Crime and Victimisation research overview

Dramatic drops in crime have been observed across many countries worldwide, but research has until very recently focused mostly on the US (see, for example, Lafree 1999; Levitt 2004; Blumstein & Wallman 2006). There has been little international comparative research (exceptions include Tseloni et al. 2010, Farrell et al. 2010), no comparison of the UK jurisdictions, and no research at all in Scotland. Furthermore, there has been little in the way of theoretical or paradigmatic explanation, although Soothill and Francis (2010) start to pave the way.

This research strand aimed to fill an important gap in knowledge about factors that explain crime trends in Scotland. Researchers have been utilising an innovative approach that takes account of other demographic, political, social and economic changes, and made comparisons with data from other countries.

For further information on any of the research below, please contact Professor Susan McVie

Phase 1: Explaining change in crime over time

The rise and fall of crime in Scotland and other UK jurisdictions in recent decades was explored using both official data and survey measures. The research questions included: What explains the difference in crime trends as measured using official and survey data? To what extent can changes in the crime rate be associated with other social, political, environmental, health, educational and economic changes? What has been the economic impact of such changes in crime? What is the relationship between temporal and spatial trends in crime, and to what extent do indicators of cohesion provide causal explanations? English and Dutch data (Francis et al. 2007; Bersani et al 2009) to understand and compare the determinants and impact of criminal careers amongst Scottish offenders. We used this analysis to identify the potential impact of interventions and national crime reduction policies. This strand had four consecutive but interconnected stages.

Phase 2: Identifying the participants in crime

A range of research questions relating to victims and offenders included: To what extent do the changes in crime rates over time reflect broader changes in the population and profile of offenders and victims? What are the differences in the profile of different types of victims and offenders? What aspects of individual lives determine risk of repeated victimisation or offending? To what extent do victims and offenders share the same characteristics and risk factors? What is the overlap in these populations?

Phase 3: Determining criminal careers

The different dimensions of criminal careers and the extent to which they can be predicted by earlier behavioural or individual characteristics were explored with research questions such as: What aspects of individual offenders’ characteristics are most influential in determining the length of their criminal career? Are there age, cohort or period effects that determine conviction patterns over time, and are these the same in different parts of the UK? To what extent can serious offending/violence be predicted by patterns of earlier factors (including behavioural, familial, social and educational), and are there combinations of causal factors that are particularly predictive? To what extent do children make the transition from the youth justice to the adult criminal justice system, what children make the transition and how can it be explained?

Phase 4: The impact of interventions

Research questions on the impact of interventions on offending patterns at the individual, community and national levels included: What impact do different forms of criminal justice interventions have on offending at individual, community and national levels? To what extent do changes in sentencing policies impact on individual offending behaviour and aggregate offending patterns? What are the economic and social benefits of community sentences versus imprisonment? What impact will policing reform have on crime rates, patterns of victimisation and public confidence in the police? What is the relationship between crime rates and public engagement in crime management?


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