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Safety & Security

Safety and Crime in the UK

Much to the relief of the nation’s residents, crime in the UK is usually low key. As long as you adhere to a number of standard precautions, chances are you won’t see much in the way of crime in the UK. Still, crime and terrorism are frequent worries there. Our article tells you why.

UK Crime Statistics

All in all, the dropping levels of crime in the UK make the country seem to become safer by the year, at least statistically speaking. While crime in the UK obviously exists, rates are generally low. The number of offences has been on a dramatic decline since the mid-1990s peak in criminal activity.

For the year ending March 2013, for example, the Crime Survey for England and Wales showed the latest crime figures, a total of 8.6 million offences, to be the lowest since the beginning of the survey in 1981, and half the number of the 1995 peak. All forms of crime, with the exceptions of slight increases in theft from the person and sexual offences, have seen a decrease compared to the levels of the year before.

A similar trend can be seen in Scotland, where the crime rate has dropped 16% between 2008/09 and 2010/11. The Police Service of Northern Ireland reports a decrease in recorded crime of some 30% between 2002/03 and 2012/13.

Prevalent Types of Crime in the UK

For the time period of 2012/13, the risk of becoming a victim of any form of crime in the UK was around 20% in all four countries. As for the prevalent forms of crime in the UK, theft in all its various forms and vandalism are by far the most widespread. Try to keep an eye on the belongings you carry with you at all times and be aware of your surroundings – it is not unheard of that people have their mobile phone snatched out of their hands while they are using it on public transport, for example.

Isolated areas, e.g. parks, should be avoided after dark. In comparison to many other countries around the globe, violent crime in the UK remains somewhat rare – in England and Wales, for example, 3 of 100 people have been victims of violence. Gun crimes are generally rare. Some neighborhoods in the UK’s larger cities and metropolitan areas, however, have seen an increase in serious crime, mostly related to gang activity and other forms of organized crime.


The UK has not only been experiencing unrest and terrorism due to the situation in Northern Ireland – where conflict raged for decades and has left many tensions behind – but it also has been the target of extremists operating in mainland Britain. The most severe attack happened in London on July 7th 2005, when coordinated suicide bombings by four British Islamists claimed the lives of 52 people and wounded hundreds of others. There have been other incidents since, but fortunately none have reached the magnitude of the July attacks – partly due to the efforts of law enforcement and security agencies.

The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), which is comprised of representatives of 16 government agencies, sets the threat levels which indicate the likelihood of terrorist attacks in the UK. There are five levels in total:

What threat level is set at any given time is, of course, subject to change. At the time of writing, the threat level from both international and Northern Ireland-related terrorism was substantial.

In Northern Ireland, the threat of terrorism related to the political situation was severe. It should be noted, however, that the situation in Northern Ireland has gotten substantially better since the end of the period of violent conflict dubbed the “Troubles” in 1998. The chances of you, or any UK resident, for that matter, being victim of a terrorist attack are obviously very low. Authorities still recommend being attentive to your surroundings and any suspicious activity or persons, particularly in large crowds or when using public transportation. 


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine