Research and Statistical Bulletin 01/2018 ‘Perceptions of Crime: Findings from the 2016/17 Northern Ireland Crime Survey’

Date published: 19 January 2018

The Department of Justice today published Research and Statistical Bulletin 01/2018 ‘Perceptions of Crime: Findings from the 2016/17 Northern Ireland Crime Survey’ (NICS).

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

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

Key Findings

Drugs (76%), alcohol (58%) and a lack of discipline from parents (49%) were the three factors most commonly identified by NICS 2016/17 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 35% and 19% of respondents respectively, were drugs and a lack of discipline from parents.

Almost three-fifths (57%) of NICS 2016/17 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 2015/16 (60%), the NICS 2016/17 figure is 22 percentage points below that observed in 2003/04 (79%).  The proportion of respondents who felt there was less crime in Northern Ireland rose (p<0.05) between NICS 2015/16 and 2016/17, from 10% to 14%.

As in previous sweeps of the survey, NICS 2016/17 respondents continued to be more positive in their perceptions of crime trends in their local area than at the regional level with 29% believing local crime levels had increased in the preceding two years.           

Based on a seven-strand composite measure, findings from NICS 2016/17 show that 9% of respondents perceived the level of anti-social behaviour (ASB) in their local area to be high, on a par with NICS 2015/16 (8%). The equivalent figure for England and Wales was also 9% (Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) 2016/17).  Across the individual categories, ‘rubbish or litter lying around’ (25%, NICS 2016/17; 30%, CSEW 2016/17) 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, respondents to NICS 2016/17 displayed higher levels of worry about car crime (10%, NICS 2016/17 v 7%, CSEW 2016/17) and violent crime (14% v 10%) than their counterparts in England and Wales.

For the crime types examined, the vast majority of NICS 2016/17 respondents believed it unlikely that they would fall victim during the coming year.  Overall, 9% 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 6% perceived themselves to be at risk of violent crime. 

At 72%, the majority of NICS 2016/17 respondents felt that ‘fear of crime’ has a minimal impact on their quality of life, remaining on a par with that observed the previous year (73%, NICS 2015/16). A further 23% 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 publication is drawn from NICS 2016/17, 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 and core questions of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW; formerly known as the British Crime Survey).

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, 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)
  • identify the characteristics and circumstances of people most at risk from and affected by different types of crime
  • 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 2016 to 31 March 2017, which involved 1,877 people aged 16 years and over giving complete interviews.  This represents an eligible response rate of 62%.

4. National Statistics are produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official 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 here or via contacting Analytical Services Group, Laganside House, 23-27 Oxford Street, Belfast BT1 3LA (Telephone: 028 9072 4529; Email:

6. For all media enquiries, please contact the DOJ Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07623974383 and your call will be returned.1.

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