Forensic/Problems in Defining Crime

Crime = a crime is a wrong to society involving the breach of a legal rule resulting in punishment (Williams)

Recidivism = recidivism is the rate that people committ crime again, after being released from prison. The UK Recidivism rate is 60-80% measured from the first two years

Deviant Behaviour = behaviour that is disapproved by most people in society. The minimum value for something to be measured as deviant is 5p

In England to be defined criminally responsible for a crime, you have to be 10 years old, in Scotland you have to be 8 years old, and in Norway you have to be 15 years old

There are two main issues in defining crime. The first is there are 'Cultural Issues' and the second is there are 'Hisorical Issues'

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Problems In Defining Crime

Cultural Issues = The first problem in defining crime is there are cultural differences, for example what is a crime in this country may not be a crime in another. For example people smoking cannabis in a cafe in this country is a criminal offence, while smoking cannabis in a cafe in Amsterdam is not illegal

Historical Issues = The second problem in defining crime is there can be historical issues, its time broken. Different generations would classify a crime as being criminal or deviant behaviour due to the era they were brough up in, for example stealing milk bottles from a doorstep would now be classified as criminal, but in older generations this wouldnt be seen as criminal behaviour.

Another example could be that homosexuality was a criminal offence in this country until the 1960s, it is no longer a crime as long as the consenting couple are 18 or over

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Ways Of Measuring A Crime

There are three main ways that a crime can be measured these are:

* Official Statistics

* Offender Surveys

* Victim Surveys

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Official Statistics

* Official Statistics are records of the total number of crimes reported to the police, and recorded, this allows the government to see the number of crimes occuring in specific regions

* Official Statistics, measure the volume of crime, they are published by the Home Office 

* Official Statistics are already available so a reseracher does not have to spend money and time collecting the information, you can find them from the police, the home office and from prison records

* A Limitation of using official statistics for measuring the volume of crime is it is unreliable as official statistics underestimate the extent of crimes being committed. So many crimes go unreported by victims or unrecorded by the police known as the 'Dark Figure of Crime'. Dark Figure of Crime Are crimes that are not seen as serious enough crimes, as before a crime can be reported a:

* Person has to be aware that a crime has been committed/ or that they have even been a victim of a crime, young children may not realise.... Someone has to be willing to report it and there may be bribery involved.... crimes may not be mentioned to the police or even reported due to domestic violence, or if the crime committed is minor (Underage Drinking/ Minor Shop Lifting. These crimes have not been reported, so wont be included in the statistics


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Case Example - Dark Figure of crime

Farrington & Dowds:

* They analaysed a random sample of recorded crimes from Nottinghamshire, Staddforshire, and Leicestershire

* They found that more thefts less than £10 had been recorded in Nottinghmashire Police than the other two forces

* This meant that crime rate for theft appeared higher in Nottinghmashire

* This meant that different police forces follow different policies, so police recording practice distorted official statistics

* So there are different perspectives in different police forces on what crimes should be reported, a survey found 45% of official reports were not published due to the police thinking the crime wasnt of a seriousness nature

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Victimisation Surveys

* Victimisation Surveys are questionnaires which ask people if they have been a victim of crime within the last year and whether or not they have reported that crime to the police

* An Example is the British Crime Survey. These are conducted every year since the early 1980s. They used to be run by University but now they are run by the Government

* Victim Surveys are more likely to include detail of crimes that were not reported to the police, and so are said to have greater accurcay than Official Statistics as they are less likely to suffer from the 'Dark Figure'.

* However, memory decay is a problem as victim surveys rely on past experience, so recall accuracy might be a problem

* Victims are likely to conceal crimes because of embarassment for example sufferes from domestic violence

* A limitation of Victimisation Surveys is that a minority of around 20-25% refuse to co-operate with researcher which distorts the figures

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Offender Surveys/ Self Report

* Offender Surveys is where you ask individuals through questionnaire or interviews if they have committed a crime in the past year.

* Tend to target groups of likely offenders, and people asked 16+

* This is a more vaild way of measuring crime as it asks people directly about their experience 

* Offender Surveys also tend to reveal a gap betweeen official statistics and what is generated. Wilson found that 20% of a sample aged 10-17 year old boys who had been convicted of theft, 40% had also shop lifted, and 67% had committed minor violence, these statistics did not ends up in the official statistics

* However, the sample is usually biased as they typically dont ask people aged 24+, and the sample is generally males, as the surveys are more aimed at young people instead of being universal

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* Profiling is the preparation of a biological sketch gathered from information at the crime scene, personal history & habits of the victim

* Profiling is used to narrow down the list of suspects

* Profiling developed from the wok of Walter Langer who drew up a profile of Hitler, and saif he would commit suicide if captured, which he did

* David Canter drew up the first profile of the Railway ****** using a bioloical sketch

* There are two main ways of Offender Profiling 'Top-Down Approach (American) & 'Bottom-Up Approach' (British)

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Top Down Approach (Typology)

* The Top-Down Approach comes from USA as a result of the work carried out by the FBI

FBI interviewed 36 convicted serial killers and murderers, to gain insight into their thinking, The FBI were trained to pick out personality and behavioural traits of the offender by analysing the way they committed crimes

The typology approach was based on, the consistency in the offenders behaviour and how their behaviour at the crime scene correlated with their behaviour in every day life

The Offenders were classified intwo two categories 'Organised & Disorganised' Killers

Organised Killers: planned the crime, showed high level of control during the crime, weapon not available, use of restraints , the body is hidden. Organised Killers tend to have a high average IQ, have a good occupation and are socially and sexually confident

Disorganised Killers: little evidence of planning, spontaneous offence, body insight, weapon present, crime scene is sloppy. Disorganised Killers usually have a low IQ, live alone, unemployed and are sexually and socially inadequate

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Evaluation of Top Down Approach

* The Top down approach is said to be 'limited'. The approach suits crime scenes that reveal details such as ****, murder, arson. More common offences such as Burglary, Assault, do not lead to accurate profile being drawn, meaning the approach is limited in identifying the criminal.

* David Canter tested the validity of the top down approach using data from 100 murders in the USA. Details from each case were examined with 39 characteristics for typical organised and disorganised killers. Findings showed evidence for organised killers, but not for disorganised, showing there was no clear distinction between the two types

* The Fact that there are only two categorues is very simplistic as other psychologists have proposed methods with six categories (Holmes and De Burger)

* The Sample Size is small, only 36 serial killers were used, and who were all male, meaning the findings cant be generalised to the wider population

* The Top Down Approach has poor validity for identifying the suspect and predicting their next move, as it is based on the idea that behaviour will be consistent across contexts, this doesnt take into account external factors that may be changing

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Bottom Up Approach

* The Bottom Up Approach is the British Approach developed by David Canter

* The Bottom Up Approach, uses Investigative Psychology and Geographical Profiling

* Investigative Psychology is based on soical and environmental psychology, It uses a data base of similar crimes to match details of the crimes scene with likely characteristics of the offender. Investigative Psychology uses statistical procedures to analyse a crime scene and create a data base, as it looks for patterns to establish linked crimes

* Geographical Approach is part of Investigative Psychology, which assumes the offender is likely to operate in areas they know well. The Geographical Approach is generalised from looking at the locations of linked crimes to the possible home base of the offender (Center of Gravity). It also may help investigators to make guesses about where the offender is likely to strike next, known as the (Jeopardy Surface)

* Marauder = operates in close proximity to their home base

* Commuter = likely to have travelled a distance away from their usual residence

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Bottom Up Profiling - Evaluation

* Lundrigan & Canter studied the spatial behaviour of 120 serial murderers in the USA

* Information from solved murder cases was obtained, each murderer committed a series of murderers. The researcher analysed distances between the offenders home and location of bodys disposed. Findings revealed the offenders home was geographically central in the pattern. They concluded that spatial information about body sites may be useful in locating an offenders base

* Bottom Up Profiling is more objective and scientific than the top down approach, as it is more grounded in evidence as investigators are able to manipulate geographical data quickly to see behaviour as being directly measurable

* The Bottom Up Approach, can be applied to a wide range of offences. Techniques such as center of gravity can be used and applied to crimes such as theft and burglary, as well as the more serious offences such as murder and ****

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Evaluation of Profiling as a whole

* Lacks in Scientific Theory

* Profiling cab generate a Barnum Effect where police officers see what they want to see shown in the case of Collin Stag, by looking only at the generic statements

* Hard to establish the usefulness of offender profiling, as the only those cases that have been successful gets media attention apart from the case of Collin Stag who was mistakely arrested for the murder of Rachel Nickell 

* Holmes found that only 17% of cases which use offender profiling result in an arrest

* Pinizzotto & Finkel attempted to discover whether professional profilers would be more accurate than lay people. They had groups: Profilers, Detectices abd Students who examined two closed police cases involving sex offenders and a homicide, and the groups had to draw up profiles. They found profilers produced more detailed profile for sex offenders and detectives produced more accurate profiles for homicide. The conclusion from this study was sucess was down to expertise not technique

* Pinizotto and Finkel argue that profiling is most effective in sexual offences and least effective in Burglary and lower leveled cases

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