Adantage of using official stats
- Been collected ince 1857 and published every 6 monthes.
- Give an exellent historical overveiw of changing trends over time
- ive a complete and acurate veiw of the way the crimnal justice stystem proccesses offenders through arests, trials, punishments and so on.
- Police and court stats have advantages to the sociologist
- cheep and easy to access and avoid all the ethical dilemmas involved in the generation of data through observational and interveiwing methods.
- All police forces categoriese crimes in a standadised way making it clear when the cattegories change making them reliable.
- Generally cover every area so no issue of representativeness
- Can be broken down into a range of social cattegories and crime types maning hte patterns and trends in crime can be identified.
- In the past theories of crime were often based on acceptance of the offial stats theories were developed by merton, cohen and other funcs to explain the ptterns existed as they did.
- offical stats is a term used to describe the figures collected by police and coursts however if the definition is widened to include any stats collected by goverments they include the CSEWW with is a victim survey with a very different methodology.
The dark figure
- official stats can't be taken at face value as they only show the crimes reported to and recorded by official agencies such as the police and informationabout who has been convicted of offenses when we dig a little deeper a lot of hidden issues are uncovered.
- They account only for those crimes which are recognised as such by victims and those crimes detected by the police. Socs have long argued that there exists a dark figure of unrecorded crime nd it may be that the social characteristics of those who aren't reported or caught may differ from those who are.
- The existence of the dark figure was particularaly highlighted by the CSEW as respondandts would report crimes to the survey reaserchers that they hadn't reported to the police. Recent CSEW survey data suggests that the dark figure may be receeding as the gap between criems reported to the police and reported to the CSEW is the narrowest since the CSEW began.
- Pilkington- aruges that the OCS may not be useful as they only tell us about the increased reporting of particular crimes by the public and victims of crime rather than the actual increases of crime itself. ie The general public have grown more intollerant of property crime as it has become more prosperous and materialistic leading to a greater public willingness to report theft and burglary. Increased affluence has also lead to a greater take up of insurence which encourages greater reporting of property cime and criminal damage by victims.
- The official criminal stats for some juvenile criems may simply reflect public intollernce fulled by journalists constructions of moral manics in search of news worthy stories, moral panics increase the profile of folk devil groups so that the general public is more likely ot recognise the problem and report it. The police are under pressure to crack down on the problem which may result in more arrests and prosecutions, the goverment may pass new laws in order to control the problem and the folk devil group my react by becoming more confrontational and criminal. In other words moral panics lead to deviancy amplification- an artificial rise in crime stats.
- Some crimes i.e sof drug use and prostetution appear to be victimless and concequently may not be reported by the public as consistently as other crimes. These victimles crimes depend on police detection as such detection varies from area to area. Some police forces may ignore prostitution or soft drug use whilst others may frequently crack down concequenty its often difficult for socs to trust or compare stats relating to these crimes/
Reporting crime 2
When we take into account all of the above factors its estimated by criminologists that for every 100 crimes commited only 47 will be reported to the police, 27 recorded by the police and 5 leared up in the form of caution or conviction. Self report studies also indicate that the volume of crime should be greater than females and mc males are just as likely to commit crime as those included in crime stats.
Reporting crime: Findings of the CSEW
Show that individuals are less likely to report crimes to the police if they regard them as:
- Too trivial
- a private matter between family and friends- seek revenge or don't wish harm to come to the offender
- too embarressed- ie male **** claims
- victim may not be in the position to give information
- fear of reprials.
Likely to report them if:
- see some benefit in it for themselves (insurence claim)
- have faith in the police ability to cheive a positive result
Reporting crime: the media and sensitisation
Victim surveys re dependent upon people being aware that they are victims and depends on the "victims" perceiving what happens to them as being a crime. The media play a key role in this as they provide illustrations of 'crimes' and generally heighten sensitivity towards certain forms of behaviour know as sensitising the public towards certain types of activity which can be seen as a crime worth reporting. A positive example of this is the change in portrayal of somestic violence fom a family matter to criminal activity.
- 40% of all crimes reported to the police fail to apear in official statistics as they filter the information supplied to them acording to factors important to them:
- seriousness- may regrd offence as too trivial or not a criminal matter
- Social status- may veiw the status of the person reporting the matter as not high enough to regard the issue as worth pursuing
- Classifying crimes- how they classify the crime will decide the seriousness so the police officers opinion determines the category and seriousness of crime (i.e assalt and agrivated assalt)
- Discretion- only 10% of offences are actually uncovered by the police however evidenc esuggests the chances of being arrested for an offence increase depending on the "demeanour" of the person being challenged by the officer. Anderson et al- shows that youths who cooperate and are polite to police officers are less likely to be rrested than those regarded as disrespectful.
- Promotion and relationships at work- they are trying to impress senior officers whilst still getting on with other colleagues who don't like officers who are too keen and make more work for everyone arrests reflect a balance between comradeship and desire for promotion.
The role of the courts
Official stats also reflect sociall process in the police and the courts
- Pleading guilty
- British courts are based on the idea that most people plead guilty (around 75%) often the result of an informal and unspoken agreement where the defence will try and get the charges with the lightest possible punishment put forward by the prosecution (more open about it in the US its know as 'plea barganing) the result is an overwhelming majority of guilty pleas yet these pleas are for less serious crimes that might "really" have been commited. The stats reflect this downgrading of seriousness.
The role of the goverment
What is considered a crime changes over time as goverments change the law in responce to cultural changes and the influence of powerful groups. Any exploration of crime over a period is fraught with difficulty as any rise or fall in the levels of crime may reflect changes in the law just as much as actual changes in crime ie how attitudes towards cannabis use have changed over time and a decline in the number of arrests for its prossecution as the police respond to public opinion. The official stats may make it easier to look as if week use is declining when it isn't.
Marxist critique of the OCS
- Marxists suggest that the capetalist state collects and constructs criminal stats in order to serve the interests of the rulling clss. The stats serve an ideological function as whoever has the power to collect and construct such stats has the power to control and manipulate public opnion. Marxists therefor aruge that ideological function of the ocs is to criminalise groups such as the young, wc and black thus dividing and rulling the proletariate by diverting the white conformists attention away from class inequality.
- Box- OCS diverts attention away from corporate and white collar crime, the crimes commited by the powerful arent pursued as vigourously or punished as harshley as the W.C. He also argues that the powerful engage in anti social activities which result in death, ingury and theft of ordinary people but these are often not defined as crimnal as the rulling class construct laws which reflect their interests.
Left realists and official stats
Lea and young- aruge that the ocs are largely correct and young wc people and depending on the area afro carib people do commit more crime than other sociological grops despite the influence of moral panics, police steryotypes and judicial bias.