Defining and measuring crime

Ways of measuring crime, including official statistics, victim surveys and offender surveys.

Defining Crime

Crime - An act committed in violation of laws of a particular society and has a set of punishments written into the law.

Social Construction - (the way we view crime) depends on how we see it from both a legal and normative viewpoint at a particular time for example homosexuality was illegal until 1969 and remains illegal in some countries. Criminal behaviour is not a constant. 

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Ways of measuring crime

To deal with crime and form laws evidence of how much crime is actually committed needs to be collected.

Official Statistics - produced annually by the government

  • Based on any incident reported to the police or when the police discover an offence
  • Crime prevention strategies and Police initiatives usually occur as a result of official statistics

Victim Surveys

  • Asks a random sample of 50000 households to identify which crimes have been committed against them over a fixed period of time.
  • Confidential interview using a fixed set of questions relating to specific attitudes and crime.

Offender Surveys

  • Aim was to increase knowledge about young people and criminal behaviour
  • Sample of around 5000 to provide information about the extent of offending, anti social behaviour and drug use.
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