3 C Are Ethnic Minorities More Criminal Than The Ethnic Major

Crime and Deviance notes on criminality and ethnic minorities for A2 Sociology

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3c Are ethnic minorities more criminal than the ethnic majority?
A recurring theme in media reporting of street crime since the mid-1970s has been the
disproportionate involvement of young males of African-Caribbean origin. This latest
development has been the police's justification for the much greater levels of stops and
searches of young, black males, than there are of white males.
Images of Asian criminality have, until recently, portrayed the Asian communities as
generally more law abiding than the majority population. However, since the September
11th 2001 World Trade Centre attack, a new image has emerged regarding Muslim youths.
The newer image is of them as being the potentially dangerous - a threat to British
Sociologists have set out to examine the argument that there is a higher rate of crime
by certain ethnic minorities, and the counter claim that the criminal justice system is
Offending, Sentencing and Punishment
There are three ways of gathering statistics on ethnicity and crime.
Official statistics
Victimisation studies
Self-report studies
Official statistics
Official statistics tell us the numbers of people arrested by the police. However, they
are not necessarily a reflection of offending rates - but can be seen just as much as a
comment on the actions of the police. Some sociologists may argue, that the actions of
some police officers are partly motivated by racism, then this would be reflected in the
arrest rates, rather than being representative of offending by the ethnic minorities.
Victimisation studies
Victim based studies (such as the British Crime Survey) are gathered by asking victims
of crime for their recollection of the ethnic identity of the offender. According the
British Crime Survey (1992) the majority of crime is intra-racial, with 88% of white
victims stating that white offenders were involved, 3% claiming the offenders were
'black', 1% Asian and 5% 'mixed'.
About 42% of crimes against 'black' victims were identified as being committed by
'black' offenders along with 19% of crimes against Asians being committed by Asian
Like official statistics, victimisation studies have problems. For example, only about 20%
of crimes the survey recorded are personal crimes, where the victim might actually see
the offender. Bowling and Phillips (2002) argued that victims are influenced by (racial)
stereotypes and 'culturally determined expectations' as to who commits crime.
Self-report studies
Self-report studies use an anonymous questionnaire to ask people what offences they
have committed. Graham and Bowling's study of 14-25 year olds (1995), found that the
self-reported offending rates were more or less the same for the 'white', 'black' and
Asian respondents.

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After arrest, those of African-Caribbean backgrounds are slightly more likely to be
held in custody and to be charged with more serious offences than whites. If they are
found guilty, they are more likely to receive harsher sentences - in fact those of
African Caribbean backgrounds have a 17% higher chance of imprisonment than
'whites'. However, a higher than average proportion are likely to plead not guilty and be
found not guilty.…read more

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This approach states that there are some individuals in the police who are racist, and
these people are removed. In his inquiry into the inner city 'riots' of 1981, Lord
Scarman found that the police reflect the wider society and therefore some racist
recruits may join.
2. Canteen culture
The 'canteen (or working) culture' approach argues that police officers have developed
distinctive working values as a result of their job.…read more

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According to Hall, the focus on a relatively minor problem, caused by a group who were
already viewed negatively, served the purpose of drawing attention away from the crisis
and focusing blame on a scapegoat - young African-Caribbean males. This `moral panic'
then justified increased numbers of police on the streets, acting in a more repressive
Hall et al has been criticised for not making any effort to actually research the
motivations and thinking of young African-Caribbean males.…read more

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Although this is an extreme lifestyle, elements of it can help us to understand issues of
race and criminality in the UK. Exclusion and racism leads to both cultural and economic
developments which involve illegal activities and the development of a culture which helps
resolve the issues of lack of dignity in a racist society. But both the illegal activities and
the resulting culture may lead to an involvement in crime.…read more


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