Crime and Justice Statistics Collected by International Agencies



Other papers in this edition of the European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research use mainly statistics collected through the European Sourcebook on Crime and Justice Statistics but there are many other sources of international statistics collected by different agencies for different purposes. This paper critically examines the main current and planned collections of comparative data within the European community and wider international bodies. Full Web references are given of available questionnaires and publications where these exist. It also discusses the importance of comparative data generally and pitfalls in its interpretation and examines the guidelines published by international bodies to assist with data collection on crime and justice. Finally, the future of comparative data collections is discussed and recommendations are made.


International comparison Criminal justice statistics Technical assistance 


The European Sourcebook of Crime and Justice Statistics is the source of most of data for the papers published in this volume of the European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research. However, it is not the only set of comparative statistics on crime and justice. Comparative data sets of criminal justice information are collected by several organisations at all geographical levels (Table 1). Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but much can be learned from all of data collected. The most important of these collections is discussed in detail in this paper, as is the complex situation for practitioners and scholars that results from having a series of overlapping materials.
Table 1

List of international comparative data collections, 2011


Name of survey

World wide

A. UN Crime Trends Survey (UNODCa)

B. World Prison Brief (University of London)

European level

C. European Sourcebook on Crime and Justice Statistics (Special Collection Group)

D. Eurostat Data collection

E. International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS)

F. Criminal Justice Systems (CoE – CEPEJ)

G. Prison Systems (CoE – SPACE)

UN United Nations, UNODC United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, CoE Council of Europe, CEPEJ European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice, SPACE Statistiques Pénales Annuelles du Conseil de l’Europe

aFor a glossary and full list of Web sites, see Annex A.

Collections of Comparative Data on Crime and Criminal Justice1

Eight surveys are considered in detail below. Their main similarities and differences are summarised at Annex B. The first two collections cover the entire world, and the remainder cover almost entirely countries within Europe.

United Nations Survey on Crime Trends and the Operation of Criminal Justice Systems

The first United Nations (UN) Crime Trends Survey covered the years 1970–1980. Since then, there have been 12 surveys, which now take place on an annual basis. Data is collected both on crime and on the operations of criminal justice systems. Every country in the world is targeted by a questionnaire, which is sent to their Central Statistical Office. A considerable amount of detail is requested on crime and on the work of each law enforcement agency. Data are used by the UN to compare policies, by donors to assess need, and by countries to allocate resources to assist with legal reform and to press for more statistical resources. Databases are also available more generally2 for research institutes and universities.

The data is collected through a questionnaire in Excel format3 sent each year asking for information on crime, police, prosecution, courts, probation and prisons. The core questionnaire is contained on 11 Excel worksheets (seven for police, two for prisons, and one each for prosecution and courts). Four worksheets are rotated every 3 years on trafficking, corruption and sentencing, and there is a sheet on illicit trafficking in cultural property. The survey is the only world-wide one with such a breadth of data collection. It is also valuable in that it has a consistent run of data for nearly 30 years. The survey is also flexible and arranged so that data can be collected to cope with up-to-date problems: for example, the measurement and processing of human trafficking or bribery. However, this has led to a very large and complex questionnaire, which has discouraged many countries from completing it, especially those with underdeveloped statistical systems. Definitions are prescriptive, but there is an opportunity to attach notes about variations from the standard. The entire structure of the questionnaire does assume a justice system similar to those in Anglo-Saxon countries. This means that countries with different justice systems, such as many African countries with no prosecution systems, or Muslim countries that use Sharia law, can find it difficult to fit their statistics into this questionnaire. The survey also assumes an agency exists to collect crime and justice data, whether within the Central Statistical Office or within law enforcement agencies, and this is not the case in all countries. Approximately 50% of all member states actually complete the survey, and many of those do not complete it all. In some regions, e.g. Africa, the completion rate is much less than 50%, reflecting the low state of development of statistical systems more than any desire to hide data from wider view.

Results are published widely. The Web site is a good starting point for looking at what statistics are available. Cross-national crime statistics for >120 countries can be accessed through this Web page, covering the period 2003–2008. Statistics on police-recorded offences and identified victims are available by crime type: homicide, assaults, sexual violence, robbery, kidnapping, theft, motor vehicle theft, burglary, drug-related crime, trafficking in persons, and Illicit trafficking in cultural property. Statistics on the response of the criminal justice system are available for persons brought into formal contact with the police, persons prosecuted, persons convicted, persons detained and criminal justice system resources. Data are also published with extensive commentary and analysis, particularly through collaboration between the United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Helsinki-based European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI). Their latest publication, “International Statistics on Crime and Justice”, which can be found at, for the first time pulls together global responses to the United Nations Crime Trends Survey (UNCTS) questionnaires, the most recent one included being the UNCTS-10, which allows analysis of data up to 2006.

World Prison Brief (University of London)

The World Prison Brief concentrates on a small amount of prison data. It is also a more informal initiative based at the International Centre for Prison Studies of the University of London, UK. The summarised material is found at the World Prison Brief Web site: Information is obtained on the main prison indicators from contacts, mainly in the prison service of the individual countries. There are measures of total population, and analyses by gender, age, foreigners, overcrowding, remands and recent trends. Data are presented in a straightforward manner and are easily readable. The typical output is for an individual country (e.g. that for Tanzania can be found at The material has a wide coverage, with almost every country in the world responding to the questions. Data is mainly used by academic students. Comparative data requires accessing a number of pages for the countries being compared. Because the figures are required for a narrow series of indicators and there is a good personal contacts between the university and those providing data, the figures are of very good quality. They are also kept up to date, and regular revisions are made to the Web site with the latest statistics.

European Sourcebook on Crime and Justice Statistics

The Sourcebook is a much wider collection of data than the World Prison Brief. It contains data for well over 40 countries throughout Europe, including not only the European Union (EU), but also candidate countries and other countries of eastern and southeastern Europe. It is the source of most of the material quoted in the other papers in this issue of the journal. Data on police, prosecution, courts and corrections is collected every 3 years. It has a dedicated Web site where results can be found back to the start of the collection in 1990 ( Current databases cover 1990–2007, and the next survey is planned to cover 2008–2010. The strengths of this collection are twofold:
  • The organising group is extremely experienced in data collection and analysis in the area of justice and represents different areas all across Europe. It works as an overall strategic committee that takes strategic decisions and oversees the work of questionnaire creation (English/French), choosing and overseeing the national correspondents who collect data, and also drafting the final report.

  • The group recognises the difficulties of comparative data collection and interpretation and goes to great lengths to understand the characteristics of data collected from each country. This is done through collecting and publishing entire series of metadata entries that describe any divergences from the standard definitions and procedures. This metadata can also be used in conjunction with any of the data collections discussed in this paper.

However, this group also works under some difficulties: as it is an informal group, its continued existence depends on achieving funding for each sweep.

Eurostat Data Collection

Eurostat is the Statistical Office of the European Commission. Justice and crime were not part of the EU acquis4 until the mid-1990s, so data has only been collected from member states since then. Even now, very few statistics are collected, although there are plans to extend this, as we shall see under “Section Prison Systems (CoE – SPACE)” below. Currently data are collected on an annual basis from statistical experts nominated by the directors of Social Statistics (mainly from National Statistical Offices) on a small number of types of crime recorded by the police and on overall prison populations. Data collection covers the current 27 member states (March 2011); candidate and potential candidate countries, such as Albania, Croatia, Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Turkey; European Free Trade Association/European Economic Area (EFTA/EEA) countries, such as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein; other European countries, such as the Russian Federation; and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, such as Canada, Japan, New Zealand, USA and South Africa. Data are published annually as a Eurostat Statistics in Focus series and can be found at: The most recent publication (November 2010) includes data for 2002–2008.

We now move on to data collection through surveys directly to statisticians rather than through justice agencies.

International Crime Victimization Survey

A small number of countries, usually the more developed ones, choose to have a second count of crime levels, those crimes reported directly by the general population to statisticians through surveys. Such surveys often contain further questions about crime prevention activities of households, public satisfaction with the legal authorities and so on. However, such surveys tend to vary considerably from country to country. Comparative data is generally not available, for example, by comparing the British Crime Survey Results5 with the US National Crime Victimization Survey6, which have different questionnaires and methodologies.

However, a new methodology has been developed to enable collection of more comparable data. The International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS) has a common questionnaire used for several different countries, translated as necessary, with similar sampling and analytical procedures in each country. Such a methodology has been shown to give good comparative data. The ICVS started in 1989 with its main objective being to advance international comparative criminological research beyond the constraints of officially recorded crime data. The next sweeps took place in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2005 and 2009. Over that period, >300,000 people in 78 different countries were interviewed about their experiences with victimisation and related subjects. However, the 2009 sweep collected data only from The Netherlands, UK, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Canada, and results had not been produced for public access at the time of writing (March 2011). However, key publications from earlier sweeps can be found at In 2005, most country survey interviews were carried out with computer-assisted telephone interviewing (CATI) surveys. Sample sizes varied but tended to be between 1,000 and 2,000, with supplementary samples for major cities of between 500–1,000.

Criminal Justice Systems (CoE – CEPEJ)

The Council of Europe (CoE) sponsors the European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice (CEPEJ), which regularly collects a large amount of data on justice systems. CEPEJ emphasises the comparison of judicial systems and the exchange of knowledge on their functioning. The scope of this comparison is broader than “just” efficiency in a narrow sense; it also emphasises the quality and the effectiveness of justice. To fulfil these tasks, CEPEJ carries out a regular process for collecting data and evaluating judicial systems of all Europe’s member states. To facilitate the process of collecting and processing judicial data, an online electronic version of the scheme has been created. National correspondents are nominated from each Ministry of Justice, and they can access a secure Web page to register and submit the relevant replies to the secretariat of the CEPEJ. A very large amount of data is requested each year, including system structures, resources provided and numbers in every part of the justice system. The scope is much wider than just criminal justice and includes all forms of criminal, civil and commercial justice, tribunals, etc. This process is carried out annually and materials published for each country from which returns have been received: an example for Germany can be found at Comparative overviews of data are routinely made available in both French and English:;

In this material, data is presented clearly in tables, maps and charts, with associated metadata on any significant departures from the standard collection definitions. There is also a useful commentary on the figures. Moreover, the general Web site provides access to a great deal of European information of considerable use to all researchers and practitioners in the justice field:

Prison Systems (CoE – SPACE)

The Council of Europe, through a questionnaire managed through the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, collects data annually on imprisonment and community sanctions and measures. The Statistiques Pénales Annuelles du Conseil de l’Europe (SPACE) I 2008 report on prison populations can be found at: Information is collected each year through national correspondents, and although recent changes made to the questionnaire have improved comparability, the authors warn that: “comparisons of prison population rates must be conducted cautiously, as the categories included in the total number of prisoners vary from country to country. The same is true for cross-national comparisons of deaths and suicides in penal institutions as well as of staff working in penal institutions”. The SPACE II 2007 report collected information on persons serving noncustodial and semicustodial sanctions and measures, frequently referred to as alternatives to imprisonment. It can be found at SPACE II is not designed to cover all the existing noncustodial and semicustodial sanctions and measures in every country: e.g. it does not cover postprison supervisory or probation measures applied to offenders after they have served their sentence or sanctions and measures imposed by the juvenile criminal law or applicable only to juveniles. In both volumes I and II, data are presented clearly in tables, maps and charts, with associated metadata on any significant departures from the standard collection definitions. There is also a useful commentary on trends in the figures and on the quality of the statistics that have been collected.

Importance of Comparative Criminal Justice Data

As far as governments are concerned, comparative data are useful for showing where they need to concentrate their efforts; in particular, where there could be a need for legal reform. In many, perhaps most, countries, the justice system has developed without any specific planning or prioritising whether criminal justice resources should go to the police, the prisons, community penalties, or legal aid. Comparisons with other countries show that there are different ways of organising criminal justice systems and give governments more possibilities for legal reform. A good example is the way the May 2010+ UK government decided to reduce legal aid expenditure using the argument that the previous scheme was much more liberal than other countries within Europe.

The general population and interest groups use comparative data to lobby for more resources and show where they consider that their country is deficient in criminal justice terms. This could relate to the number of policemen, to the way that different groups within the population are treated by the justice system, or to sentencing considered too severe or, not severe enough. There is also a spin-off for statisticians when considering comparative justice data. Often, comparisons that can be made are inadequate or unsafe, showing the need for better statistics, or new research to establish what has caused the differences across countries.

Pitfalls of Comparative Criminal Justice Data

No comparisons should be made without a proper understanding of both the criminal justice systems within each country and the statistical systems from which the statistics have been collected. Each country has its own legal system, with priorities given to dealing with the problem of crime in different ways. Some countries, such as England and Wales, have a very strong and independent Police Force and a very weak prosecution system. Others, such as Japan, have a very strong prosecution system and a police force that is under the control of the prosecution system in the way it investigates crime. Some countries have a very large court and judicial system; others put their money into legal aid for defendants. Some countries have severe penalties for criminals, leading to high prison populations; others confine prison to the most serious crimes only and deal with most crime through minor penalties, such as fines. Some countries feel due process must be followed, and most cases have to go to court; others deal with crime by giving more power to their police and by other diversions from the courts to administrative processes. Without knowledge of these differences, false comparisons can easily be made.

Statistical systems also differ, with some countries spending a lot more money than others; for example, in conducting surveys of the population to supplement data from the justice systems. For example, in countries such as the UK or USA, large population surveys are conducted to give information about the extent of crime and public satisfaction with the justice system; few other countries are able to spend such resources. Even within systems that are superficially similar, such as police recording of crime, there are many reasons for figurers to differ. Police may record a crime as soon as they know about it, or they may wait until they have more information and have passed the file to a prosecutor. In some countries, statistics have been developed as part of a wider controlling mechanism, recognising that that good statistics are essential for central control. Conversely, countries that wish to enhance localism in their governance tend to have looser statistical systems.

The actual definitions of crimes may also be different; counting rules exist in most countries about what to count as a crime and how many crimes to count. In some countries, these are written down7, so that comparisons can be made. In other states, the rules may be consistent across the country, but there is no formal recording of them. In less developed countries, counting rules may vary according to the area of the country, with no central direction. A full understanding of counting rules is important when comparing statistics; for example, in every set of comparative statistics, England and Wales comes out much higher than every other country in the extent of recorded violent crime rates. This is mainly because the definition of violent crime in England and Wales is much broader than elsewhere.

The general rule should be that comparative statistics should only be the start of any comparisons between countries. A proper comparative study requires far greater research into legal and statistical differences.

Assistance from International Bodies for Collecting Statistics on Crime and Justice

International groups do not simply collect data on crime and justice. Several of them publish manuals or on-line computer-learning technologies aimed at improving data collection systems on crime and justice statistics. Other organisations use a series of workshops, technical assistance delivered by statistical experts or fund additional data collections, e.g. through population surveys of criminality and need. The more important programmes are summarised in Table 2, and more detail is given below.
Table 2

Crime and justice statistics: available assistance in compiling data


Type of assistance


1. A manual for the development of a system of criminal justice statistics

2. A manual on conducting victimisation surveys (together with UNECE)

3. A manual for measuring juvenile justice indicators (together with UNICEF)

4. UN programmes to assist countries in developing statistical systems ( CARDS in SE Balkans; Statistics for Africa)

World Bank

1. GDDS: technical assistance to African Anglophone States that wish to improve their crime and justice data through technical assistance visits.

2. Computer-based technologies for crime/justice statistics education

UNODC United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, UNECE United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund, CARDS Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation, GDDS General Data Dissemination System

United Nations Statistical Assistance

The three manuals produced by the UNODC8 are each the result of many years of drafting by groups of international experts in statistics who have usually been responsible for collecting statistics in their own country and hence know firsthand the problems and benefits. The programmes dedicated to specific countries or groups of countries are delivered by experts.

UNODC Manual for the Development of a System of Criminal Justice Statistics

This can be downloaded from and contains sections on the following aspects of a system of crime and justice statistics:
  1. a.

    purposes and requirements of criminal justice statistics;

  2. b.

    organizational models;

  3. c.

    scope and content;

  4. d.

    data collection;

  5. e.

    processing statistics;

  6. f.

    analysing, evaluating and disseminating statistics;

  7. g.

    role of victimisation surveys;

  8. h.

    international collections.


It is a valuable reference document and gives many ideas for good practice. However, it sets out an idealised system and does not address the more familiar problem of how to develop a statistics system for crime and justice in conditions of financial stringency. Neither does it suggest how to overcome an all too familiar position of lack of co-operation on information gathering between different legal and statistical agencies.

UNODC Manual for Victimisation Surveys

The most recent version of this manual can be found at It contains sections on:
  1. a.

    introduction to surveys;

  2. b.

    planning a victimisation survey;

  3. c.

    methodological issues;

  4. d.

    counting offences and victims;

  5. e.

    questionnaire design;

  6. f.


  7. g.

    data processing, estimation and analysis;

  8. h.

    ethical considerations;

  9. i.

    data dissemination and documentation;

  10. j.

    evaluating completed surveys;

  11. k.

    business surveys;

  12. l.

    corruption issues.


This is an extremely useful document for countries that have enough resources to undertake such a survey or can work with an international donor to conduct small-scale surveys, perhaps in particular cities.9

UNODC Manual for the Measurement of Juvenile Justice Indicators

The most recent version of this manual can be found at It contains chapters on:
  1. a.

    need for indicators;

  2. b.

    information about the indicators;

  3. c.

    consistency of measurement;

  4. d.

    information sources and child populations;

  5. e.

    information process and collection;

  6. f.

    presentation and use of indicators;

  7. g.

    definitions, sampling techniques and information-collection tools;

  8. h.

    policy analysis tools;

  9. i.

    Excel tools for the developing information systems;

  10. j.

    indicator presentation formats.


This is an excellent manual for countries that organise their juvenile justice systems in a separate way to other parts of their justice system. It goes wider than the justice system and includes both quantitative and policy indicators. It also encourages judgements about the extent to which certain UN recommendations on the rights of children are allowed for under the policies of the country. In this way, it is a more prescriptive manual than the others because of the various UN instruments that it backs up, including UN Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice, UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty and UN Guidelines on Justice in Matters involving Child Victims and Witnesses of Crime.

UN Programmes to Assist Countries in the Development of Statistical Systems

The two main current programmes of statistical assistance to specific groups of countries are Community Assistance for Reconstruction, Development and Stabilisation (CARDS) for southeastern Europe, and Statistics for Africa for all states within Africa.
  1. a.

    CARDS Regional Action programme

    This is concerned with the development of monitoring instruments for judicial and law enforcement institutions in the seven countries of the western Balkans. The objective is to strengthen the response to crime and corruption by bringing national statistics mechanisms in justice and home affairs institutions towards compliance with relevant international and EU acquis, standards and best practices. The project aims to assess and improve administrative and survey-based statistics generated by justice and home-affairs institutions, including law enforcement, prosecution and courts in relation to conventional crime, drug-related crime, corruption and organised crime (see

    This project ran from 2009 until 2011 and comprised the following:
    1. (i)

      On-site research in each country to provide a clear picture to key decision makers of the strengths and weaknesses of existing data collection systems. Country assessment reports identified potential gaps and contained proposals for improving data collection.

    2. (ii)

      Two regional workshops brought together representatives from police, prosecution, courts, justice and home-affairs ministries and national statistical offices. They identified common data-collection challenges, regional crime and corruption indicators, and agreed upon country-specific guidelines to bring data in line with international and European standards.

    3. (iii)

      These country-specific guidelines formed the basis of targeted training activities for staff of justice and home-affairs institutions. Training was carried out by international experts together with national focal points in all statistical areas of justice.

    4. (iv)

      Evaluation of the effectiveness and usefulness of the CARDS programme.


    CARDS has also designed a prototype data collection for the development of improved statistics in the seven Balkan countries. A copy of the survey can be found on the UNODC CARDS Web site at

    This pilot has been designed to encourage statistical systems in developing countries and countries in transition in order to produce basic data on crime, police, courts and corrections. In the example of the western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia), this basic data will also enable comparisons be to made between the different countries, which will act as an extra check of the integrity of their statistical systems.

  2. b.

    The UNODC Data for Africa programme

    This has a longer existence and a wider remit than CARDS. It has the overall objective to “improve the knowledge on drugs and crime phenomena in Africa”. The programme’s aim is to build the capacity of African countries to collect and analyse data and trends in drugs, crime and victimisation. Specifically, it aims to assist member states to generate better data and information on drugs and crime; strengthen data collection, analysis and reporting at the national, regional and international level; and provide a regional platform for exchange of data, information and experiences.

    There are some similarities with the World Bank General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) programme described below. UNODC work, however, applies to the whole of Africa and not just to English-speaking countries, and the delivery mechanisms of the two programmes is different, with the World Bank concentrating on technical assistance through visits and computer E-learning, and UNODC concentrating on workshops and support for victimisation surveys. The need for the Data for Africa initiative arose when it was recognised that the UNCTS is not a success in most African states. Even the UN recognises the bleak situation, with its Web site quoting that “in 2006 only 7 out of 53 African countries responded to the Ninth United Nations Crime Trends Survey”. It also arose from the policy considerations detailed in “Crime and development in Africa” E, which drew a bleak picture of how crime and corruption had led to de-development in Africa.

    Data for Africa thus comprises:
    1. (i)

      Surveys on victimization and needs

    Crime victims surveys have been implemented in Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Egypt;
    1. (ii)

      Workshops and training

    A joint UNODC-UNECA Workshop on Crime Statistics was held in Ethiopia in December 2008. This established a network of experts on crime and criminal justice statistics in Africa to ensure, through a virtual platform, a continuous exchange of information among African experts and stakeholders in this area. A mailing list of the workshop acts presently as a forum for participants of the Addis Workshop and UNODC experts to share viewpoints and experiences on crime statistics data collection. Training courses for completing the UNCTS questionnaire on drugs were conducted in Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria.
    1. (iii)



    A large number of victimisation survey reports for different countries and cities in Africa have been published on the UNODC Web site at These not only show the needs of victims in these areas but also give good examples of the methodology needed to conduct such surveys in other countries in Africa.


World Bank Statistical Assistance

General Data Dissemination System (GDDS)

From 2004 to 2010, the World Bank ran a programme of assistance to English-speaking countries in Africa, called the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS). Crime, justice and security was one of several different statistical topics both social and economic. GDDS consisted of workshops, visits by statistical and information-technology (IT) experts, reports on progress and recommendations for the future. Its aim, which was broadly achieved, was to improve collection, presentation and use of statistics on crime and justice in Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tanzania. Namibia and Eritrea were also involved but did not fully complete the programme. A summary of the final conclusions of this exercise can be found on the Web site

GDDS produced a large number of materials. These included reports on the statistical situation in Kenya, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tanzania. There are also reports of workshops and other material of use to other countries interested in developing their work on crime and justice statistics. All these materials can be found on The World Bank Web site at:,,contentMDK:21723005~pagePK:229544~piPK:229605~theSitePK:239427,00.html

Following the second phase of GDDS, the World Bank developed a virtual statistical system, including many of the materials developed during GDDS modified to make them useful to other countries and give the most important features of a statistical system on crime and justice for statisticians to use without having to wait for technical assistance to be made available through international donors. There is a large number of documents and files associated with this virtual statistics system that can be found on the Virtual Statistics Web site at:

Specific Research Surveys

Despite the large number of international data collections on justice already described, there are still many questions that scholars feel cannot be answered adequately through these collections. As a result, specific surveys are designed from time to time to access data on subjects of particular interest to scholars; for example, the way women or juveniles are treated either as victims or offenders within the justice systems of different countries. Two examples are described below:
  1. a.

    International Self-Report Delinquency Study (ISRDS) (University of Utrecht)

    The ISRDS was launched in 1992 by the Ministry of Justice in The Netherlands. Its aims were to measure the prevalence of different types of youthful misbehaviour in industrialised countries; examine sources of cross-national variation; provide an alternative to police statistics and victim surveys; and contribute to the development of the self-report methodology.

    Various results have been published from various sweeps of this study, the most recent, at reporting on the results of ISRD-2, which was based on a subsample of the data set: 43,968 respondents from 63 cities and 31 countries and comparing ISRD-2 offending and victimisation rates with two other main sources of internationally available crime-related statistics: ICVS data and the European Sourcebook (i.e. police-based) data. Analyses show a moderate level of support for convergence of the different measures.

  2. b.

    International Violence Against Women Survey IVAWS (HEUNI10)

    IVAWS is an international, comparative survey to target men’s violence against women, especially domestic violence and sexual assault. Its objective is to assess the level of victimisation of women in a number of countries worldwide, on a repeatable basis, and to provide novel inputs for the development of specific criminal justice approaches. IVAWS relies largely on the network, infrastructure and methodology of the ICVS referenced above, as well as experience of the first national, targeted survey on violence against women conducted in Canada in 1993. IVAWS is co-ordinated by HEUNI with inputs from UNODC, UNICRI11 and Statistics Canada.12.

    The first operational version of the survey instrument was drafted in 2001. During 2001–2002, IVAWS pilot studies were carried out in some 15 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Italy, Kazakhstan, Poland, Indonesia, Philippines, Spain (Basque region), Serbia and Ukraine). After more testing and discussion, the questionnaire was finalised and is now available for use in full-fledged surveys. When a country participates in IVAWS, as well as the survey and data collection, national and comparative reports are published and seminars and workshops on violence against women are held using data collected. In this way, data is validated and its collection and use for policy development are closely aligned.

    In addition, the international project team collects data sets from each participating country and compiles them into a joint IVAWS database. More detail about the survey and its development and history can be found at


The Future of International Data Collections on Crime and Justice

The twenty-first century is an age in which crime and justice policies are developed that take into account the evidence on the current crime and justice situation and likely future trends. Individual countries will thus collect data to suit their own needs for information: those with an interest in highly centralised control of justice agencies will tend to have highly prescribed data collection systems and large resources for such statistics; those with more emphasis on localism will allow more flexibility. New countries, developing countries and those in transition will, on the whole, have less well-developed data systems and be more likely to be influenced by advice and guidance from international bodies. This is also an age in which international bodies attempt to influence criminal justice policies of individual countries in many different ways, e.g.:
  1. a.

    through harmonising justice policies, e.g. by setting agreed-upon international instruments;

  2. b.

    through imposing specific standards of resourcing, behaviour and professionalism for justice practitioners, for different agencies and different parts of each country;

  3. c.

    by pressing for concerted action on crime involving more than one country, e.g. organised and transnational crime, bribery and corruption, financial crime and money laundering, trafficking in humans, human body parts, drugs, weapons, cultural artefacts, etc;

  4. d.

    through highlighting differences in justice systems by collecting data and publishing statistics.

International bodies will collect information to suit these remits and to help developing countries and those in transition to exchange information and reform legal systems. Some commentators have expressed doubts about the number of different data collections, claiming they can lead to confusion, producing a “statistical Tower of Babel”.13 However, as this paper shows, each collection system has a strong purpose of its own and imposes only a limited amount of work on the statistical and law enforcement agencies of individual countries. In all cases, data that is requested from international bodies is the type of data that should be routinely available to individual countries if they wish to maintain an effective criminal justice system. The future of each data collection system mentioned in this paper needs to be considered separately. Each is likely to continue in the short to medium term, as each has a strong purpose and sufficient funding for the time being. However, those collections associated with international bodies are more likely to continue than those conducted on a more informal basis. Those associated with International bodies and more likely to continue are:
  1. A.

    UN Crime Trends Survey (UNODC)

  2. D.

    Eurostat Data Collection

  3. F.

    Criminal Justice Systems (CoE – CEPEJ)

  4. G.

    Prison Systems (CoE – SPACE)

Those conducted on a more informal basis are less likely to continue in the long run, mainly because of resource constraints or their general reliance on a small number of experts:
  1. B.

    World Prison Brief (University of London)

  2. C.

    European Sourcebook on Crime and Justice Statistics (Special Collection Group)

  3. E.

    International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS)


However, the author is not advocating that they should be discontinued. They each are an extremely valuable data source, and given funding and continued expert input there, is no reason they should not continue for an indefinite period. The most likely future is that all data collection systems will continue to evolve. In the long run, the most likely solution is for the informal collections to be taken over by international bodies with guaranteed funding and access to a group of experts that is constantly being replenished. An example of this is the way that the European Union Statistical Office (Eurostat) has taken forward the acknowledged European need for comparative victimisation data. On the face of it, two possibilities existed: Eurostat could have taken over the collection of official data the European Sourcebook Group carries out. This would have been quite inexpensive to achieve but would not have led to comparable data. Or, Eurostat could have used the experience of the ICVS to develop a European survey to collect data on comparative crime statistics and public attitudes. This would be a lot more expensive but would yield much more comparable data. The latter course was chosen. Following pilots of a survey questionnaire carried out in about half of EU member states during 2009–2010, Eurostat produced a proposal [European Commission COM (2011) 335 Final] for regulating the European Parliament and the Council for a Survey of European Statistics on Safety from Crime.14 Following this survey EU comparative data on crime and on public attitudes to law enforcement will be available for the first time on a common basis. The methodology of conducting the European Safety Survey (ESS) will be agreed upon through each Central Statistical Office, within parameters set by Eurostat. A list of data to be supplied to Eurostat is included in the Annex to the Commission document. Details of whether candidate countries will be included, database availability to public access and whether this survey will be repeated, will be decided upon at a later date.

The fieldwork for the ESS should be carried out in 2013, and the observation period will be the 12 months preceding data collection. Samples of 3,000–8,000 are required depending on the population size of the country. No specification has been made regarding national samples and urban boosters. Data will relate to those aged ≥16 years. Results should be published by 2015, although publication arrangements have not yet been decided upon. Once in place, this survey will be a definitive source of comparative statistics across all European countries.

The World Prison Brief is likely to continue because of its wide coverage and because it is relatively inexpensive to update. In Europe, its figures are to some extent duplicated by SPACE I, but its strength is its worldwide coverage, its arrangements for data collection and the choice of a small number of prison indicators.

The European Sourcebook collection is relatively inexpensive to maintain and will probably achieve continued funding. However, in the long term, there are probably too many overlaps between the Sourcebook collection, the CoE – CEPEJ collection and the current Eurostat crime data collection for the three separate collections to continue indefinitely. The likely future could lie with Eurostat conducting two regular surveys: one, the ESS; the other, based upon official statistics on workload and resources. The second collection could involve a merger of the Sourcebook collection and the CEPEJ collection. However, such a solution would require as a prerequisite a solution to the continued existence of both the European Union and the Council of Europe, itself a contentious issue and one unlikely to be resolved in the short term.


  1. 1.

    A summary of characteristics of the five main surveys discussed in this paper can be found at Annex B.

  2. 2.
  3. 3.

    Copies of the questionnaire for the most recent, the 12th, sweep of the survey are available at:

  4. 4.

    Total body of legislation, legal acts and court decisions that, taken together, make up EU law.

  5. 5.

    For detailed information on the BCS, see the dedicated Web site

  6. 6.

    For detailed information on the NCVS see

  7. 7.

    Counting rules in England and Wales can be found on the Home Office Web site at:

  8. 8.

    United Nations Office for Drugs and Crime, situated in Vienna,

  9. 9.

    For a European example of a victim survey in Belgrade, see the NCJRS Web site at

  10. 10.

    HEUNI is The European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations, based in Helsinki:

  11. 11.

    UNICRI is the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Institute based in Turin,

  12. 12.
  13. 13.

    The analogy is to the reference in the Christian Bible, Genesis 11: v.1-9 of the difficulties of peoples speaking many languages conversing with each other.

  14. 14.

    See European Commission COM(2011) 335 Final at This implies a spend of 12 million euro from the EU budget in 2012,’ in the form of a grant to help cover the costs to member states of collecting, processing and transmitting the data’.

  15. 15.

    Annex B has been modified from a similar Annex used in the UNODC CARDS programme.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ICJSUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

Personalised recommendations