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Evaluate the accuracy of official statistics of crime.

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Introduction

Evaluate the accuracy of official statistics of crime. Official statistics of crime are collected by the home office which means that patterns and trends can easily be found. Positivists favour this as they believe them to be social facts. Durkheim used them in his study of suicide, he felt that society was not reducible to individuals. And he found out that there was a significant variation in rates of suicide of different populations and that they stayed remarkably consistent over time. From this he found four different types of suicide which showed why a person may have committed suicide. He concluded that suicide is not an individual act but has its roots in society. However, Interpretivists would question the usefulness of official statistics, Douglas suggested that statistical approaches into suicides like Durkheim's ignore meanings that individuals have for committing suicide. Douglas believed that to interpret why a person had committed suicide you had to get into the 'inner world' of the suicide person, i.e. read their diaries and suicide notes. Positivists argue that official statistics are useful in gaining an insight into crime as they show who, what and where. Another key strength is that patterns and trends can easily be identified and so therefore analysis is easy which allows correlations to be made. ...read more.

Middle

Many crimes such as corporate crime and victimless crimes are excluded and crimes against under 16 year olds are also excluded. Despite victim surveys being anonymous it seems that people it seems that people still seem to under-report sexual offences, and also basing statistics on victims memories can be biased. There are also problems of accuracy as the BCS often chooses the sample used, also as the participants are given a computer to key in offences committed against them the BCS can get away with not putting official or legal categories into the computer, further effecting the validity of ant crime statistics. Figures like these do not appear in official statistics so its validity could be questioned. The police play a large part in official statistics as it is left to them to decide what is considered to be or not to be a crime; only 40 % of crime that is reported to the police is actually recorded. Many police departments want their area to look like its crime statistics are under the nation's average. There are many ways for them to do this one of which is 'cuffing' this is where a current prisoner will be asked to admit to crimes he/she did not commit, they will not be prosecuted for this. ...read more.

Conclusion

Only about 30% of crime is solved therefore we cannot tell to what extent convicted criminals resemble un-convicted ones. Offences are cleared up by either primary means or secondary means which can be unreliable as secondary means involve a prisoner admitting to a crime which due to cuffing they may not have done. New counting rules saw the clear up rates for England and Wales go down from 38% in 1981 to 29% in 1998-99. Crime statistics in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can't be directly compared as the legal systems differ. Also the counting rules differ as in Scotland each individual offence occurring within an incident is recorded whereas in the other countries only the main offence is counted. Institutionalists reject the objectivity of official figures and attempt to show how they are neither valid nor reliable. They say that statistics do not show the real picture as most crime is out of sight out of mind. However, Realists would argue that the figures are objective indicators of the social phenomenon they are supposed to reflect, they deny that the problems arising are a result of power but are instead the product of technical incompetence. Marxists believe that law and its enforcement reflects the interests of the ruling class. The crimes of the poor are strictly enforced and the immoral activities of the rich are either ignored or not defined as criminal, statistics well reflect these inequalities and scapegoating. ...read more.

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