Victim inequality and the crime drop

A key aspect of our research programme on the crime drop has involved examining it from the perspective of victims. Victimisation surveys provide a useful alternative source to police statistics on changing trends in crime in a number of countries, including Scotland. By combining multiple sweeps of Scottish victim surveys from 1993 to 2014/15, we take a victim-centered approach to understanding how the experiences of victims have changed over time. Our main finding is that there has been a significant increase in victim inequality over the period of the crime drop. Here we summarise our findings from this work.

1. Changing patterns of victimization over the crime drop (McVie, Norris and Pillinger)

A large body of literature has emerged around the crime drop in many western democracies since the early 1990s. Most of this work has concentrated on the nature and extent of crime overall, or changes in the levels of specific types of crime, but far less attention has been paid to the distribution of the crime drop across specific populations to determine whether it has been experienced equally across society. A few studies have considered how the crime drop has impacted on the distribution of crime within society and what implications this has for crime inequality and distributive justice, although it has not taken a truly victim-centered approach in its analysis.

Applying quasi-longitudinal latent class analysis to victim survey data from 1993 to 2014/15 in Scotland, we have demonstrated that the crime drop is a product of change in both the frequency and type of victimisation experienced by different groups within Scottish society. We have identified four separate classes of victim: Non-Victims, One-Off Property Victims, Multiple Mixed Victims and Frequent Personal Victims. We argue that the overall crime drop masks an increase in inequality between those at lower risk of victimisation (especially Non-Victims) and those at highest risk of victimisation (Frequent personal Victims). Our findings contribute significant new theoretical insights to debates on the crime drop, crime inequality and distributive justice, and we provide policy recommendations on the importance of crime reduction strategies that prioritize the needs of those people within society who are at greatest risk of victimisation.

For further information:
Norris, P., Pillinger, R. and McVie, S. (2014)  Changing patterns of victimisation in Scotland 1993 to 2011, AQMeN Research Briefing 2

McVie, S., Norris, P. and Pillinger, R. (2015) Has Scotland’s falling crime rate benefited everyone equally? Scottish Justice Matters, 3(2): 33-34.

McVie, S., Norris, P. and Pillinger, R. (in progress) Increasing inequality in experience of victimisation during the crime drop: Analysing patterns of victimisation in Scotland from 1993 to 2014/15.

2. The characteristics of different victim types (McVie, Norris and Pillinger)

Building on the work described above, we extended our analysis of the four victim classes we identified through latent class analysis and examined whether they differed according to various individual and household level characteristics. We found that the risk of being One-Off Property Victim, a Multiple Mixed Victim and a Frequent Personal Victim was significantly increased amongst younger people, single parents and social renters when compared to some other groups within society. Men were also at increased risk of being Frequent Personal Victims. We did not find that income impacted on victimisation risk, although this may be due to the nature of the variable included in the victim survey datasets. Further analysis of the characteristics of individual victim groups is being conducted in the context of geographical analysis (see below).

For further information:
McVie, S., Norris, P. and Pillinger, R. (2015b) Is poverty reflected in changing patterns of victimisation in Scotland? Scottish Justice Matters, 3(3): 6-7.

3. The spatial distribution of victim types across Scotland (McVie, Norris and Pillinger)

Geographical indicators in the form of Intermediate Geography (IG) can be attached to the Scottish victim survey data from recent sweeps, allowing multi-level analysis to be conducted. IGs are discrete spatial areas within local authorities which contain between 2,500 and 6,000 people. Preliminary analysis suggests that people living in remote areas of Scotland were less likely to be One-Off Property Victims but more likely to be Multiple Mixed Victims than people living in other parts of Scotland. There were only a few IGs which contained higher than average numbers of Frequent Personal Victims, but these were clustered around some of the more deprived parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow

Using data from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD), multi-level analyses were conducted to determine whether there was any association between individual domains from the SIMD and the victim groups at IG. We found that Frequent Personal Victims tended to be concentrated in areas that were highly deprived on both Health and Education measures of the SIMD. We have recently added more data to this analysis and are currently updating it.

For further information:
McVie, S., Norris, P. and Pillinger, R. (2015b) Is poverty reflected in changing patterns of victimisation in Scotland? Scottish Justice Matters, 3(3): 6-7.

Policy relevance:
This research has shown that most people are experiencing less crime, but there is a small group within society who are most highly victimised and they have not seen a reduction in the number of incidents they experience. This group do seem to be associated with specific characteristics in terms of the individual people and households affected, and the spatial areas they reside in. Our work is being used by the Building Safer Communities programme of the Scottish Government to consider how policies targeting this group can be developed.

Susan McVie
Paul Norris
Rebecca Pillinger


Image c/o: Flickr/LoopZilla