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In 2021 I commissioned i3 analytics to analyse 6 years of Kent Police data, specifically those crimes related to violence against women and girls, between 2016 and March 2022.
The analysis objectives were to produce a detailed problem profile of Violence against women and girls. Furthermore, it was to identify insights regarding trends, extents and patterns of repeat offending and victimisation, geographic profiles, and nominal characteristics. Seasons and time of day were also analysed, potential drivers of crime, and what crime looked like in different districts across Kent.
The key statistics coming out from the analysis identified 49,055 male offenders, over the age of 18, and 56,358 different victims of violence against women and girls related crimes, between 1 April 2017 and 31 March 2022.
Since July 2020, almost three quarters of VAWG crimes were Violence without injury, Stalking, and Harassment. Rape and other sexual offences are far less common with 9%, with the remaining portion being Violence with injury at 17%.
When comparing volume and severity crime, the highest harm offences are low in number (e.g. Rape) with the most crimes being assault without injury, which brings with it a much lower level of harm, based on academic studies of harm caused by specific crimes.
Looking at time of year, spikes in recorded VAWG crimes in the Summer months between 2016 and 2021 were evident, except for 2019 for some reason. From this we can hypothesise that the hot weather does in fact contribute to crime increases.
Dispelling what we thought about lockdowns increasing VAWG crime, there was little evidence of substantial increases in police recorded domestic or non-domestic VAWG crimes during lockdowns. However, there was a short-lived uptick in crime in Summer 2020 before it fell again.
The data shows this was mostly non-domestic violence.
Differences in crime types were highlighted showing Stalking as the fastest growing VAWG crime since January 2020 when contrasting all crimes under the VAWG umbrella.
Investigating further into the criminal justice outcomes the data provides difficult reading. Taking Rape as an example, the percentage of cases where the victim does not support further action has increased to over 64%. Adding this to the approximate 30% resulting in insufficient evidence, means on average, Rape is only being charged or summonsed 4.3% of the time. The picture for other sexual offences is fractionally better, with 48% of victims not supporting and 7.5% of offences being charged. The highest percentage of cases closed due to insufficient evidence is seen in cases of Stalking and Robbery. Rape is a priority for Kent Police and our partners. Significant work together is being undertaken to improve these outcomes with full commitment to Operation Soteria, a national response to improving Criminal Justice Outcomes. Whilst much more needs to be done, there is early evidence of an improving picture. I will continue to represent the needs of victims by focusing on these improvements through meetings such as the Kent Criminal Justice Board and my Performance and Delivery Board which is held in public.
A very interesting finding, when focusing on VAWG crime demand on certain days of the week and times of the day, shows the primary time for VAWG crimes is early to mid-afternoon into early evening, especially mid-week. Tuesdays and Wednesdays saw the highest peak, but this then falls as you move through to the evening between Monday and Thursday. Night-time economy does not dominate peak crime rates and, in general, does not appear to be the most dominant driver. It does still account for 40% of all VAWG crime though, so it is still significant.
Breaking this trend down further into four crime types (Assault with and without injury, Rape, and Harassment) there are slight differences when these are perpetrated. Assault with injury evidences the closest link to the night-time economy, however assault without injury is seen in mid-afternoon nearly as much as Saturday nights. Although Rape does not have as clear-cut time or day effects, it is still common in the afternoon, whereas Harassment is almost exclusively an afternoon crime.
Focusing on seasonality demand, the 2021 crime volumes were highest throughout 2021 compared to previous years except for January, September and August 2020. The latter month saw the highest levels, which could be down to when society came out of lockdown for the first time.
Moving on to where crime is committed across Kent, there is another dispelling of a common perception. VAWG crimes are committed in the home more than 4 times as much as those on roads or streets. During the night-time economy hours, a higher proportion of crimes occurred in the home than at other times. Other locations were a part of the analysis, including bars, hotels, vehicles, public transport, and health settings.
When excluding Domestic violence crimes, the number of VAWG crimes occurring in the home was still approximately half of all crime.
Zooming out to look at comparisons across districts, it is evident VAWG crimes affect almost all areas in Kent, with town centres experiencing the most. Maidstone Town Centre is top and has been for several years as well as never being below 3rd. Thanet has 2 areas in the top 10, whereas Medway has 4. The top 10 LSOAs (Lower Layer Super Output Areas) for most crimes have remained similar across several years, however in terms of districts Medway has the most crimes. Looking at current crime trends and if they continue, Maidstone and Swale will take over Medway and Thanet as the districts with most VAWG crimes in the next 2 years.
Analysis of potential drivers of crime uncovered an interesting finding. A heat map was used, which clearly showed the areas with the highest concentration of pubs were also the areas with higher crime rates, although Tunbridge Wells is an anomaly here. When adding deprivation as a factor into the equation, there were strong links between high deprivation, high concentration of pubs and higher levels of VAWG. When delving into the link between age of victim and deprivation levels, the highest number of crimes are perpetrated by offenders in their early 30s, especially in deprived areas.
Looking at another driver of VAWG crime, temperature has a major impact on VAWG volumes with an increase of 40 crimes per day for every 10 additional degrees centigrade. High temperatures have a major impact specifically on those aged 30-35 with only moderate effects for other ages and little or none after 40. 25-29 dominate in colder seasons.
Another area analysed was the number of different victims per crime type. Looking at 9 different crimes, with majority being VAWG-specific, the number of overall victims seem to be reducing in the last few years, however Stalking and Harassment victims are increasing.
Age of VAWG victims was again under the spotlight. Those aged between 19 and 28 are most vulnerable to becoming a victim. Even though there is a gradual reduction in victimhood as you get older, those in their 30s are just as likely to be a victim as teenagers are. There was a spike in the data with 14–15-year-olds becoming victims; this is largely down to sexual offences involving children under 16. This only applies when including male offenders under 18 in the data.
Although age is a factor, it has been discovered that date of birth is a greater determinant of VAWG than age, especially among males in deprived areas. Every year peak offending has consistently been highest amongst those born around 1989, most especially those living in more deprived areas. Younger cohorts are not committing as many VAWG offences at the same age.
Continuing with the teenager theme, this cohort buck the trend slightly when it comes to crime location. Crime in the home dominates for all ages, however those girls in their early teens are victims more often in outdoor public areas and in education settings than their older counterparts.
Analysing the distances travelled between crime location and home picked up a very intriguing trend. 76% of all VAWG crimes either occurred in the home or within ½ mile away from the home of the victim, with very few crimes committed further than 3 miles away.
Another interesting fact is that, in general, offenders committing violent or Stalking & Harassment offences are more likely to commit a further offence within a year than sex offenders.
Looking closer at an offender’s history of VAWG, there is a pattern emerging. Having the combination of Stalking & Harassment, Malicious Communications and Controlling and Coercive behaviour in a VAWG offender’s history multiplies the chance of them committing assault with injury by 2.3x. 75% of these offenders also commit assault with injury.
A pattern is also apparent when looking at Rape. Having the combination of Harassment and Controlling & Coercive behaviour in a VAWG offender’s history multiplies the chance of them committing assault with injury by 2.6x. 22% of these offenders also commit rape of a female over 16.
Location and severity of crime was then analysed. For victims who have the same address as the offender the most likely place to be a victim is at that location. When offenders and victims do not live together the victim’s home is more likely to be the scene than the offenders. However, the opposite is seen when looking at severity of harm caused. The evidential pattern shows a higher chance of crime occurring in the victim’s home but more serious crimes occurring at the offender’s address. 3 out of 4 fatal and near fatal VAWG crimes occurred in a home.
Finally, when looking at how crimes are reported there are only slight differences between children and adults reporting habits. Understandably, there are higher numbers of third-party reporting by
adults/carers/parents on behalf of children. There is minimal difference with online reporting.
Many sexual crimes and stalking are now reported via the 101 (non-emergency number) or online. More than a ¼ of rapes and 1/3 of other sexual offences are reported via 101. Stalking and harassment is reported most often via online or 101. This could present a risk of missed forensic opportunities, Kent Police has ensured robust recording and reporting processes are in place to ensure vital evidence is not missed when victims choose these methods of reporting.