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Assess the usefulness of official statistics for a sociological understanding of crime

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Assess the usefulness of official statistics for a sociological understanding of crime Official statistics represent one of the most important secondary sources available for sociologists. Positivists heavily rely on the use of such quantitative data and believe because of its scientific appearance, official statistics have gained a status of being 'hard facts'. However they also have many disadvantages which would question the usefulness of them within sociology. There are many different examples of official statistics but an obvious one is the census and there are clear advantages for instance they are already available and easy to access providing a cheap resource which saves time aswell as money. Also they provide us with the ability to see patterns and trends and even changes over time for instance if crime rates are rising, or if they are higher in certain areas etc. As official statistics offer a wide range e.g crime statistics are available for the entire UK it allows us to compare crime rates in different societies or groups. ...read more.


Atkinson shows that coroners play have a large influence into the recording of someone's death because they are more likely to record the death as a suicide if it was an overdose rather than a car crash. Also many crimes are not even reported for a number of reasons such as people could feel the matter is to trivial i.e. vandalism or the victim maybe powerless in cases such as child abuse or they may feel embarrassed or ashamed e.g. rape. Infact most people will only report a crime if they see a benefit within it for themselves. Many crimes can go undiscovered this is known as the dark figure of crime which could be a victim of black mail. White-collar crime can also occur where it will often be sorted out within the company to prevent the police getting involved. Furthermore out of the crimes that are reported to the police only 40% is recorded as it has to be decided if the event is serious enough to warrant their attention. ...read more.


Increases in crime statistics may also be incorrect. If there is 'moral panic on a particular area of crime e.g. prostitution, then the police will put in extra time to prevent the crime. So the increase may simply reflect an increased efficiency in the police which will increase detection rather than increased criminality as figures often show. Also errors and inaccuracies occur when statistics are calculated. For instance statistics may be compiled in different ways by different police forces e.g. one force may use 'crimes known to the police where as another might use 'crimes taken to court'. Finally the media itself may create crime. Copy cat crime can often result from media publicity i.e. the riots of 1981. Stan Cohen found that the mass media created the mods and rockers hysteria in the 1960s, causing a 'spiral of deviancy amplification. Though official statistic offer many advantages and have been used numerous times. These issues throw doubts upon the use of official statistics by sociologists and show that there usefulness has limitations. ...read more.

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