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Official Statistics and Crime…read more

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Official Statistics
There are many reasons why using official statistics can
be useful: they are cheap, readily available, and provide
detailed quantitative data which is reliable and often
Given the lack of resources and the expense of funding
research, sociologists would be unwise to disregard a
cheap and easily available source of data.
However, some sociologists, such as Barry Hindess,
have argued that official statistics on crime, do have
serious deficiencies.…read more

Slide 3

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There are many reasons why the public may not report
all crimes to the police: they may not realise they've
been a victim, embarrassment, they may implicate
themselves in a criminal act, etc.
There are many reasons why the police may not take
action against all offences. Sociological studies of the
police, such as that conducted by Simon Holdaway in the
1980s, demonstrate that the police simply cannot take
action against all offences which they identify, and
therefore have to prioritize their activities. Holdaway
shows how the police develop an occupational culture
which emphasises the notion of police discretion, and
how officers are socialised into a particular set of norms
and values.…read more

Slide 4

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Deficiencies cont.
The concept of police discretion implies that police
officers have discretion ­ that is, they have the power to
turn a `blind eye' to offences when they feel that an
offence is too minor to bother taking further action.
As a result of these criticisms, sociologists and social
historians have talked of the `dark figure' of crime, whilst
others have used the metaphor of the iceberg to explain
crime statistics. Measured levels of crime, are only levels
of reported crime ­ there is always a `dark figure' of
unreported crime. As with icebergs, a small proportion of
crime is visible, but the bulk remains hidden from our
view.…read more

Slide 5

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Deficiencies cont.
These insights can lead to a comprehensive
reassessment of the validity of official statistics on
crime. As Hindess argues, using official statistics can
tend to push researchers further towards a positivist
approach, and they can treat the statistical data as if it is
revealing the social laws governing crime and deviance.
The criticisms demonstrate another way in which we can
say that crime is socially constructed; official statistics on
crime are one of the ways in which crime is socially
constructed.…read more

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Deficiencies cont.
The picture of crime that we gain from official statistics
can now be exposed to closer scrutiny. The picture of
crime presented from official statistics suggests that the
typical criminal is a young, working class male. Many
sociological theories have indeed taken this idea as an
unexamined assumption. However, if official statistics
lack validity, and are not providing a true picture of crime,
it may be that many of the sociological theories of crime
require revision.…read more

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