Bristol can breathe a sigh of relief – the city is now a safer place to live than it was a decade ago, according to the State of Bristol Report 2015. A total of 40,650 crimes were recorded between 2013 and 2014, half the 80,000 reported in 2004. While this illustrates a long-term decrease, the number of reported crimes in the city has risen slightly over the last twelve months (+1.5%). The greatest increase has been registered in the number of incidents of hate crime (+13%) being reported, followed by cases of violence against the person offences (+8%) and incidents of domestic violence and abuse (+6%). While these statistics make for sobering reading, reassuringly, Bristol has seen a significant reduction in the percentage of robbery offences (-25%) and acquisitive offences (-8%).
But how do these figures translate for the people of Bristol and their perceptions of crime and violence in the city? Do they feel safer? And how confident are they in the police? Thanks to open data, we can get a better insight into these questions.
The latest Quality of Life Survey reveals that Bristolians perceive their city to be safer than it was before. Compared to 2009, there has been a considerable reduction in the number of citizens who say their day-to-day life is affected by a fear of crime. Six years ago, almost one third (29%) of Bristolians lived side by side with fear, but in 2015, just over one in ten (15%) say they feel this way. Moreover, the number of citizens who were actually the victim of crime has also dropped over the past ten years. Indeed, just over one in ten (12%) reported to be the victim of crime in 2013, a considerably lower percentage than in 2004 when over one quarter (26%) of citizens had been directly affected by a criminal offence.
With this apparent long-term decline of crime, one could assume that Bristolians are less frightened than a decade ago. Interestingly, however, levels of anxiety are still high for some and appear to vary by a range of categorisations. For example, half (50%) of Bristol’s Muslim community say they are anxious about being the victim of crime, which is perhaps linked to the rise in reported hate crime, as mentioned above. Moreover, although to slightly lesser extent, people living with a disability are also more likely than average to be worried about crime, with over one quarter (27%) saying that they are anxious, compared to an average of 15%.
Not only does an anxiety of crime appear to have some correlation with group characteristics, but it is closely linked to geographic location. In fact, if we look more closely at each ward of the city, data reveals that every corner of Bristol has a different story to tell when it comes to evaluating crime. Indeed, if living in Clifton, Clifton East and Stoke Bishop, you’re statistically less likely to worry about crime. Indeed, just five in every hundred (5%) people living in Clifton said that their day-to-day life is affected by crime. However, this figure significantly increases in areas such as Filwood (39%) and Hartcliffe (28%), where people experience a higher level of crime than other parts of the city.
Closely linked to crime is the matter of anti-social behaviour, which can range from rowdy behaviour in streets, to trespassing and nuisance calls. While varied in definition, the most recent Quality of Life Survey shows promising results: since 2009, the number of Bristolians who perceive anti-social behaviour to be a neighbourhood problem has steadily decreased from just over one in three (38%) to just over one in four (27%) in 2014.
Paradoxically, though, whilst this data suggests reason for some optimism, the percentage of Bristolians who believe that the police and local public services are successfully tackling crime and anti-social behaviour has dropped over the last year. Indeed, more than one in three (37%) Bristolians had confidence in the police in 2013, this dropped to just under a one in three (32%) in 2014. In particular, the districts of Hengrove (21%), Lawrence Hill (20%) and St. George East (15%) expressed the least confidence in the city’s police force to deal with crime.
While the safety of Bristol and its’ citizens has clearly improved, the police and local services clearly have their work still cut out. While the overall rate of reported crime has dropped and perceptions of anti-social behaviour have improved and people generally feel safer, there are still worrying increases in hate crime and violent crime.
Simone Grassi, Bristol Is Open