Edinburgh Local

Data comic highlights crime trends in Scotland

The data comic, and associated worksheets, were developed in order to consolidate and summarise a substantial body of research that had been produced over more than twenty years by members of the Law School at the University of Edinburgh.  

Crime data comic visual
Crime data comic visual

The research was created from a series of funded projects that focused on young people, crime and inequalities, including the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime (ESYCT), the Applied Quantitative Methods Network (AQMeN) and the Understanding Inequalities project.  

The Edinburgh Study began in 1998 and followed a large cohort of young people who were born in the 1980s.  The study identified a number of key facts about young people who offend, including strong links between vulnerability, poverty and adversity in the lives of those who offend and, more importantly, in the lives of those who get caught up in the justice system.  

It also found that children who were dealt with in formal systems of justice were more likely to end up being convicted, and to go to prison, than those who were dealt with in less formal ways.  The study eventually led to an increase in the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland, from 8 to 12.  The study is ongoing and has just re-surveyed study members at age 34.

During the time that the ESYTC was being undertaken, there was a large drop in crime across many countries, including Scotland.  The AQMeN research centre undertook a programme of work on different aspects of the crime drop and found that young people, especially young men, had declined most in terms of their contact with the criminal justice system.  

It also found that there was a degree of inequality in the crime drop in terms of experience of victimisation, with crime falling most for those that were least at risk of crime in the first place, whereas ‘chronic’ victims of crime were just as likely to be victimised as ever. 



Understanding Inequalities

The data comic was created by graphic artist Miranda Smith, who used data and findings provided by Professor Susan McVie.

The Understanding Inequalities team worked with the Modern Studies Association (Association for Modern Studies teachers in Scotland) to adapt the data comic for Advanced Highers pupils, and to create the worksheets for pupils in the Scottish Broad and General Education phase as well as by pupils studying Modern Studies in the senior phase.

This work was followed up by the Understanding Inequalities project team who conducted more detailed analysis of patterns of victimisation, offending and justice contact.  In particular, the UI team compared findings from the Growing Up in Scotland Study to those of the Edinburgh Study, enabling us to understand how offending behaviour at age 12 had changed over a twenty year period.  

This showed a large decline in certain types of offending, such as fighting, shoplifting and vandalism.  It also showed that young people now are less likely to hang around in public places, and are more likely to be spending time on computers.  This has had an impact on the nature of young people’s experience of offending, both as offenders and victims. 

Overall, the work conducted by the Law School researchers has demonstrated a strong and enduring relationship between crime and inequality in terms of people’s experience of victimisation, people’s involvement in offending and people’s interactions with the justice system, and that these relationships have increased in the context of the crime drop.  


More information

Understanding Inequalities project

Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime


Applied Quantitative Methods Network

Professor Susan McVie

Professor Lesley McAra