Crime and Deviance: Topic 10

Ethnicity and crime

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  • Created on: 19-05-15 14:25


  • A re occuring  theme in the media reporting of strret crime since the mid 70's has been the disproportionate inlovment of youtn afro carrib males. It's partly been this crime race linkage that the police have justified the much greater levels of stop and search on young, black males than of white males.
  • Images of asian criminality have until recently been more law abiding than the general population however slowely at first after the "rushdie affair" and then more rapidly since 9/11 a new discourse has emerged regarding muslim youths the newer image of them as potentially dangerous, a threat to british culture. This discourse was reinforced by the suicide attacks on the london transport system in 2005 receiving 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries.
  • Just discussing the relationship between criminality and race is a difficult task as some socs argue making the subject a part of the alevel perpertrates the link ie theres no disscussions on white people and crime.
  • Socs have set out to examine the argument that theres a higher rate of crime by certain ethnic minorities and the counter claim that the criminal justice system is racist.
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patterns and trends

Offending- three ways on gathering stats on ethnicity and crime:

  • Official stats
  • victimisation studies
  • self report studies
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Official stats

official stats tell us the numbers of people arrested by the police however they aren't neccacaraly a reflection of offending rates but can be seen just as much as a comment on the actions of the police, if as some socs argue the actions of some police officers are partly motivated by racism then the arrest rates reflect this, rather than offending by the ethnic minorities.

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Victimisation studies

  • Victim based studies such as the CSEW are gathered by asking victims of crime for their recollection of the ethnic identitiy of the offender according to the british crime survey the majority of crime is intra racial
  • with 88% of white victims stating that white offenders were involved
  • 3% claiming they were black 1% asian and 5% mixed.
  • 42% of crimes against black victims were identified as being commited by black offenders
  • 19% of crimes against asians were by asian offenders.
  • The figures for white crimes against ethnic minorities are much higher - around 50% though this figure needs to be seen against the backdrop of 90% of the pop being classified as 'white' like official stats asking victims for a descripting of who commited the crimes is shot through with problems.
  • only 20% of the survey recorded crimes are persona crimes where the victim may see the offender.

Bowling and Philips- argue tat victims are influenced by racial steryotpes and culrturally determined expectations as to who commits crime. Where the offender isn't known white people are more likely to ascribe the crime to those of afro carib origin.

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Self report studies

Self report studies use an anonomous questionaire to ask people what offences they have commited.

Grayham and Bowling's- study of 14-25 year olds for the home office found that the self reorted offending rates were more or less the same for white, black and asian respondants.

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  • After arrest those of afro carib backgrounds are slightly more likely to be held in custordy and charged with more srious offences than whites but they are more likely than average to plead not guilty and found not guilty however if found guilty they are more likely to receive harsher sentances- in fact those of afro carib backgrounds have a 17% higher chance of imprisonment than whites.
  • Those of asian origin are also more likely than average to plead non guilty but more likely than average to be found guilty but have an 18% lesser chance of being imprisoned.
  • Sociologists are divided as to whether these stats mean that members of the ethnic minority are discriminated against.
  • Bowling- summarises the patchy knowledge of socs by saying that the reaserch indicates both direct and indirect discrimination (advice being given, types of charges laid, access to bail etc) against ethnic minorities does exist
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In british prisons the numbers of afro carib prisoners is proportionally 7.8 times higher than expected and 0.77 times higher for asian people. In 1996 the rate of imprisonment per 100,000 of the general pop was 1,245 black people 185 whites and 168 asians.

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Police racism

Reflection of socitey aproach

This aproach- often adopted by the police is that theres some individuals in the police who are racist and once these "bad apples" are rooted out then the police force won't exhibit racism. This proach was suggested by Lord Scarmen- in his enquiry into the inner city riots in 1981, acording to him the police reflect wider society and therefor some racist recruits may join

Canteen culture.

  • Argues police officers have developed distincive working values as a result of their job as the pressure in dealing with the public, working long hours, facing potentional danger hostility from significant sections of the public and social isolation resulting in them developing a culture in responce which helps dela with the pressures and gives them a sense of identity. The core characterists acording to Reiner are- thirst for action, cycnisism, conservatism, suspicion, isolation from the public, macho values and racism.
  • Smith and Grey/ Holdaway- was a serving polic eofficer at the time and Graef all demonstrated racist veiws among the police. They held steryotypes about the crimnality of afro carribs and led them to stop and search these youths for a far greater extent than any other group.
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Police racism 2

institutional racism

Mc pherson enquiry- concluded that the police were characterised by institutional racism, the police had procedures, practices and a culture that tend to exclud or disadvantage non white people.

Institutional racism isn't necessarily intended by any particular person in the organisation but that the normal day to day activities of the rganisation are based on racis ideas and practiced meaning that police officers may not have to be racist in their personal veiws but may make assumptions about young black males and the likelyhood od their offending which influences their attiutudes and behaviour.

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Key study: Bowling and Philips

  • beleive that the differences in the criminality of afro carib and asain people could be accounted for by police racism suggesting this is consistent with cultural steryotypes and the heightned suspicion of afro carribs what has emerged in empirical studies in the last two decades contrasting sharply with the steryotyping of asians as passive, traditional and self regulating with strong family ties.From this point of veiw the differences between ethnic groups may as well be explained at least in part by racial steryotypes and discrimination in the crimina justice system.
  • Whatever merrits of this argument its true that the dispute between writers such as Gilroy, hall et al and Le and Young over the real incidence of criminality among ethnic minorities was based on very little evidence, it was only in 2000 in responce to the mc pherson inquiry that the goverment first started publishing detailed stats on ethnicity and crme, these stats and recent impirical studies provide more detailed evidence than was avalible in the 70's and 80's about the extent of both ethnic minority criminality and racism in the criminal justice system.
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Key study: Bowling and Philips 2

  • Bowling and philips notes that by the late 90's ethnographic studies began to examine crime among british asians they reveiw a number of studies including those by Desai and Mawby and Batta. They noted that earlier ethnographic studies had generally portrayed aisan communities as "inward looking, tight knit, self regulating, passive". these characteristics were assumed to explain low rates of crimnality among young asian men in bradford.
  • Mawby and Batta pointed out that most young asian men in bradford were relatively poor wc ad living in the inner city all these factors suggest they should be heavliy involved in crime however they commited few crime sand those that did tended to be of a minor nature. Mawby and Batta explained the emphasis on "Izzat"- family honour encouraging conformism among British Asians in Bradford they were afaid of dishonouring the family name and therefore reluctant to commit crime.
  • More recent studies such as Desai's have found that groups of asian males who were willing to take the risks of moving around town and were rebelling against their parent culture. Desai found that some young asian men were taking a more agressive stance in cmbatitng racist attacks and were more willing to use violence to defend communities against perceived threats from the outside. Acording to him some bangl boys were making a self concious attempt to counteract the image of themselves as weak and passive some cultivated a "bangla bad boy" image.
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Key study: Bowling and Philips 3

policing and stops and searches

  • Philips and Bowling argue that discrimination against ethnic minorities starts with decisions about policing the criminalisation of ethnic minorities stats with the "over policing of neibourhoods where ethnic minorities particulraly afro caribbs are heavily concentrated". In the 70's and 80's there was lots of evidence for this with "oppressive policing techniques" such as mass stop and searches and riot squads in semi millitary equipment, police using racist language. Despite the stephen laurence case and subsequent concern about racism and policing techniques by 1999/2000 'black people' were still 5 times more likely than whites to be stopped and searched however these figures need to be treated with caution as it may be that theres more members of ethnic minorities avalible to be stopped and searched in the urban areas where such stops are likely to take place.
  • They quote home office reaserch which used CCTV sameras in 5 urban areas which compare the number of black, white and aisan people on the streets with the number sstopped and searched and found asians were the least likely to be stopped and searched than any other group for afro carrib the result was mixed with more stop and searches in some areas than others. Moreove the reaserch was based on the British crime survey of 2000 foundthe incidents of stop and searches of afro carib could be explained in factors other than race such as age, income and area of residence.
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Key study: Bowling and Philips 4

Policing and stop and searches 2

In most recent figures since bowling and philips study there was a significant increase in the stop and searches of ethnic minorites in 2000 12% of people stopped were black and 6% asian.

A number of studies found evidence of racism in the police which might account for a greater tendancy for the police to susspect members of ethnic minorities stop of arrest them. Bowlings indipendent study- found that police officers saw racism as"natural, innevitable" resentment of ethnic minorities in what had been at one time "white areas" ethnic minorities wre seen to be taking over. Many police officers in the study felt that afro crribs and asians antagonised white people into failing to adapt to 'British culture'.

Theres evidence that people from ethnic minorities ave limited faith in police the youth lifestyle survey- 1998-9 questioned 4,848 people aged 12-30 it found that 58% of blacks felt the police treated afro caribs less fairly than white people also found 41% of Indians and 45% of **** and bangla felt they were treated less fairly than whites.

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Key study: Bowling and Philips: 5


looking at data from 1999-200 philips and bowling note that 4 times as many afro carrib people were arrested as would be expected in terms of their proportion of the general population. The difference between afro caribs and whites was even greater in terms of imprisonment with afro caribs having 6 ties the imprisonment rate as whites. Therefore afro carib people who were arrested were considerably more likely to be imprisoned than their white counterparts.

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Sociologists all reject the idea that theres an association between race and crime inn the sense that being a member of a particular ethnic group in itself has any impotance in explaining cime however a number of writers argue that most crime is performed by young males who come from poorer backgrounds this being so then there would be an over representation of offenders from the ethnic backgrounds quite simply because theres a higher proportion of young mlaes in the ethnic minority population than in the population as a whole. Its also a well reaserched fact that the ethnic minorities overall are more likely to have lower incomes and poorer housing conditions these socs would accept that theres evidence of racist practices by certain police officers but that the arrest rates largelt reflec thte true patterns of crime.

Phillips and Brown- study of ten poilce stations across britian found that those of african caribbean origin were more likely to be arrested than their representation in the community however found no evidence that they were treated any differently during the arrest process with around 60% of both blacks and whites and 55% of asians beign charged.

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Neo Marxism: minority ethnic crime as an act of re

Scratton +gordon- policing, media coverage and political debates all center around race being a 'problem' ethnic minorites have been on the receiving end of discrimination since the first migrants leaving them in a significantly worse socioeconomic position than the "white majority".

in responce to this "cultures of resistence" have energed in which crime is a form of "organised resistence" which has its roots in the anti collonial struggle when young members of the ethnic minorities commit crikmes its a political act rather than a criminal one.


Lea and young- most crime is intra racial and therfore cannot reflect a political struggle against the white majority. Seocndly they romanticise crime and ignore the harm done to the victims.

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Bougois: exclusion and alternative economies

  • This aproach intergrates wll with the work of cloawrd and ohlin. An example of this sort of argument is provided by Bougois study of "el barrio" a eprived area in harlem where he spent 7 years living and reaserching the street life and economy whos inhabitants were overwhelmingly pueto ricans, illegal mexican imigrants and african americans.
  • He aruges that exonomic exclusion of these ethnic groups combined with negative social attitudes forced them to develop an alternative econimy involving a wide range of marginally legal and illegal acivities such as kerbside car repir buissnesses and selling crack. Drug sales are the most lucrative employment.
  • Running alonside this informal economy has developed a distinct subculture which bougis calls "inner city street culture" - he says this street culture of resistence is not a coherant concious universe of political opposition but rather a spontanious set of rebellious practices that in the long term have emerged as an oppositional style. This subculture causes great damage as the illegal trade of drugs eventually involves participants in ifestyles of violecnce substance abuse and internalised rage many of the smale scale dealers become adicted and drawn to violence to support their habbit furthermore their behaviour destroys families and the community the result is a chaotic and violent "community" where the search for dignity and a distincive culture leads to a worseing of the situation.
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Bougois: exclusion and alternative economies 2

ALthough an extreme example elements of it help to understand race and criminality in the U.K 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 involvment in crime.


This study is based on one case- its ethnographic- not representtive.

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