National Statistics

British Crime Survey: methodology

Explanation of how the British Crime Survey is conducted, and which areas of the UK it covers.



From 1 April 2012, the British Crime Survey (BCS) will be known as the Crime Survey for England and Wales to better reflect its geographical coverage.

While the survey did previously cover the whole of Great Britain, it ceased to include Scotland in its sample in the late 1980s. There is a separate survey - the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey - covering Scotland.

From 1 April 2012, National Statistics on crime previously published by the Home Office will be published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

For more information see the ONS Crime in England and Wales web page.

Queries regarding these outputs should be directed to

Key publications 

More publications

Our work

The Crime Survey for England and Wales, previously the British Crime Survey (BCS), is one of the largest social research surveys conducted in England and Wales. It asks people resident in households about their experiences of crime in face-to-face interviews.

In the 2010/11 BCS, around 51,000 people were interviewed, that is, around 47,000 adults aged 16 or over in the main survey and a further 4,000 interviews conducted with children aged 10 to 15. Find out more about this research with children at British Crime Survey 10 to 15-year-olds.

Around 1,000 interviews were carried out in each police force area in 2010/11. The overall response rate is currently 76 per cent - among the highest for the large continuous government surveys.

The first survey, in 1982, covered England, Wales and Scotland. Scotland now has its own survey (Scottish Crime & Justice Survey), as does Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland Crime & Victimisation Survey).

Technical reports

Crime statisticians produce a technical report providing information on survey design, weighting and survey response every survey year. The latest available is British Crime Survey (England and Wales) 2010-11 technical report.  See the National Archives for previous technical reports.

The design of the survey has changed over the years but the core set of questions asked about victimisation experiences have remained constant.

BCS datasets

Anonymised datasets from the BCS in SPSS format are available on the UK Data Archive through the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS). Researchers, including students, who need data for dissertations or practical work can use these datasets.

The BCS is a complex study with data organised at different levels (households, individuals and incidents) but full supporting documentation and metadata are available with access to the data. Users who need help in analysing the data can contact the ESDS Government helpdesk.

Interpersonal violence: question development for the BCS

We commissioned research to review questions in the BCS relating to intimate personal violence and to develop an alternative set of questions to be tested in the 2010/11 survey - read the results of the research - Interpersonal violence question development.

These questions were added to the 2010/11 survey as part of a split-sample experiment with the current questions. The results of this experiment have been published and form the basis for a public consultation on questions to be used in the survey in future - Analysis of 2010/11 BCS IPV split-sample experiment.

For further details on the consultation and Home Office Statistics response - Consultation on the British Crime Survey intimate personal violence questionnaire.

Feasibility of boosting Police Force Area sample sizes using supplementary re-contact surveys

We commissioned research to look into re-contacting BCS respondents using different modes of data collection to boost PFA sample sizes for key estimates in the BCS, following a proposed reduction in the core sample size to reduce survey costs.

British Crime Survey: feasibility of boosting Police Force Area (PFA) sample sizes using supplementary recontact surveys

Published 19 January 2012