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

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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. Theft of a vehicle has a high incidence of this crime being reported and recorded because in order for a claim for insurance to be processed it has to be reported to and recorded by the police. The same applies to a burglary with loss whereas often victims of vandalism or assault will not report the crime either because of a mistrust of the police or feel that the police will not see it as serious enough to record it. Some victims of crime do not report a crime against them because of fear of reprisals and other crimes are seen as private matters to be settled between the individuals involved. These offences not captured in official statistics are referred to as the ‘dark figure’ or ‘the iceberg effect’ of unrecorded crime. Page 520 Abercrombie et al [2000]

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When the British Crime Survey, which involves asking a large survey of people if they have been a victim of crime and if the crime was reported and recorded, it reflected large discrepancies in the criminal statistics. The survey confirmed that only 44 per cent of crimes were reported to the police. Forty four per cent didn’t report the crime because they thought the crime to trivial to report and 33% felt the police wouldn’t be able to do anything. Figures supplied by The 1998 British Crime Survey England and Wales, Government Statistical Service page 366 Haralambos and Holborn ...

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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.