Crime and Deviance

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Official Crime Statistics

  • Secondary source of data from the police and courts
  • Produced by Home Office
  • Favoured by Positivists:

1. Trends and Patterns; e.g. Sociologists identified a sharp increase in crime from the 1950s to the 1990s and then it fluctuated.

2. Information of background of offenders; working class, male, black, juveniles.

3. Test Sociological explanations; e.g. Left Realists believe that the typical criminal (as above) commits crime due to deprivation, marginalisation and subcultures.

4. Help shape and evaluate Government policies on law and order.

5. Easily accessible and up to date.

6. Can be generalised.

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Official Crime Statistics (Evaluation)


  • Interactionists question reliability and validity, OCS underestimate, just tip of iceburg. Stats are socially constructed (product of decision making by victims, police and courts).
  • Not all crimes are reported and therefore not represented in the stats; e.g. British Crime Survey shows public don't admit to being a victim of crime (in 2005 only 42% of crimes were reported by victims). Crime could be too trivial.
  • OCS underestimate White Collar Crime and Cyper Crime- difficult to detect.
  • Langan; White collar crime and cyber crime is difficult to detect as; victims unaware, dealt with internally to avoid embarrassment, too complex and expensive.
  • Police only record 75% of reported crimes. (Dark Figure of crime!!!
  • Police focus on offenders from least powerful groups (working class) = over representation of powerless groups!
  • New laws; 1998 (6 cars = 6 crimes) Sharp rise in crimes after 1998.

Left Realists see limitations but unlike Interactionists do not dismiss them. Believe that OCS are a basic reality of crime. If used with other methods (e.g. Victim Surveys) they can be very useful.

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Victim Surveys

  • Questioning individuals on their experiences on crime, fears of crime, views on criminal justice system.
  • Two types; Local (e.g. Islington Crime Survey) and National (British Crime Survey)


  • Designed to overcome under-reporting and to give a different picture of crime.
  • Published annually, consists of 48000 interviews, conducted AT HOME.


  • Highlights unreported and unrecorded crime = question OCS. (only 42% of crimes were recorded by the police = DARK FIGURE OF CRIME).
  • Social patterns of Victimisation; inner city residents, ethnic minorities, low income households (useful for domestic violence cases).
  • Effects new policies to tackle crimes and aid victims (e.g. CCTV cameras help handle **** cases).
  • Methodologically advanced!! - BCS response of over 75%!
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Victim Surveys (Evaluation)

  • Responses might not be valid and accurate (e.g. forget incidents, make offences up, unaware they have been a victim of a crime, scared, embarrassed).
  • Difficult to generalise (e.g. sampling is geographically focused) However, British Crime Survey conceals local variations! E.g. high crime in Nottingham.
  • Neglect fraud, shoplifting, motoring offences and drugs possession; difficult to compare to OCS.
  • Public attitudes change - more unlikely to report to the police. 
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