Lancaster researchers have found that a cap masks the scale of violent crime against women in official statistics.
Lancaster researchers estimate that violent crime is 60% higher than official figures suggest due to a cap, which means that a person can only be registered as a victim five times.
This 60% increase is not evenly distributed, however. When the cap was removed, the researchers found that:
- The number of violent crimes against women increased by 70%, compared with a 50% increase for men;
- The number of violent crimes committed by acquaintances and domestic relations of the victims increased by 100% and 70%, respectively;
- And the number of violent crimes committed by strangers increased by 20%.
Professor Sylvia Walby, Professor Brian Francis and Dr Jude Towers analysed the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) figures for 2011-12 and calculated that, in total, it does not account for more than one million violent offences.
The researchers also highlight the fact that the CSEW does not separate the violent crime by domestic relation and the sex of the victim at the same time when publishing the statistics, rendering statistics concerning the exact nature of domestic violence invisible.
The Office of National Statistics has defended the cap, saying that it is necessary to ensure that their estimates are not skewed by a very small number of people who report an extremely high number of incidents.
However, the researchers argue that, while in the past this was once a reasonable judgement, larger sample sizes in the survey and modern statistical techniques means that this is no longer a necessary control.
The researchers are also calling for police-recorded crime statistics – which show the number of crimes reported, as opposed to the CSEW which asks people whether they have been a victim of crime – to be more transparent as, at the moment, there is no category for ‘domestic violence’.
Their solution is to include the relevant categories in crime codes; differentiating relevant crime codes (for example, homicide) by the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, and by the sex of the victim.
Sylvia Walby, Professor of Sociology and UNESCO Chair of Gender Research at Lancaster University, explained: “There is a need to develop a consistent and comprehensive measurement framework for domestic violent crime in order to be able to assess what works to reduce and end this violence.
“This can be achieved by more detailed police reporting; removing the cap in the CSEW; extending the use of the framework to all agencies receiving funds to prevent violent crime; and creating the mechanism to achieve and monitor the change.
“This is necessary if the goal of measuring the extent, nature and changes in domestic violence to inform the development of public policy to end this violence is to be achieved.”
The research, which was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, can be found here.