Pros and Cons of the OCS

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  • OFFICAL CRIME STATISTICS
    • What is the OCS?
      • Official Crime statistics providing information on the total number of crime - 'known to the police'.
      • Police records give a official account of the volume and trend of crimes
        • Court records and police cautions also give an official picture - who is committing the crimes - of the criminals.
          • These figures show the 'crime problem' - interpreted by politicians and then passed on to us through the media.
            • Media is often exaggerated, selective - AGENDA SETTING
      • Information gathered by the OCS is secondary data,
    • PROS OF THE OCS
      • EASY TO ACCESS
        • Cheap and easily accessed on the internet and can be downloaded - masses of statistics
        • QUANT DATA
          • Quantitative data can be easily compared and can find pattern and trends in data
            • Can go back and check data and is high in reliability
      • UP TO DATE DATA
        • The Home Office publishes them - sometimes every 6 months - current
      • NATIONAL PICTURE
        • Cover a large part of the population - presents a national picture - good for generalisation
      • VALID
        • Collected from the state - feel they are trustworthy and valid
      • NO ETHICAL ISSUES
        • OCS deals with numbers, not people - no researcher bias and no danger to sociologist - big advantage when studying crime and deviance
    • CONS OF THE OCS
      • EXCLUDES SOME CRIMES
        • PILKINGTON (1996) - Minor summary offences dealt with in magistrate courts are excluded e.g. fraud
          • OCS may not be useful because statistics only tell us about increased reporting of particular crimes - rather than crime increase itself
            • People have become more intolerant for property crime - materialistic
            • Juvenile crimes may reflect public intolerance - fuelled by journalist 'moral panic ' - looking for good stories - lead to 'folk devils' groups regarded as bad - more likely to report
              • Moral Panic could lead to deviancy amplification
            • Victimless crimes depend on police detection e.g. drug offences and prostitution - varies from area to area - some police ignore these offences whilst some are strict.
      • HOME OFFICE COUNTING RULES CAN CHANGE
        • Changes in counting rules can increase certain types of crime e.g an assault defined as a summary offence could be re-defined as notifiable offence
      • CHANGES IN LAW
        • Changes in law can make it harder to interpret statistics e.g. marital rape being made illegal increased rape - reflection of the extension of the law.
      • OFFENDERS BELONGING TO INSTITUTES OUTSIDE OF THE LAW
        • E.g Armed Forces punish their own offenders - don't need the police involvement.
      • COUGHING
        • Police encourage to own up to crimes to reduce sentence - 'plea bargaining'
      • CUFFING
        • Police do not record crime they think they will be unable to solve e.g. stolen phone
    • DARK FIGURE OF CRIME
      • SOME CRIMES AREN'T REPORTED
        • Victim is too embarrassed to report crime
        • Victim too scared to report - fear of revenge if they do
        • Crimes are too trivial too report/ too minor
      • SOME CRIMES AREN'T REPORTED BY POLICE
        • Crimes to trivial to report by police
        • Under reporting of crimes e.g. rape
        • Social status of victim
    • THEORIES
      • INTERPRETI- VISTS
        • Argue OCS is limited usefulness - social construction - tell more about social groups involved than crime and criminals
        • Say the OCS do not account for all crimes committed - only account crimes that are recognised by police and victims - a dark figure exists
      • MARXISTS
        • Critical of OCS - capitalist state collect and construct crime statistics
          • ideological function = whoever has the power to construct statistic has power to control public opinion -criminalise groups such as young, working class and African Caribbeans
        • Ignore White collar crime - crimes committed by the powerful aren't punished as harshly as working class crimes
      • FUNCTIONALISTS
        • Uncritical view of the data found in statistics - used them to develop theories - Durkheim used them to measure suicide rates (form of deviance) - Merton assumed the statistics were valid and reliable - explain working class crime
      • FEMINISM
        • Criticise the patriarchal nature of statistics - powerful men can minimise criminality e.g. limit punishment of rape cases. Also gendered sterotypes are protected - those who trangress them are punished

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