Estimating the Reliability of Crime Data in Geographic Areas

Ian Brunton-Smith, Alexandru Cernat, Jose Pina-Sánchez, David Buil-Gil

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crime data is problematic: Crimes that are never reported undermine its validity and differences in police recording practices affect its reliability. However, the true extent of these problems is not well known, with existing studies suffering from a number of methodological limitations. We examine the quality of police recorded crime data and survey-based crime estimates recorded in England and Wales using a robust latent trait model that effectively represents the competing sources of error. We find that whilst crime rates derived from police data systematically underestimate the true extent of crime, they are substantially more reliable than estimates from survey data. Reliability is lower for violence and criminal damage and is getting worse over time.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe British Journal of Criminology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 11 Mar 2024


  • criminal
  • statistics
  • reliability
  • validity
  • regions
  • UK


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