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Why might figures for recorded crime underestimate the actual amount of crime that takes place? (Open Uni; Youth Scheme, 30 credit points)

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Introduction

Question: Why might figures for recorded crime underestimate the actual amount of crime that takes place? 'Crime' can be defined in two ways. There is the legal definition of crime, which states that crimes are acts which break the written law of the state. For example, stealing a jumper from a shop. There is also the normative definition of crime, which states that crimes are acts which break moral codes set by society, which can be formal or informal. For example, spitting. Legal and normative crime cannot be reconciled, as a lot of acts which are considered legal by the legal definition, are considered wrong by the normative definition. What is, and what is not a crime is socially constructed by the members of a society in both definitions. Culture and time play a large part in deciding what is right and wrong. ...read more.

Middle

There has also been an increase in violent crimes since 1999 to 2001, going from 581 thousand to 601 thousand (adapted from Social Trends, 2002). However, is all this information completely reliable? It does not take into account the changes in belief of what is and what is not considered a crime over time and how matters were dealt with. Certain crimes would have gone unreported many years ago. Child abuse and domestic violence just weren't talked about in a tight knit community. Where men dominated the household, women did not speak up against them, and so these crimes went unreported, and so are not included in official records. This shows that we underestimate the levels of crime in earlier eras. Similarly, today, records also do not take into account unreported crime. Victim surveys suggest that official records greatly underestimate crime rates. ...read more.

Conclusion

There is also evidence to suggest that people themselves underestimate the likelihood of crimes occurring against them. People most at risk of street crime believed themselves not to be at risk. Only 1% of men between 16 and 30 felt unsafe on the streets. The actual percentage of street crime against this group was 7.7% (Muncie and McLaughlin, 1996, Table 1.5). This group were almost the most at risk from street crime out of any group and they also estimated themselves at extremely unlikely to be at risk. This shows that many people underestimate crime that could happen to them. In conclusion, there are two main reasons why figures for recorded crime may underestimate the actual amount of crime. Firstly, in the past many crimes went unreported due to the traditional roles of people. And secondly, people may find reasons for not reporting crime nowadays, such as inconvenience and lack of faith in the police. So, overall we can say that figures do regularly underestimate rates of crime. ...read more.

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