Spatial variation and the crime drop

Our work on the crime drop in Scotland has included a detailed analysis of how crime has changed at different spatial scales. We have conducted research aimed at explaining the crime drop at a national level; however, here we present key papers which have focused on changing crime trends at regional and local level. The aim of this work has been to identify whether some localities have benefited more or less from the dividend of the crime drop compared to others. We have found important spatial variation in crime over the period of the crime drop which is indicative of increasing inequality in the distribution of crime.

Below is information on 1 of 3 papers related to this work. Click through to find out more about
Comparing trends in crime across local authorities in Britain (Bates, McVie and Pillinger) and Changing crime concentrations in neighbourhoods in City of Glasgow (Bannister, Bates and Kearns)

Local variance in the crime drop (Bannister, Bates and Kearns)
There is growing recognition that crime is falling across many developed countries. Existing research has tended to examine this phenomenon at the level of the nation state. Less attention has been devoted to the investigation of the crime drop at a finer spatial scale. Utilising police recorded crime data from Greater Glasgow in Scotland for the period 1998-2013, our research examined whether crime has fallen evenly across neighbourhoods within this region or whether there are winners and losers in the crime drop. Using group trajectory analysis (a form of latent class analysis), our work explored the existence of distinct groups of neighbourhoods where crime had fallen in comparison to distinct groups of neighbourhoods where it had not. Further, we examined variation in these groupings according to crime type.
We found marked variation in both the level of crime and the trajectories of crime over time for different neighbourhoods. The neighbourhoods could be clustered into four main types: consistently very high crime areas; consistently very low crime areas; areas which showed a large (>50%) crime drop; and areas that were mixed in terms of their profile. Examining the demographic, socio-economic and situational profile of these areas, we found that crime level was associated with particular structural and situational measures (such as deprivation, household composition, population age structure and situational crime attractors). Consistently high and low crime areas could be easily distinguished from each other, although the other neighbourhoods tended to be more varied. However, those neighbourhoods that sustained the greatest crime drop over time had become more similar in profile to consistently low crime areas.

Our findings suggest that change in tenure, deprivation and situational factors may have influenced area crime trends, although our analysis cannot be used to test causality.

Policy relevance:
This research is of relevance to policy-makers and practitioners with an interest in crime variation across different localities and the factors behind such differences. In particular, this work should influence senior police officers with a remit for identifying areas of good practice in terms of crime reduction, or improving crime rates in low performing areas. For example, these findings could contribute to decision-making around the scale and type of crime prevention measures deployed in localities. It could also inform strategical planning for the scale and type of public reassurance measures deployed in local areas.

For further information see:
Bannister, J., Bates, E. and Kearns, A. (2017) Local variance in the crime drop: A Longitudinal Study of Neighbourhoods in Greater Glasgow, Scotland. British Journal of Criminology,

Bannister, J., Bates, E. and Kearns, A. (2014) Local variance in the crime drop Are there winners and losers AQMeN Briefing paper 3.

Susan McVie
Jon Bannister
Ade Kearns
Ellie Bates