Perceptions of Crime: Findings from the 2017/18 Northern Ireland Crime Survey

Date published: 14 February 2019

The Department of Justice (DoJ) today published Research and Statistical Bulletin 3/2019 ‘Perceptions of Crime: Findings from the 2017/18 Northern Ireland Crime Survey’ (NICS). It is a National Statistics publication.

In addition to describing respondents’ perceptions of causes of crime, recent changes in crime levels and the extent of anti-social behaviour in the local area, this National Statistics bulletin illustrates three commonly used measures of concern about crime:

  • worry about crime and personal safety;
  • perceptions of the risk of victimisation; and
  • perceptions of the effect of ‘fear of crime’ on quality of life.

Key Findings

  • Drugs (80%), alcohol (60%) and a lack of discipline from parents (53%) were the three factors most commonly identified by NICS 2017/18 respondents as major causes of crime in Northern Ireland today.  When asked which single factor they considered to be the main cause of crime, the most common responses, cited by 39% and 17% of respondents respectively, were drugs and a lack of discipline from parents.
  • Three-fifths (60%) of NICS 2017/18 respondents thought crime levels in Northern Ireland had increased in the preceding two years.  Although this proportion remained unchanged (p<0.05) compared with NICS 2016/17 (57%), the NICS 2017/18 figure is 19 percentage points below that observed in 2003/04 (79%).  The proportion of respondents who felt there was less crime in Northern Ireland fell (p<0.05) between NICS 2016/17 and 2017/18, from 14% to 10%.
  • As in previous sweeps of the survey, NICS 2017/18 respondents continued to be more positive in their perceptions of crime trends in their local area than at the regional level with 30% believing local crime levels had increased in the preceding two years.
  • Based on a seven-strand composite measure, findings from NICS 2017/18 show that 9% of respondents perceived the level of anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their local area to be high, unchanged (p<0.05) from NICS 2016/17 (9%). The equivalent figure for England and Wales was similar at 10% (Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) 2017/18).  Across the individual categories, ‘rubbish or litter lying around’ (26%, NICS 2017/18; 30%, CSEW 2017/18) and ‘people using or dealing drugs’ (25% and 23% respectively) were most commonly identified as problems in both jurisdictions.
  • Despite a lower prevalence of crime in Northern Ireland than in England and Wales, the proportion of NICS respondents expressing high levels of worry were similar to CSEW rates for the crime types examined: burglary (11%, NICS 2017/18 and 10%, CSEW 2017/18); car crime (8% and 7% respectively); and violent crime (12% for both).
  • For the crime types examined, the vast majority of NICS 2017/18 respondents believed it unlikely that they would fall victim during the coming year.  Overall, 11% of respondents thought it was likely that they would be the victim of burglary, 9% believed they would experience some form of vehicle-related theft, while 5% perceived themselves to be at risk of violent crime. 
  • At 74%, the majority of NICS 2017/18 respondents felt that ‘fear of crime’ has a minimal impact on their quality of life, remaining on a par (p<0.05) with that observed the previous year (72%, NICS 2016/17). A further 22% claimed it has a moderate effect, while the remaining four per cent stated their quality of life is greatly affected by their ‘fear of crime’.

Notes to editors: 

1.This is the second publication to be drawn from NICS 2017/18, a representative, continuous personal interview survey of the experiences and perceptions of crime of adults living in private households throughout Northern Ireland.  Previously conducted in 1994/95, 1998, 2001 and 2003/04, the NICS began operating on a continuous basis in January 2005.  It generally mirrors the format of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW).

2.An alternative, but complementary, measure of crime to offences recorded by the police, the main aims of NICS are to:

  • measure crime victimisation rates experienced by people living in private households regardless of whether or not these crimes were reported to, or recorded by, the police;
  • monitor trends in the level of crime, independent of changes in reporting levels or police recording practices;
  • measure people’s perceptions of, and reactions to, crime (for example, the level and causes of crime, the extent to which they are concerned about crime and the effect of crime on their quality of life);
  • measure public confidence in policing and the wider criminal justice system; and
  • collect sensitive information, using self-completion modules, on people’s experiences regarding crime-related issues, such as domestic violence.

3.The bulletin refers to fieldwork undertaken during the financial year 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018, which involved 1,582 people aged 16 years and over giving complete interviews.  This represents an eligible response rate of 52%.

4.National statistics are produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.  They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs.  They are produced free from any political interference.  They are also subject to restrictions in terms of pre-release access. 

5.The bulletin will be available in PDF format only from either the DoJ website ( or Analytical Services Group, Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast BT4 3SG (Telephone: 028 9052 0185; Email:

6. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 028 9037 8110 and your call will be returned.

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