Comparing trends in crime across local authorities in Britain

This research examines change in crime at a regional level across Britain. Existing work on regional crime trends has tended to focus on simple mapping or cross-sectional analysis; but there has been very little published work on longitudinal change at a regional level. In addition, there are gaps in knowledge about relative change in crime trends across UK jurisdictions, especially during the recent period of the crime drop. Therefore, this research has examined uniformity of change in two crime types (burglary and violence) between local authorities distributed across Scotland, England and Wales.

In our analytical approach, we tested three commonly-used longitudinal modelling approaches (growth curves, growth mixture models and group trajectory modelling). Each technique showed a consistent difference between the two crime types, but produced alternative groupings of local authorities. Using the results of the growth mixture models, which produced the best fit, we applied an innovative new approach to disentangling the results of the trajectory models.

Overall, we found that burglary and violence exhibit very different trajectories to each over time. There do appear to be distinct trajectory groups for violence that distinguish between local authorities (i.e. violence has not changed consistently across all local authorities); however, we found less evidence of distinct trajectory groups for burglary (i.e. there does appear to be a global drop in burglary across all local authorities).

These findings cast doubt on unified theories which attempt to explain change in both crime types. In addition, the burglary trajectories are fairly consistent and show a sustained decline over time, while trajectories of violence are more varied and show both decline and increase over time. As a cautionary note, we conclude that some of the observed changes in violence trajectories may be due to artificial fluctuations in recorded crime caused by increasing scrutiny of crime recording practices within some police forces, especially in parts of England.

For further information see:
Bates, E., McVie, S. and Pillinger (forthcoming) Comparing crime trends across Britain: Does regional analysis provide evidence of a uniform drop in crime?