Purpose – Research into crime is reliant on data that is recorded and published by criminal justice agencies; data which is collected for other purposes. Considering the suitability of geocoded crime data for academic research purposes, this paper will demonstrate the difficulties faced regarding the availability, integrity and reliability of readily accessible criminal justice data. Design/methodology/approach – Data from two countries – England and Germany – were considered and set in a wider European Union (EU) context. Using the data received from requests made to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in England and openly published reports and data available from Germany, the authors provide a contextual picture of the availability and operability of data recorded by these agencies. Geocoded data that enable cross national comparisons with respect to immigration, ethnicity and crime are particularly hard to locate, and conducting research using data (such as crime data) whose “integrity” is questionable in an academic environment becomes increasingly problematic. Findings – Analysing secondary data produced by a number of agencies are amplified due to the different methods of collection, management, retention and dissemination. It was found that even within England, the information provided by police forces varied greatly. Data in Germany were found to be more openly available and published electronically by a number of different criminal justice agencies; however, many of the issues apparent in English data regarding data integrity were also identified here. Originality/value – The need for good record-keeping and information sharing practices has taken on added significance in today’s global environment. The better availability of comparable criminal justice data has the potential to provide academics with increased opportunities to develop an evidence base for policymaking.