Perceptions of Crime: Findings from the 2019/20 Northern Ireland Safe Community Survey published today.

Date published: 26 March 2021

The Department of Justice (DoJ) today published Research and Statistical Bulletin ‘Perceptions of Crime: Findings from the 2019/20 Northern Ireland Safe Community Survey’ (NISCS; formerly known as the Northern Ireland Crime Survey (NICS)). It is a National Statistics publication.

Statistics graphic

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 two commonly used measures of concern about crime:

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

Key Findings

  • Drugs (80%), alcohol (56%) and a lack of discipline from parents (40%) were the three factors most commonly identified by 2019/20 respondents as major causes of crime in Northern Ireland today. These three factors were also most likely to be identified by respondents as the major causes in their local area (48%, 35% and 25% respectively).
  • Almost seven-in-ten (68%) respondents thought crime levels in Northern Ireland had increased in the preceding two years, a statistically significant increase from 2018/19 (60%).  The 2019/20 figure of 68% is, however, 11 percentage points below that observed in 2003/04 (79%). There were subsequent decreases between 2018/19 and 2019/20 in the proportions of respondents who felt there was less crime in Northern Ireland (from 8% to 6%) or that crime levels had not changed in the preceding two years (32% to 26%).
  • As in previous sweeps of the survey, latest findings suggest respondents continued to be more positive in their perceptions of crime trends in their local area than at the regional level, with 31% believing local crime levels had increased in the preceding two years.
  • Findings from 2019/20 show that 9% of respondents perceived the level of anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their local area to be high, a similar proportion to 2018/19 (10%). Across the individual ASB categories, ‘people using or dealing drugs’ (31%) and ‘rubbish or litter lying around’ (27%) were most commonly identified as problems in their local area. 
  • Latest findings show the proportion of respondents expressing a high level of worry about violent crime has shown a statistically significant decrease compared with the previous year (from 12% to 10%). The two remaining crime categories considered, burglary and car crime, showed no statistically significant change over the last year. At 7% in each of the last two years, the proportion of respondents reporting feeling very unsafe when walking alone in their area after dark also showed no change, while the proportion feeling very unsafe when alone in home at night fell from 2% to 1%; this proportion has remained at 1%-2% through all previous sweeps of the survey.
  • At 71%, the majority of 2019/20 respondents felt that ‘fear of crime’ has a minimal impact on their quality of life, a further 24% claimed it has a moderate effect, while the remaining five 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 NISCS 2019/20, 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 survey 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 NISCS 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 2019 to 31 March 2020, which involved 3,710 people aged 16 years and over giving complete interviews.  This represents an eligible response rate of 56%.

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 the Statistics and Research publication section of this website or Analytical Services Group, Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast BT4 3SG Telephone: 028 9052 0185; Email:
6.  Press queries about this publication should be directed to the DoJ Press Office on telephone number 028 9052 6444.

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