Defining and measuring crime

  • Created by: Georgia
  • Created on: 01-05-19 10:19
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  • Problems in defining crime
    • Culture;     crime differs in every country
      • What may be considered a crime in one country may be legal in another
        • e.g. Bigamy is illegal in the UK but legal in many US states
    • Age;          can a child know what is right or wrong?
      • Cannot use same rules for children and adults as they have different understanding of the world
    • Context;       how have laws changed over history?
      • Something may be considered a crime now but not in the past (vice versa)
        • e.g. Homosexuality used to be illegal but is now legal
    • Circumstance;  what is the situation in which the crime was committed?
      • Actus reus; crime is a voluntary act (action)
      • Mens rea; intention to do a criminal act (psychological element)
  • Ways of measuring crime
    • Official statistics
      • Monitor every single recorded crime in England and Wales
      • Lack validity as not every crime is recorded by the police (unrepresentative)
      • Lack reliability as different locations may consider what a crime is differently
      • Factual whereas others are opinion-based
    • Offender surveys
      • Can detect crimes that have escaped police attention
      • Likely to be biased due to under-reporting of serious crimes
        • "Dark side" of crime
      • Serious offences are removed from frame so unrepresentative sample
      • Completed by recent offenders about recent crimes
    • Victim surveys
      • Examines prevalence of crime and trends; survey about experiences of crime
      • Large sample so representative
      • Considered the most accurate measure
      • Records incidents that police may ignore so removes bias
      • Only samples individuals so ignores white-collar


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