reliable, objective and its sample as representative of British society.
2 of 9

CSEW findings

  • Throughoit the 1990's the CSEW showed that only a minority of crimes (1 in 4) were reported to the police- suggesting that the police recorded crim stats were the tip of a much larger crime iceberg hpwever the lterst CSEW stats indicate that the gap between crime reported to the CSEW and recorded by the police is at its narrowest.
  • CSEW data confirms that the majority of crimes in 2009 are still property related.
  • Violent crime represents around a fith of CSEW crime compared with 19% shown by police stats. However half of violent crime involves no injury and since 2007 BCS violent crime has fallen by 12%.
  • The risk of becoming a victim of crime has fallen from 24% to 22% representing nearly a million fewer victims. Overall only 3% of adults ha experienced a violent crime in the last year.
  • CSEW data suggests that women worry more about all crimes exept vehicle crime however the surveys also show that htose who fear violent crime the most (elderly women) are the least likley to be vicims of it and those who have the least fear (young men) are the most likely victims.
3 of 9

CSEW Evaluation


  • For the crime types it covers it provides a better reflection of the actual extent of household and personal crime as it includes crimes that arent repoted to the poilce and crimes not recoded to them. Supporters of the CSEW claim these surveys are more valid than the official stats as they uncover the dark figure of crime i.e crimes arent reported to the police and therefor aren't recorded. The CSEW is also unaffected by changes in police counting rules.
  • The use of structural interveiws offers greater opportunity for reliable data as both questions and responces are standadised and the interveiws are pioloted in advance.
4 of 9

CSEW Evaluation 2

The limitations of the CSEW

  • Doesn't cover commerical victimisation i.e thefts from buisnesses
  • Excludes "victimless crime" such as drugs and prostetution
  • Ellington- the sample used by the BCS aren't representative of the national pop as owner occupyers and 16-24 year olds are over represented while the unemployed are under represented.
  • CSEW relies on victims having objective knowledg of the crimes commited against them but peoples memories of traumatic events are often unreliable.
  • People may be unaware they are victims- especially children and elderly
  • Marxists- general public are unaware they may have been victims of crimes commited by the economically powerful such as corporate crimes.
  • Pillkington- notes that the CSEW distorts the meaning of the numbers- vilent and sexual offenses may be a relatively small proportion of recoded offences but have a disproportionate traumatic effect upon victims compared with property crime.
  • Realists sociologists- aruge that the BCS tells us little about the day to day experience of living in high crie areas such as the inner crity or problem council estates.
5 of 9

Local Victim surveys

The CSEW is a typical cross section survye and as such may contain some errots- it doesnt provide detailed information about particular places leading to a number of detailed studies of crime focussing on particular areas providing spesific information about local problems. The most famous example is the islington crime survey.

Islington crime survey- 1990 based on detailed interveiws of a demographically representative sample of 1,600 people living in Islington.The survey found that 30% of respondants had been or know victims of street robbery in the previous year. Fear of crime greatly affected the behaviour of many women in inner urban areas i.e 26% of women aged 16-24 27% aged 25-54 and 68% aged over 55 never went out alone at night. 74% of women copred to men restrict their movements as a precaution against crime. The survey stated that 'its not an exageration to conclude that many women in innr urban areas live in a state of virtual curfew"

Local victim surveys also showed that the CSEW under reported the high levels of victimisation among ethnic minority groups and domestic violence. These findings on victimisation were influential in the development of left realism.

6 of 9

Ethnicity and victim studies

Victim studies such as the CSEW are gathered by asking victims of crime for their recolection of the ethnic identity of the offender, according to the BCS the magority of crime is intra racial with 88% of white victims stating that white offenders were involved 3% claiming they were black, 1% asian and 5% mixed.

42% of crimes against black victims were identified as being commited by 'black' offenders and 19% of crimes against asians were by asian offenders. The figures for white crimes agaisnt ethnic minorities are much highr - around 50% though this figure must be seen against the backdrop of 90% population being classified as white.

Like official stats asking for victims to describe who commited the crimes is shot through with problems- for a start only 20% of survey recorded crimes are personal crimes (such as mugging) where the victim may see the offender.

Bowling and philips- argue that victims are influenced by racial steryotypes and 'culturally determined expectations as to who commits crime" as bowlings reaserch indictes that where the offender sin't known white people are more likely to ascribe the crime to those of afro carribbean origin.

7 of 9

Evaluation of victim surveys

Strengths of victim surveys.

  • they uncover the reasons why individuals don't commit crime
  • overcomes the dact that a significat proportion of offences are nevr recorded by the police giving an excellent picture of the extent nd patterns of victimisation- something completley missing from official accounts. In recent years under 16s have also taken part in victimisation studies.
  • The CSEW has had a significant influence on policy in britian showing htat crime is commited against quite spesific groups of people - mainly young and male in spesific areas mainly inner ciry and ajoining zones showing that those people not in high risk groups were unlikley to be victims
  • i.e the statistically average person could expect a robbery every five years a burglary once every 40 and assaly once every centurary.
  • The CSEW also led to changes in 1997 and 2002 in how police cattegorise crime.
8 of 9

Evaluation of victim surveys

Weaknesses of victim surveys.

  • The problem of basing stats on victims memories is that recolections are ofen faulty or biased.
  • The categorisation of what crimes have been commited against them is left to the person filling in the questionaire leading to considerable inaccuracy in the categories.
  • Marxists- victim surveys omit a range of crimes such as corporate and fraud and any crime where the victim is unaware or unable to report a crime.
  • CSEW doen't cover the population in car ehomes, halls of residence or homeless.
  • Feminists- despite being anomomous people apear to under report sexual offences and domestic violence.
  • People may be influenced by the interveiwer and modify or alter their awnsers as a result of wanting to please or impress.
9 of 9


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Crime and deviance resources »