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Outline and assess the importance of victim surveys for the sociological understanding of crime and deviance

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Introduction

Outline and assess the importance of victim surveys for the sociological understanding of crime and deviance Understanding of crime and deviance is strongly influenced by the ideological perspective used to quantify it. From a Marxist perspective crime is the natural outgrowth of capitalist society. The capitalist system emphasises the maximisation of profits and the accumulation of wealth, however the biases of the same system mean that some individuals are not able to achieve these ends without turning to a life of crime. Arguably victim surveys assess and document crime without subjecting the biases of official statistics which favour the bourgeoisie and marginalise the working classes. Similarly, from a feminist perspective official statistics present nothing more than a patriarchal social construction and women are consistently under estimated both as victims and perpetrators of crime. In 1983 the Home Office research and planning department published the first British crime surveys in an attempt to overcome the limitations of annual crime statistics. ...read more.

Middle

A crime such as rape may result in the victim (either male or female) being stigmatised., therefore it is difficult to generalise the findings of victim surveys. Similarly, victim surveys suffer in terms of validity as they are based of the recollection of events which may vary from the reality. As with any survey they are subject to problems such as unreliability and the fact that the victims perspective of crime may vary from the sociological understanding. Both feminists and Marxists agree that official statistics represent a biased view. The 'dark figure' of crime, particularly with regards to crime such as domestic violence means that official statistics represent little more than a social construction. However Marxist theory favours self- report studies in the sociological understanding of crime as oppose to victim surveys. In order to gain a rounded understanding of crime it is necessary to take into account the perspective of the criminal, particularly as many are disadvantaged by class prejudices and labeling. ...read more.

Conclusion

As a result, it could be argued that victim surveys aid the sociological understanding of crime without stigmatising the perpetrator as criminal statistics and self report studies may do. Despite the fact that the positivist perspective emphasises the need to employ statistics in the sociological understanding of crime, evidence suggests that they present a biased picture. They fail to uncover social trends and are subject to recording anomalies, changes in reporting behaviour or even increased deployment of police in a certain area. These factors have no bearing on the sociological understanding of crime. Interpretevists stress the need for qualitative data to aid understanding, in which case victim surveys are more appropriate. Marxists and feminists alike stress the biases which invalidate official statistics, similarly they do not into account the meaning of the offense to the offender. Increases in crime may merely represent more of the ice berg being revealed. Arguably however, victim surveys offer little insight as well, similar distortions may arise due to sensitisation (or desensitisation) in the media for example. Seemingly, a rounded sociological understanding of crime is not possible. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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