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Crime Survey for England and Wales (formerly the British Crime Survey) Frequently Asked Questions

April 2012: the British Crime Survey (BCS) changes its name to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW)
Following the Home Secretary's acceptance of the recommendations of the National Statistician's Review of Crime Statistics (June 2011), the collation and publication of Crime Statistics has moved to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from 1 April 2012. The British Crime Survey has changed its name to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) accordingly, to better reflect its coverage. See the ONS Release: Crime Statistics, period ending December 2011 web page for further details.


Which years of the CSEW are available?

Datasets are currently available for each survey from 1982 onwards. For a list of up-to-date datasets please refer to the Dataset Titles page.

Where can I obtain statistics and tables from the CSEW?

These are available from a good academic library or from the Home Office publications department: The most recent reports are available online from the Office for National Statistics web pages.

Does the CSEW include information at the person level?

Yes, the CSEW includes information at the household, individual and ‘victim’ level. For each year of the survey there are at least two files. One holds the victim form information and the other the remaining parts of the questionnaire, with the exception of the self-completions. In sweeps where there have been self-completions these are held separately and must be specifically requested for release. However, not all self-completions are currently deposited because of confidentiality and anonymity issues.

What is the most detailed geography I can analyse the data at?

The CSEW dataset contains the following regional level variables: Government Office Region (GOR), Standard Statistical Region (SSR) and Police Force Area.

The Special Licence CSEW contains data with finer geographical detail including information on ward and lower super output area of residence. This dataset also includes information on the type of area a person lives (urban/rural, Acorn classification and ONS ward/district classifications).

Before I order, how do I find out what questions/variables are included?

Variable lists and PDF user guides (including questionnaires) are freely available via the Doc column in the Dataset Titles page.

What format are the data available in?

Most years of the CSEW are available in SPSS, STATA, SAS and ASCII tab-delimited formats.

Do I need to use weights to analyse the CSEW?

Yes. The CSEW includes three types of weights to compensate for unequal selection probabilities, differential response rates and to ensure that quarters are equally weighted for analyses that combine data from more than one quarter. More information on how to weight the CSEW can be found in our guide to Weighting the Social Surveys.  

Can I use the CSEW to analyse change over time?

Yes, a key aim of the CSEW is to provide robust trends for the crime types it covers. The CSEW is a better indicator of long-term trends than police recorded crime because it is unaffected by changes in levels of reporting to the police or police recording practices. The victimisation methodology and the crime types included in the main count of crime have remained comparable since the survey began in 1981.

A useful resource for those intending to use the CSEW to monitor trends over time is the booklet ‘Measuring crime for 25 years’. This document was published in 2007 and examines how the CSEW has changed and what has happened to trends in crime and people’s perceptions of crime over 25 years of the survey. Further information on the practicalities of using the CSEW for time series analysis can be found in our guide to Analysing Change over Time.

What population is covered in the CSEW?

The CSEW covers the private household population in England and Wales although the first (1982) and third (1988) surveys also included Scotland. Northern Ireland and Scotland now both have their own crime surveys. The CSEW covers the population aged 16 and over but, since January 2009, those aged 10 to 15 have been included in the survey. The first results for this age-group will be published in spring 2010.

Can I use the CSEW for teaching purposes?

Yes, a BCS teaching dataset has been creating using data from the BCS 2000 and a new dataset is now available using the BCS 2007-2008. The BCS teaching datasets can help class tutors to incorporate empirical data into their courses and thus develop student's skills in quantitative methods of analysis and their knowledge of large-scale government surveys. A user guide accompanies the teaching datasets which has been tried and tested in our academic department.

What datasets are available when I download the CSEW?

From the 2008-09 CSEW onwards, under the End User Licence, analysts can download the following CSEW datasets:

• Core non-victim dataset

• Youth non-victim dataset

• Core victim dataset

• Youth victim dataset

The difference between the victim and non-victim datasets is that each case on the non-victim form refers to an individual respondent, whereas each case on the victim form refers to an individual incident reported by a respondent.

The Youth datasets contain both data from the core files and an additional boost of those aged 16-24. There is therefore no need to add the core and youth datasets together. Any analysis focussing on those aged 16-24 only can be done using the youth datasets and analysis on all those aged 16 or over can be done using the core datasets.

Is there a more general FAQ?

There is a generic FAQ for all surveys available.


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  Page last updated 5 February 2013
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