Official crime statistics are quantitive date and come from different sources such as The British Crime Survey, Official Government Statistics and Self-report Studies. The Official Government Statistics are accumulated from police and count records; these include convictions, cautions and Crown prosecution service. Whereas, the British crime survey is a victim study which takes place every year. It shows a representative sample of over 16s living in private residents in England and Wales. It is untaken by face to face interviews where respondents are asked about their experiences with crime incidents in the last 12 months.
In 2004/5 over 45,000 people took part in the survey. It helps to identify those people most at risk of different types of crime which helps them to plan prevention programmes. The British Crime survey looks at people’s attitude toward crime and the Criminal Justice system. Self report studies ask people if they have committed a series of offences over a period time, which they haven’t got caught or haven’t reported to the police. Most people don’t know that they have committed a crime or even know the penalties for the crimes which they have done. For example, using the company phone to make a personal call can result in ? ,000 or 6 months on prison. The prison population is illustrated in the Official Government Statistics. Nearly three-quarters of prisoners were in receipt of benefits immediately before entering prison. This displays that lower classes such as under class and working class are more likely to commit a crime. This can be explained by Millers study of working class males. Millers said that this anti social behaviour is just an extreme development of normal, working class male values. He says that these working class males have six ‘focal concerns’ which lead to deviance; trouble, toughness, smartness, excitement, fate and autonomy.
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They claim that they don’t look for trouble it just finds them while being physically strong and not being pushed around by others. They seek thrill and have a sharp wit that gets them in more trouble with the law for being out spoken. One half of males and one third of female sentenced prisoners were excluded from school. One half of males and seven out of ten female prisoners have no qualifications. Becker explains this by using labelling theory. While these criminals were in school they got labelled by those in authority such as their teachers.
This then creates a label which they wear and other start to treat them in that way. The individual starts to live up to the label because they can’t seem to get rib of it. This is known as a master status and the label become dominant and affects the individual for life and takes over their sense of identity. This is because the label results in others thinking and treating them differently. Furthermore, after master status is reached, the concept of self-fulfilling prophecy occurs which is where the individual goes on to fulfil the expectations of the label.
Two thirds of prisoners were unemployed in the four weeks before imprisonment. Merton’s strain theory is one reason why this is the case. Society states that unemployed people are low working class and underclass because they are on benefits and don’t have the intension of getting a job. This could be due to a lack of qualifications. Merton says that people offend as a result of poor fit between the socially accepted goals and values of society and the socially approved norm of achieving these desired goals.
He argues that not every person can achieve these values by the normal way. Therefore people break the law to get what they want. For example, a socially approved goal is to have money and the approved means of achieving this is to work hard at school to get a good job, to have money to buy things that they want. However, for the people who don’t gain the qualifications to do this because of labelling or unable to attend school due to family issues, have to use an alternative way which are seen as criminal, to achieve the goals set by society.
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In 2004/05 the official crime statistics show that thefts and handling stolen property was at 2,027,516 whereas sex offences were at 60,946. This is because theft involves money and insurance companies ask for a crime reference number from the police. Also, sex offences are less likely to be report because people might be embarrassed or too scared to go to the police. The British crime Survey from 2011 estimated that 9. 6 million crimes which were the lowest it has been since the survey first started in 1981. This survey showed that 2. % of households had been victims of burglary which was up from 2. 2% in the previous survey. This could display the increase in poverty in England due to increases in living costs and decreases in income as more people have to commit crime to get the things they need just as money. Merton’s strain theory explains this by people having to find alternative ways in achieving the values of society. During this survey the bcs asked people what their view of crime is and if they thing that they will be a victim of crime in the next year. This is due to dults believing that crime is decreasing and the likelihood of being a victim of burglary and violent crime was down from 15% to 13% and the perceived likelihood of being a victim of car crime was down from 21% to 17%. The decrease in crime could be the result of more people understanding and knowledge of crimes and the punishments. The general findings of self report surveys show that crime is normal. It suggests that everyone has committed a crime at one stage of their life. This questions the view that a clear distinction can be made between those how abide by the law and those who break the law.
As in fact most people are criminals just at different stages. While, many of the kinds of offences committed by most people would be regarded as fairly trivial, committed one or two crimes growing up may be normal for many boys, regular lawbreaking is reasonably rare. More males than females commit crimes, the self report studied illustrates that over 30% of males aged 22-25 committed a crime compared to 4% of females. Coleman stated that the lower a person’s social class, the more likely they are to commit a crime as the self report survey shows that there is a strong link between burglary , robbery and vehicle and the underclass.
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Sociologists argue that the official crime rates of criminal acts underestimate the real of crime. As the British Crime Survey suggests that the true level of crime is twice of the official recordings. The different between the official crime rate and the real crime rate is known as the dark or hidden figure. The hidden figure is the unreported and the unrecorded crimes that occur. The British Crime Survey found that 44% of victims felt that the crime against them was not that important to report.
While 33% claimed the police would be unsuccessful in solving the crime, so felt there was no need in reporting it. This shows that the police are losing the respect and trust of the public. Whilst some crimes are not reported but they are victimless and they are worthless to the police such as drug-taking. Furthermore, some people don’t report the crime because they are embarrassed and feel humiliated. Unrecorded crimes have been report to the police but they choice not to record them as they are not going to pursue them any further.
The distorted figure of crime is the under-recorded and over-recorded crimes. Moore states that the police act like a filter, only recording some crimes reported to them because they find that some offences are regarded as too trivial. The upper classes hardly ever get accused of criminal acts because they are in control of the police and courts. For example, if an upper/middle class person was in court the judge is more likely to side with them because he is in the same social class as them whereas if a working class person was in court the judge is more likely to side against them.
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Crimes just as fraud are over-represented in the statistics because money plays an important part of the society and is easily reported, and for insurance reasons. On the other hand, sexual offences are under-reported due to the fact that people are embarrassed and affair to report these crimes. In prisons women are under-represented and black African Caribbean males are over represented in persons. The is 10%-11% of black African Caribbean’s in prison and for every 1 woman in prison there are 20 men. Functionalists would say that crime statistics are useful because they said that dysfunctional families cause crime.
In order for society to function smoothly families need to be a nuclear family of two adults and their children, for the family to run easily and help toward a meritocratic society. Functionalists say that crime is a natural, inevitable and useful feature of society. Durkheim states that crime is normal and that most people break the law, while crime is also universal as it occurs in every society because people different experiences to the institutions and structures that affect their behaviour, therefore it is impossible that everyone has the same norm and values.
Moreover he states that a small amount of crime can be helpful to society because it displays that society works because when everyone has a role and purpose in the structure and function of it. Marxists find the official crime statistics useless because Marxists believe that the working class are victimised and the ruling class ideology of society is ruled by the ruling class. The ruling class set the laws and are in control of society. The judges and police work for them.
Marxists believe that the working class develop false class consciousness. However, neo-Marxists find the statistic useful as they say that the figures reflect victimised working class but they have to become criminal. Capitalism makes an individual criminal as they steal things to fit into society (Merton’s strain theory).
Marxists tend to focus on the unfairness of capitalism and the importance of class. In general, they see crime as an inevitable outcome of an unfair society in which the values of selfishness and greed are encouraged.
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They state that crime is caused by people rebelling against the unfairness of capitalism. Lea and Young, traditionally Marxists say crime is an act of resistance and the say that the working class feel socially and politically marginalised by society and the ruling classes. They have little status and few opportunities to change society and to improve their circumstances. Interactionists find the official statistics useless because there is a hidden figure and see crime statistics as a distortion of the truth.
They argue that the statistics are a social construction and show nothing about the real level of crime. Crime statistics only tell us how is being labelled as a criminal, who has a master status. While also telling us who does the ‘labelling’, who is constructing the criminals? They say crime is a social construction. The Official Government statistics reveal the social qualities of those who have been processed by the criminal justice system, reflecting the priority given by the police to certain kinds of crime and certain kinds of lawbreakers.
The police are more likely to arrest a black African-Caribbean, working class male than a white middle class male. The police stereotype people on their social class and ethnicity. However the official government statistics seem to show that young, working class male are a crime problem. Nevertheless, this may reflect the fact that the police go to areas where most young, working class males are likely to spend their social lives (Reiner).
Therefore, they are simply more likely to get caught.
Self-report Studies provide information about offenders who have not been found guilty or even report to the police. However, trends to focus on crimes typically committed by young, working class males, resulting in the crimes of this groups being over represented. Working class males are more likely to commit a criminal act because that is their norm while middles class males are less likely to commit the same types of crimes and their crimes are more likely to be related to drugs than shop lifting. Therefore, the middle class are going to under-represented.
The British Crime Survey provides a more accurate picture of the extent of crime and of trends in crime than police recorded crimes because they estimate the unreported and unrecorded crimes. Trends identified by the British Crime Survey are not affected by changes in recording practices, unlike trends identified in police records. This makes the British Crime Survey valid and reliable. However, only ? of British Crime Survey crimes can be directly compared with police recorded crimes. This decreases the reliability.
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The British Crime Survey does not include certain crimes such as commercial victimisation because the survey focuses on private households, crimes against children because of practical reasons, ‘victimless’ crimes e. g. drug use because the survey is for victims and crimes such as murder. Locally based surveys of women indicate that the British Crime Survey underestimates assaults committed by people known to the victims e. g. partners. The British Crime Survey is a national survey, but crime is not evenly spread across the country.
In certain inner-city areas, the risk of serious crime is high. This indicates a decrease in the validity. In conclusion, official crime statistics are useful in ways such as tell us who got committed of a crime and what type of people are in prison. However, they are useless because there is a dark figure and a distorted figure. Functionalists find these statistics useful as they highlight the people who don’t share the same norms and values. Whereas interactionists don’t find the statistics useful because of the distortion and the invalid prison statistics