• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Assess the Usefulness of Official Crime Statistics to a Sociological Understanding of Crime

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Assess the Usefulness of Official Crime Statistics to a Sociological Understanding of Crime The Government publishes official statistics on crime in Britain annually. The main source of these statistics are gathered from recorded crimes by the police and courts and through the British Crime Survey (BSC) which is a large-scale victim survey conducted annually by the Home Office. The combination of both of these statistics should provide a picture of the full extent of crime in Britain, however, sociologists believe there are a number of factors that influence these figures and that these official statistics do not reflect a true representation of crime in Britain today. We shall explore these factors and perspectives further to assess whether the official statistics do serve a purpose in the reporting of crime in Britain. From the functionalist perspective Emile Durkheim stated that deviance is a necessary part of all societies and that police and the courts are necessary to keep deviance in check and to protect social order. Durkheim argued that crime is an inevitable part of society and that all social change begins with some form of deviance and in order for change to occur, and that yesterday's deviance must become today's normality. That a limited amount of crime is necessary and beneficial to society and that society could not exist without some form of deviance and it marks the boundaries of society. page 353 Haralambos and Holborn [2000] The most fundamental limitation of official crime statistics is that they only include crimes actually recorded by the police and many crimes go unrecorded or unreported. ...read more.

Middle

For instance if an elderly person or female is the victim of a violent attack, in their reporting they create a fear that these groups are more at risk when in fact young males feature far more in crime statistics as victims of assault and robbery. Technical factors also influence official statistic and affect how offences and offenders are counted. Several offences may be committed in one incident in which case only the most serious is counted or where there is a 'continuous series of offences such as using a stolen credit card several times, only one offence is counted (Coleman and Moynihan 1996) page 27 Croall [1998] The judicial system also contributes to the official statistics but even these figures should be open to question as the practice of plea-bargaining often takes place in the courts. Sometimes it is negotiated with the accused in that they are offered a possibility of a lesser sentence if they plead guilty so the true crime is not recorded. Page 374 Haralambos and Holborn [2000] The BCS is a cross sectional survey and doesn't contain information about crime in different areas of Britain. This has resulted in Local Crime Surveys (LCS) being conducted in particular areas to identify unequal distribution of crime. These surveys are a lot more detailed than the BCS and uncovered crime not reported in the BCS. One well known survey is the Islington Crime Survey (1986 and 1995). ...read more.

Conclusion

We should also question the problem of representativeness with self report studies as most are on young people and students and not on a fair cross section of the population. The role of the government where laws are changed in response to cultural changes can have an impact on the crime statistics. What was considered to be a crime changes over time as a result of governments changing the law in response to cultural changes and the influence of powerful groups. For instance attitudes have changed to the use and possession of Cannabis and it's deregulation to type C so there has been a decline in arrests due to the police response to public opinion. The official statistics make it look as though it's declining in use when in actual fact it is not. Despite these criticisms, official statistics on crime are still a useful resource as long as they are used critically. They have been collected since 1857 and so can provide us with a historical overview of changing trends over time. They are cheap and easily available and they give us the ability to assess change over a period of time and they consist of a large number of cases. If they are combined with other statistics from self-report and victim surveys the sociologist can be given a clearer picture of the extent of crime in Britain. As with all surveys they must be assessed critically to ensure their validity and that they represent a cross section of people and give a balanced representative picture. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Crime & Deviance section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Here's what a teacher thought of this essay

4 star(s)

This essay gets nearly five stars. It is excellent in its breadth and depth. The full marks could be achieved by a closer tying of the information to the question - this is really an exam skills essay and could be practised by using the phrase "so this shows, in terms of usefulness......" at the end of each section.

Marked by teacher Lesley Clark 08/02/2012

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Crime & Deviance essays

  1. Marked by a teacher

    Asses the arguments and evidence which suggest women commit much less crime than men

    4 star(s)

    Smart also said that the criminal justice system is biased towards women, especially in sex related offences, supporting this view with quotes by judges in rape cases, "Women who do not always say no do not always mean no. It is not a question of how she says it, how she shows it and makes it clear.

  2. Marked by a teacher

    Evaluate the Functionalist explanations of Deviance.

    4 star(s)

    for success did not mean that people simply gave-up wanting to be successful. This was not possible because the whole thrust of their socialisation was geared towards the value of success. In a situation whereby people desired success - yet were effectively denied it - he argued that people would find other, probably more unlawful, means towards desired ends.

  1. Literature review on crime

    Crime has topped the list of the most problematic factors for doing business in T&T, according to Jeff Snipes, assistant professor of criminal justice. The report showed that 21.9 per cent of the business executives surveyed found crime and theft to be the most problematic factors for doing in T&T.

  2. Sociological Theories on Crime and Deviance

    This term refers not to an individual state of mind, but to social conditions. The controlling influences of society are no longer effective, and people exist in a state of relative normlessness. Anomie is reflected in how individuals feel, but its origins are in society.

  1. The Justice and welfare debate.

    A criticism of the justice model being used to deal with youth crime came from Wolfgang (1972) who directed a long term study of youngsters growing up in Philadelphia and concluded that. 'The juvenile justice system at its best, has no effect on the subsequent behaviour of adolescent boys, and

  2. How Accurate are Official Crime Statistics?

    are not fully pursued, either through fear or because the couple resolve the issue etc. This means that we do not see a true figure of crimes, which the police are faced with, only the ones, which they pursue further.

  1. Crime and its effects on society. Police Reform Act 2002 The police ...

    There are big differences in sentencing for adults and different age groups under 18.This is used to mainly reform and rehabilitate the offender so he/she does not re-offend. Pre-Court: There are three main pre-court measures that are used in this country, these being: Caution, Reprimand and Final Warning.

  2. Why do people bully? The expert on bullying, Professor Dan Olweus of the University ...

    According to studies, bullies normally make friends easier than individuals who do not bully others. Bullies usually have at least a small group of friends or clan who support and encourage them in bullying others. The peer pressure to accept people in life.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work