Has The Cost Of Living Crisis Had An Impact On Crime Levels?

With inflation soaring and a looming recession, here's how the number of reported offences has changed.
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New statistics suggest the cost of living crisis has not had a major impact on crime overall, despite greater financial pressures.

In fact, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) concluded that total crime has decreased by 8%, when comparing data between October 2021 and June 2022 to the pre-Covid year ending March 2020 – although it is a mixed picture.

ONS compared these two timeframes presumably because all social-distancing measures have now been lifted and society has – for the most part – returned to its pre-Covid measures.

But, new challenges face the UK now, such as the looming recession, fuel poverty and food inflation, as well as a decreased workforce and an increase in chronic illness.

While the cost of living crisis has worsened over the autumn, energy regulator Ofgem increased the energy price cap in April, sparking the steady climb in prices. These stats therefore may show the early indications of how the change in living standards impacts crime rates.

Here’s what you need to know.

Which types of crime have decreased?

According to the face-to-face Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), theft decreased by 19%, although ONS warned this was “too early” to suggest a new long-term trend, although it does imply a sustained impact of Covid.

Still, this stat alone drove the statistically significant decrease of crime overall, down by 8%.

Police recorded crime data also found burglary was down 28%, robbery down by 23%, vehicle offences by 19%, knife-enabled crime down 9%, offences involving firearms down by 10%.

Homicide rates also fell by 5%.

Has any category of crime increased?

According to CSEW, fraud has returned to pre-Covid pandemic levels, but it did increase during the pandemic. The ONS links this to “behavioural changes”, presumably as more people spent their days online due to the lockdown measures.

Confusingly, the total number of police recorded crime also suggests overall that it had actually exceeded pre-Covid levels, but this is thought to be down to a change in the way crimes are now reported.

Between April and June this year, there were 1.7 million reported crimes, while between January to March 2020, there were 1.4 million.

The police records indicate sexual offences also rose by 21% compared to the pre-Covid pandemic year ending March 2020 – ONS said this increase to 196,889 offences “is the highest annual figure recorded in England and Wales”.

However, it adds: “Caution is needed when interpreting these figures as they may reflect a number of factors including the impact of high-profile cases and campaigns on victims’ willingness to report incidents.”

But is this the complete picture?

There are several caveats around this data which need to be taken into account.

This data from ONS is compiled by looking at data from police recorded crime and the CSEW.

According to the ONS, this survey is limited to crimes against people resident in households and does not cover all types of crime.

But, the data it collects is unaffected by any changes in the way police record crimes.

The police recorded crime has a wider offence coverage, but excludes crimes which are not reported to the force.

And, this only covers England and Wales.

As the ONS warns, improvements to recording processes and practices by the police and expansions of the recorded crime collection to include new offences will be responsible for the uptick in crimes recorded by the police.

Variations in police activity, more victims reporting crime, and genuine increases in some types of crime will also have an impact.

ONS adds: “For some types of offence these figures do not provide reliable trends in crime.”

Crime Rate, which aggregates crime data across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, found it had actually increased by 1.18% from 2020.

Why are people worried about an increase in crime?

Economic struggles could push people into forms of crime, according to the London mayor Sadiq Khan.

He claimed in August that there would be a rise in shootings and stabbings, as the climbing cost of living would make it easier for gangs to entrap vulnerable young people.

According to the Guardian, Sherry Peck from the charity Safer London said: “It’s important to understand many young Londoners are growing up in incredibly toxic environments which makes them more susceptible to violence and exploitation.”

As winter approaches, it’s widely believed more people will be pushed below the poverty line – which could have a significant impact on crime rates as well.

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