Buil-Gil, D., Brunton-Smith, I., Pina-Sánchez, J., and Cernat, A. (2022). Comparing measurements of violent crime in local communities: a case study in Islington, London, Police Practice and Research, 23(4), 489-506.
Police-recorded crime data are prone to measurement error, affecting our understanding of the nature of crime. Research has responded to this problem using data from surveys and emergency services. These data sources are not error-free, and data from different sources are not always easily comparable. This study compares violent crime data recorded by police, ambulance services, two surveys and computer simulations in Islington, London. Different data sources show remarkably different results. However, crime estimates become more similar, but still show different distributions, when crime rates are calculated using workday population as the denominator and log-transformed. Normalising crime rates by workday population controls for the fact that some data sources reflect offences’ location while others refer to victims’ residence, and log-transforming rates mitigates the biasing effect associated with some multiplicative forms of measurement error. Comparing multiple data sources allows for more accurate descriptions of the prevalence and distribution of crime.