The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has compiled the new system of measuring crime in England and Wales. The Crime Severity Score (CSS) is designed to reflect the relative harm of offending, rather than how many crimes there are. The value of the CSS is in providing additional information to understand crime at a local level – although like other police figures, the CSS may fluctuate according to changes in the way forces record offences.
The weighting for each offence is calculated by analysing sentencing data – the tougher the sentence imposed for a particular crime; the greater the weight for that offence. Once a weight has been calculated for each offence, it is multiplied by the number of incidents. That total is then divided by the population for the area in question to give the Crime Severity Score. In England and Wales, the CSS in 2015-16 was 10.1, compared with 14.3 in 2002-03.
After murder and other homicide offences (7,797 points), the next highest individual crime weightings are for attempted murder, aiding suicide, and rape.
The lowest weighted offences after possession of cannabis (3 points) were soliciting for prostitution, possession of controlled drugs more generally, criminal damage to buildings, and dishonest use of electricity.
The law and order debate has been hampered for many years by the absence of statistics that reflect the reality of offending. The police recorded figures are a blunt instrument: they measure only the volume of crimes reported and logged by forces eg a murder and a theft each count as one crime.
The other long-standing crime measurement tool is the Crime Survey of England and Wales, the main benefit of which is that it includes offences that aren’t reported to police.
But the survey does not measure some categories of crime and when it estimates the number of crimes no distinction is made between offences which cause severe harm and those that are less serious.
West Yorkshire had the highest crime severity score, the Metropolitan Police had the second and Dyfed-Powys the lowest.
The OSS said over the past 14 years the police recorded crime rate and the CSS have shown similar trends – both have generally decreased but in recent years showed slight increases.