Crime rates and ethnicity
In Britain, rates for those suspected of offences, convicted and imprisoned differ by ethnic group. 2009 - 2010:
- per 1000 population, seven times more Stop and Searches were recorded for Black groups than for Whites, and the figure higher for all BMEs except Chinese
- higher proportion of White suspects wee convicted than other groups(81% for white, 74% for black, 77% for Asian)
- average custodial sentence lengths were longer for blacks than for Asians and significantly shorter for Whites
- 30th June 2010, 26% prison population in England+Wales comprised BME groups. Only 9% population are BME.
There are several explanations for these contrasting rates for different ethnic groups:
The demographic explanation
- higher proportion of young people in ethnic minority populations, newer immigrants often males.
- higher proportions BME's in prison population could relate to age and gender as much as ethnicity
- unemployment is higher among BME's - more likely to be on streets where police are
- Willmott(1966) - confirmed youths 'hanging around' on street corners were disproportionately punished for delinquency
Higher motivation for crime
maybe statistics are not misleading, and ethnic minorities are more prone to crime. reasons could be:
- Higher unemployment rate and resulting poverty - 2011 unemployment rate for young & black males excluding students was 56% - twice rate for white youths. Pakistani + Bangladeshi rates also high, even though second generation immigrants better educated than whites. School expulsion rates 6 times higher for black students - reduces employment prospects
- Family structures - higher proportion blavk families headed by single mothers - male children may lack positive role models. Sotuh Asian families far less likely to be headed by single parents - so fails to explain higher proportion of South Asians than whites in prison
- Disillusionment of economic migrants - Lack of prospects may tempt them to innovate(Merton strain theory)
- Deviant subcultures - deviant subcultures form as result of feeling marginalised from mainstream society and relative deprivation(Lea and Young, 1984). street crime carried out to afford desireable consumer products - has been linked to violent and materialistic messages of rap music, although whites also listen to rap music.
- Crime as a form of political resistance - The Empire Strikes Back(CCCS, 1983) - Black Crime may be a protest against slavery and colonialism and recent racism against immigrants. Seems unlikely as first large wave of commonwealth immigrants to UK committed little crime.
Higher motivation for crime(cont.)
- Different values relating to culture or religion - Smoking marijuana is supported by Rastafarian beliefs.
- Political and religious objections to recent British policies - occasionally lead to acts of terrorism, such as London bombings 2005
unfair treatment by the criminal justice system
- Blom-Coper and Drabble(1982) - black people more likely to be charged woth more serious forms of an offence than whites when similar acts committed.
- Hood(1992) - black people were more likely than whites to get custodial offences where fines/community service were alternatives. Mitigating circumstances were less likely to be taken in to account if the defendant was black than white. One reason was Black defendants more likely to plead 'not guilty' resulting in longer sentences if convicted. However, in 4 out of 5 courts Hood found racial differences in likelihood of custody and length of sentence.
- Shute et al.(2005) - found some improvement. 1/4-1/3 ethnic minoritiy defendants felt they had been treated in a racially biased way. 60% of BEM defendants who identified unfair treatment attributed it to racial bias.
- high rate of Stop and Search for BME's + higher proportion of white suspects being convicted suggests many BMEs are suspected without justification. The fact they are not convicted suggests fair courts, however.
- studies of 'police canteen culture' before the Macpherson report(1999) found many police officers stereotyped young black males as offenders. Since the report, police have been trained to avoid 'institutional racism' and must record ethnicity of everyone stopped. However, since 7th July 2005 Stops & Search can be carried out, unrestricted, in main cities, and BME's unfairely targetted. Anger at frequent stops turns into anger and thus a charge against the offender.
victimisation and ethnicity
- British Crime Survey(BCS) 2010/11 - risk of being a victim of personal crime higher for adults mixed race backgrounds than for other ethnic groups. Higher for all BME groups than whites.
- 2007 homicides in last 3 years(2007/8, 2009/10) 75% victims were white, 12% black, 8% Asian. Whole population = 92% white, 3% black and 5% Asian.
- In majority of homicide cases, victims suspcted of being killed by someone of same ethnic group - consistent with previous trends(88% white victims, 78% black victims, 60% Asian victims killed by same ethnicity)
- David Smith(1997) - reasons why BME more likely to be victims of crime:
- tend to live in more dangerous areas, mainly zones of transition
- higher proportions of young males
- 'Black on Black' crime accounts for much of the victimisation. Crime often conducted on people of same ethnic group, then figures compounded(made worse) by revenge attacks.
- police may record more incidents in effort to appease BEM's since Macpherson Report.
Since Smith's research Islamaphobia has increased in reponse to 9/11 terrorist attacks and attempted Britain bombings(2005). As result, attacks on Muslims and others thought to be Muslims have increased.