'Evaluate the use and importance of official crime statistics both in the tracking of crime and the implementation of measures against it.'
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Toni Shane Pilbrow Timed Essay 08/07/03 Q: 'Evaluate the use and importance of official crime statistics both in the tracking of crime and the implementation of measures against it.' This paper will consider which activities are officially counted as crime and feature in the official crime statistics, opening with a view as to why some activities do, whilst others, quite clearly and equally criminal, do not figure amongst these official statistics. This approach acknowledges that not all crimes, for whatever reasons, are reported to or acted upon by the police. We will consider serious and dangerous activities that some may deem equally criminal but which never find their way into the official statistics as a result of what Steven Box identifies as 'ideological mystification.' Having examined this paradoxical situation, we will consider the futility of using crime statistics in the tracking of crimes, and in the implementation of measures against them. Before addressing this question, it would be helpful to be aware of what official criminal statistics represent in reality, and what they can actually tell us.
and which can be said to illustrate something of the disparity existent between the official statistics and peoples life experience of crimes. In 1982 and 1984, the BCS suggested that only about half of known crime is reported to the police. Since this is the case, and given the fact that very little is known about the bulk of criminal activity in Britain, the official crime statistics are far from representative of the reality of crime in Britain and so are of very little use in informing policy measures taken against it; although it could be argued that they may be of some use to certain politicians wishing to embark upon a law and order campaign. It could also be argued that these statistics may be used to "point the finger" at certain sections of the populace for purely political reasons. Steven Box (1981), poses the powerful argument, for example, that criminal laws are little more than ideological constructions representing the interests of an influential 'ruling elite'.
In relation to our question, it would appear then that the official crime statistics are far from representative of the true extent and reality of crime in our society, and although the vast majority of people wish to be protected from the very real crimes featured in the official statistics, they are notoriously unreliable indicators of the incidence of crime or, indeed, of the types of crime being committed in contemporary Britain. Therefore, the remainder of the question seems to be a fruitless pursuit unless we wish to advocate various conspiracy theories and speak in terms of the official crime statistics serving purposes such as controlling targeted sections of the populace by tracking their particular activities and informing the measures taken in combating these, whilst simultaneously serving to cover up the crimes of the rich and powerful elite and distract attention from their activities. In point of fact, that line of argument would result in the assertion that the official crime statistics actually serve to help maintain this particular, current, status quo. Muncie, J. 1998. The Problem of Crime, London, Sage. Box, S. Crime power and ideological mystification. In Criminological Perspectives, Muncie, McLaughlin and Langan (Eds) 1998, London, Sage. 1
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