Five unconventional sources for crime stories

An almost exclusive advantage to crime journalism is that many of the best leads are presented through the official channels – police, magistrates and crown courts, coroner’s inquests.

These sources provide the best opportunities to report on individual cases, but there are also less obvious channels that can be used to build context or report on crime in general.

Find out why examining the bigger picture is especially important in crime journalism.

Public perceptions of crime in England and Wales

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The Office for National Statistics releases an annual report – usually around September – on public perceptions of crime in England and Wales.

The report is based on the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) and covers crime at a local and national level, including the public’s perception of how likely they are to be the victim of a crime, how much the public perceive crime to have risen in the past year, and the sources they felt had informed these opinions. The report also compares public perception with the real figures so it can act as a useful tool for measuring the influence of the media.

The full PDF is available to download for free from the ONS website and a summary of the main findings is also provided at the top of each section.

Where appropriate, the findings are translated in to graphs that are downloadable as complete images or as csv and xls files for use in data journalism.


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Angles is a project set up by the charity On Road Media to promote a better understanding of sexual and domestic abuse. They bring members of the media together with people who have lived through these types of abuse as well as professionals who work in the sector. They provide mentoring and guidance to members of the media, as well as guidance for scriptwriters who want to portray issues like abuse responsibly.

Angles organises regular and informal meet-ups for members of the press to build contacts with academics, campaigners, and people with lived experience of abuse issues.

The press page for Angles also collects a range of resources for reporting on sexual and domestic abuse including reports, other organisations, and various reporting guidelines from UK and international sources.

On Road Media also provides mentoring on issues other than abuse – their award winning project All About Trans aims to change how transgender people are portrayed in the media and publishes guides to relevant laws around gender identity.


The twitter account CountingDeadWomen chronicles every instance of a woman being killed by a man in the UK, an efficient and chilling way of providing context to stories containing violence against women.

Owner Karen Ingala Smith keeps a regularly updated liston her website of every woman killed by male suspects per year.

Crime Map

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Especially useful for local and hyperlocal journalism, this interactive tool allows the user to see how many crimes were reported in a certain neighbourhood during a specific month, and users can also draw their own area to create custom searches.

Crimes can be narrowed down by category and searching a neighbourhood will also generate a link to the ‘stop and search’ map of the same area.

Stop and search data can then be narrowed down by street, and each occurrence documents the date and time of the search, the objective and outcome of the search, as well as the ethnicity, gender, and age range of the person stopped.

Information on the type of person most often stopped by police can be useful for journalists examining bias in their local police force, especially correlated with the outcome of the search. It can also be used to create leads on crimes that might be of interest in the future.

You can download the raw data used to build the map from Data.Police.UKto build your own graphics or analyse them in a way that the website doesn’t allow.

What Do They Know?

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Already an essential tool for experienced journalists, any student journalist should make What Do They Know one of their top bookmarks.

It’s a free service that allows you to write and send multiple Freedom of Information requests and keeps track of them once they are sent, offering advice on what to do if a response is late or incomplete.

Any data sets that aren’t made public by Data.Police.UK can be requested from authorities through FOI acts, and What Do They Know also maintains a database of answered requests from all users – useful for checking whether information is readily available before waiting twenty working days for a response.

Click here for more information on the Freedom of Information act.


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