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Applying your community engagement skills
Applying your community engagement skills

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4 Use of data

Over the weekend a number of the shops in the precinct suffered minor damage, such as broken windows. One newsagent reports that someone had tried to gain access via the front door, possibly targeting the cigarettes behind the counter, but the attempt failed. This has led to local business owners contacting local councillors to complain about the repeated problems. The general message has been that ‘the situation seems to be getting worse and other areas don’t have these problems’.

As a consequence, you have been invited to attend a forthcoming community meeting involving local councillors and business leaders who wish to discuss their views about increasing crime. You need to be armed with some of the latest data to objectively study what is going on.

The following interactive allows you to look at general crime patterns across your area.

Activity 4 Identifying crime data patterns

Part A

Follow steps 1–3 and input all the information requested. Then answer the questions.

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  • Step 1: Select the date range September 2016 to January 2021.
  • Step 2: Select the crime ‘Anti-social behaviour’
  • Step 3: Select your police region, e.g. Police Service of Northern Ireland
  • i.What patterns and trends do you see in your graph? Think about the crime pattern over the past two and a half years (has it gone up or down), and seasonal patterns.

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The data shows that reports of anti-social behaviour generally varied between 4,000 and 6,000 incidents per month across the force as a whole. Although the data appears to be cyclical there isn’t a clear time-of-year seasonality as some of the peaks are in summer and others in spring or winter, so there aren’t too many obvious conclusions about causes. The obvious spike occurs in late 2019-early 2020 and there is a clear underlying potential cause.

  • ii.Now return to the interactive and add another force to the data set. (Pick any you think may offer some similar characteristics). Compare patterns of anti-social behaviour. Are they similar?

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Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).


In the example above, it is remarkable that the data shows some apparent similarities, with the same spike in incidents from late 2019. In the case of South Wales the spike was just as high (and as a proportion, it was worse) but the peak did not last as long and incidents fell quickly. In such a case it would be worth asking if there were any differences in police or community reactions to the demand spike.

Assessing other offences

The same interactive can be used to assess patterns for other policing demand and activity. You may wish to look at a few other types of crime.

Are there any crimes where the general pattern is decreasing significantly?

The following table lists those with clear patterns, with the caveat that some of the recent changes may have been affected by COVID-19 lockdowns and changes in patterns of home occupancy created by working from home (Northern Ireland data).

Increasing crime rates Decreasing crime rates
Drug offences Burglary
Violence and sexual offences ‘Other’ theft
Theft from person
Vehicle crime

Other sources of data

There are also opportunities to look at local postcode crime patterns, should you wish to do so.

What message will you give to the community and business leaders based on this data?

Your message based on the above data shows general decreases in many crime patterns but some spikes in anti-social behaviour. If you chose to look at crime patterns based around postcodes you may find some variations. Where a general trend is down but a local trend is up then you need to look at possible explanations for the differences. In this scenario could it be that the local situation is worse because of an urgent need to improve the areas waiting for redevelopment? Is there evidence here that derelict sites are creating opportunities for more anti-social behaviour?