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Assess the usefullness of statistical data in the study of crime and deviance

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Introduction

Assess the usefulness of statistical data in the study of crime and deviance. Official statistics seem to indicate that crime levels are rapidly on the increase, from being a few hundred thousand in the 50's and 60's to more than 6 million in today's world. However the debate in the usefulness of statistics in relation to the study of crime has provoked many different arguments. Durkheim and Conte are the Positivists who believe that they are useful. They believe this because using statistics is the closest sociology can get to a scientific experiment. As statistics provoke quantitave data it is open to be testable and comparable with previous results. Against this belief are the Anti-Positivists who say that statistical data is not reliable, as it doesn't establish a cause and effect for the reasons behind committing crime. It may depend upon the context of the situation an individual is placed in; therefore it does not look at the meaning behind committing crimes. They are also hard to compare over time and lack validity due to problems with obtaining statistics. The reliability of official statistics can be questioned, as although positivists claim that they are used for correlation analysis, the anti-positivists dismiss this as they say other factors that have occurred over time and culture change have caused crime figures to be irrelative to each other. ...read more.

Middle

A additional alternative is the Local Crime Survey. These are micro studies that look at certain areas crime rates. Left realists favour them as they produce a much clearer picture of the undiscovered figures of statistics as they concentrate on a smaller area but in much more depth. From this local issues can be uncovered allowing local police to improve the areas situation. It also eliminates cases of social desirability as participants will feel like they are giving information to help their local area. However, these surveys, like victimisation surveys are not private and it relies on the memory of the participant, which in itself may be flawed and subjective. The findings from this kind of micro survey cannot really be generalised unless several are carried out. A final surrogate to the official statistics is the Self-Report studies whereby participants complete a questionnaire consisting of a range of legal, illegal and deviant acts which they tick if they have taken part in this kind of act. However the study remains anonymous and there is no interviewer present, therefore the participants should answer honestly without any fear of police action taking place upon them. $ Official statistics can also be useful in that it takes a scientific approach, which makes it objective and the nearest form of experiment a sociologist can carry out. ...read more.

Conclusion

Using a positivist approach and scientific methods Durkheim looked at suicide rates over Europe. Having created a hypothesis using statistics and deriving fundamental explanations from it he compared the incidence of various social factors with the known incidence of a certain event. Alongside this he also aimed to increase the reputation of sociology as a science by purely using scientific methods. In conclusion based on his findings, suicide rates were dependant on integration and regulation in certain areas and time periods. But, as criticized by Douglas, Durkheim does avoid the meanings behind the reasons for suicide. So as with the other studies, this too lacks an in depth analysis of deviance, whilst remaining more detailed than the others. To conclude, the usefulness of statistical data in the study of crime and deviance has many flaws. There have been many different alternatives to official stats that have provided a better insight to the real rates of crime and deviance. However they themselves have their own flaws, but in uprooting more rates of crime and deviance than official statistics, it can be said that the alternatives allow more analysis to occur. Sociology has attempted to prove itself as a science and has had many attempts at providing scientific results, but the statistical approach fails to give any meaning or reason behind why crimes are committed. Therefore I conclude that statistical data is only acutely useful in the study of crime and deviance, alternative data provides a better look at the reasons behind crime and deviance. ...read more.

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