Crime and Deviance

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  • Created on: 21-11-18 09:53

Crime and Deviance Definitions

  • Crime: A legal wrong that can be followed by criminal proceedings, which may result in punishment; an action or omission which constitues an offence and is punishable by law
  • Deviance: Behaviour which is disapproved of by most people in a scoiety or group, which does not conform to shared norms and values.
  • Social Order: General conformity to the shared norms and values, so that society is peaceful and predictable.
  • Social Control: Process by which people are persuaded to obey the rules and conform. The agencies of social control are institutions that serve to ensure conformity. 
  • Formal Social Control: Carried out by the Government, the armed forces and the Criminal Justice System.
  • Informal Social Control: Carried out by agencies such as the education system, the family, peers, the media and religion. 
  • Conformity: Behaviour which does fit in with the norms and values of a society or group.
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Crime and Deviance Being "Relative"

Crime and Deviance are both 'socially constructed', and are therefore created and defined by society. Crime and deviance can also be said to be 'relative': they will vary according to time, scoiety and circumstance. 

E.g     Time - Drinking alcohol in the US in the 1920's was a deviant/criminal act but now in the US if you're over the age of 21 it is not seen as deviant/criminal. 

Culture - Woman exposing their legs in some isalmic societies is seen as a criminal/deviant act but in western societys wearing shorts and short skirts is a non-deviant act

Cirucumstance- Killing a person in cold blood would be seen as a criminal/deviant act but a non-deviant act if a solider was killing an enemy in battle.Due to cultural diversity, views may differ on what constitues as deviance within society.

A crime will often require certain cricumstances to be fulfilled, in addition to the action itself. Examples: 

  • Sexual Intercourse. Is legal unless they are underage or their is no consent.
  • Driving at 50mph. In a 30mph zone this would be illegal but in 50mph zone its legal
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Measuring Crime

Offical Crime Statistics (OCS) include statistics produced by police, court and prison records as well as data collected in the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW), a victim survey which asks people about their experience of crime. All of these are collected by the Home Office and published by the Office for National Statistics. 

Police Recorde Crime Figures

  • Statistics include all polcie recorded crime in England and Wales.
  • Supplied by 43 territorial polcie forces of England and Wales plus the transport police.
  • Sometimes used as a defintive measure of the amount of crime which has taken place, but only include crime which the police are aware of and then have recorded
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Strengths and Weaknesses of Police Recorded Crime


  • easy to access amd have already been compiled
  • up to date and provides trends
  • cover whole population and go back many years so trends and patterns can be idenitifed
  • provide 'whole counts' and not estimates


  • do not include undetected or unreported crime
  • do not include unrecorded crime
  • do not provide a complete picture about each crime
  • may not be accurate
  • change in public perception may influence them
  • defintions, laws and police counting rules change
  • changes in police practice and government policy may influence them
  • pressure on the police to meet crime reduction targets may lead to some disappearing or being downgraded.
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Dark Figures of Crime

Term used for all unrecorded crime. It is hard to estimate how large this figure is, because it includes crimes which are not even know about. It is unlikely to be in proportion of the police recorded crime statistics, so we cannot just estimate. For example, 50% more crime on top of the known figures. In addition, some types of crime are more likely to be in the dark figure than others.

Case Study :

  • A survey on **** and sexual assault on Mumsnet in 2012 found that 83% of those who had been ****d or sexually assualted did not report it to the police. Half said they would be too embrrassed and two thirds said they would hesitate because of low conviction rates. 
  • 2002, **** victim Lindsay Armstrong, 17 was made to hold up her underwear she was wearing at the time of the attack. The accused, who was 14 at the time, was found guilty. Next morning her mother found her dead from an overdose.
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Dark Figures of Crime 2

Police discretion is another problem with the police recorded crime figures. Some individuals may be corrupt or have their own reasons for misrecording individual crimes.

Manipulation Techniques: Coughing - An offender might be encouraged to admit a number of offences in return for being charged for less serious offences which would result in a reduced sentence. This greatly improves the 'clear up rate'.

Cuffing- Refers to crimes which have been reported and intially recorded and then being removed from statistics at a later date.This can happen for various reasons, such as officers decing they did not believe the complaint or reassesing the offence following further investigation. However, it has been alleged that to improve figures they may remove crimes. 

Skewing - involves forces putting resources into those areas measured by performance indicators to the detriment of other areas. 

Case Study: James Patrick, WhistleBlower, crime figures were manipulated and sexual offences were being under-reported by 22-25%. He was disciplined by the police force and left his job as a result.


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  • Believe in the existance of social facts and measuring social behaviour scientifically
  • They would trust quantitative data produced in the statistics and see it as reliable and representative
  • They also believe there is a value consensus in society so would see the police as representing all of us and wouldn't question their motives.
  • Therefore most functionalist and subculutral explanations use the 'typical criminal' presented in police recorded as their starting point in explaining crime, focusing on young, working class males in particular.
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New Right and Right Realists

New Right and Right Realists

  • Accept the offical picture of the typical criminal presented by the police recorded figures, since they believe that laws are made for the benefit of society and applied equally, and that the police are representing the interestes of the whole society.
  • Focus on explaining criminality amongst the most deprived sections of society, referred to as the 'underclass', since statistics suggest that most crime is committed by such people.
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Left Realists

Left Realists

  • Recognise the police figures are not perfect, but they should not be dismissed, beacause they are about real crimes.
  • They suggest police recorded figures should be supplemneted by other methods, such as victim surveys. 
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  • Some accept the offical picture that females comminit significantly less crime than males and try to explain why. 
  • For example, they look at high levels of social control applied to females.
  • Other feminists focus on the way that female offenders are treated differently by the police and in courts. 
  • They argue that if anything, male crime against woman is underrepresented in the police figures. So they do not challenge the idea of the typical criminal being male, but they do challenge the accuracy of the statistics.
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  • See the police recorded crime figures as a tool used to control the working class and justify their control and oppression. Police statistics are used to scare us and justify more policing.
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Radical Criminoligists

Radical Criminoligists 

  • Combine aspects of Marxism and interactionism in their approach to understanding crime, therefore they tend to focus on the power of the police to label for political reasons. 
  • Such ideas have also been used to challenge the over-representation of certain ethnic minority groups in the police recorded figures.
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Victim Surveys

Involves surveying people about which crimes they have been victim to in a given period. Victim surveys are more likely to include some crimes which have not been reported to the police. 

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Marxist Perspective - Victims and Offenders

Marxist Perspective - Suggets the law is made by the state and only represents the ruling class.

Snider (1993) - Crime is wide spread in all social strata's and suggests corporate crime is far more damaging in terms of money and lives but the state is reluctant to pass laws to regulate it.

Chambliss (1976) -Argues greed, self interest and hostility is generated by capitalism and motivates crime on all levels. 

Feminists would argue there is an undue emphasis on class. 

S Jones - Capitalism doesn't always equal crime. Used Switzerland as an example. Too simplistic view about the distribution of power. 

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Social Class - Offenders

Sutherland (1949) - 'Criminal statistics show unequivocally that crime as popularly understood and offically measured, has a high incidence in the lower socio-economic class and a low incidence in the upper socio-economic class'. - Although it is very difficult to find data in the UK relating to social class backgrounds of offenders.

Social Exclusion Report (2002) - Reported that many prisoners have a history of social exclusion, being more likely than the general population to have grown up in care, poverty and to have a family member convited of a criminal offence. Research also showed that 67% of prisoners were unemployed previously and 32% had been homeless. 

William et al (2012) - Found that other factors found more frequently in the prison population included: having run away from home; experience drug or alcohol misues within the family; being excluded from school and having no qualifications. - Most tend to focus on explaining working class criminality basing their ideas on lack of status, money, oppurtunities and so on. However, more relevant information would be showing who gets caught rather than who commits crime. 

Cavadino and Dignan (2001) - 'Somehow between the comission of offences and the offical responses of prosecution and punishment, the difference between the classes get vastly magnified'. Reasons for this included types of offences commited but also class biases in the criminal justice system.

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Social Class - Victims

British Crime Survey (2010-2011) showed that young households, lone parents and the unemployed are all more than twice as likely to be burgled as the average household and the unemployed are more than twice as likely to be the victims of violence as the average person.

Young (1988) - discussed the 'myth of the equal victim', suggesting that certain groups, such as the poor, are hit much harder when they become a victim of crime than other groups. 

Kinseys Merseyside Crime Survey (1984): the poor suffer more than the wealthy from the effects of crime.

E.g. a victim of burgulary who is uninsured will be hit harder economically that a victim who has contents insurance. 

The poor are also more likely to be subject to 'multiple victimisation', as the many social problems they face increase their vulnerability to a range of crimes.

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Left Realism - Social Class

Lea and Jock Young explained criminality:

They argued deprivation will only lead to crime where it is experienced as relative deprivation.

A group experiences relative deprivation when they feel deprived in comparison to other similar groups or when its expectations are not met. It's not the fact of being deprived it's the feeling of deprivation.

Modern Society- Stresses the importance of economic success and consumption of consumer goods.

Subculture - Solution to a groups problem they develop lifestyles that allow them to cope with this lifestyle

Marginilisation - Groups that lack organisation goals to represent their interests in political life and that also lack clear define goals

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Gender and Crime


  • Most crime is committed by men
  • Gender differences are the most significant feature of recorded crime
  • 4 out of 5 convicted offences in England and Wales were male.
  • Woman are more likely to committ property offences
  • Males are more likely to committ **** and sexual violence
  • Men are more liekly to reoffend and to have longer sentences.

Offical statistics suggets gender is a significant factor worldwide and not just in UK.

Some sociologists and criminoligists state woman are underestimated.

1.Female crimes are less likely to be reported.

2.Woman are less likely to be prosecuted and more likely to get let off.

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Feminists view on Gender and Crime

Carol Smart - 1979

- Female criminality is comparatively neglected. Party this was because woman commit less crime so women are seen as less of a problem. Crimes committed by woman seem to be of a comparatively trivial nature of female crime therefore it is deemed unworthy to research.

Otto Pollak, 1950

- Argued that offical statistics on gender and crime were highly misleading. He claimed they seriously underestimated the extent of female criminality. Pollak claimed to have identified crimes that are usually committed by woman which are likely to go unreported:

  • He assumed nearly all offences of shoplifting and all criminal abortions were carried out by woman. 
  • Female domestic servants committed many unreported crimes
  • Accepted offical defintions of crime when he pointed out that all the offences of prositution that were not reported. Male clients of prosititution were assumed to have engaged in no illegal activites. 
  • Womans domestic roles gave them the oppurtunity to hide crimes such as posioning relatives and sexually abusing their children. 
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Otto Pollak Continued

He aruged that the police, magistrates and other law enforcement officials tend to be men and are usually lenient with female offenders so less woman appear in the statistics.

He also said woman are better at hiding their crimes. He attributed this to female biology. Woman have become accustomed to decieving men because traditional taboos prevent woman from revealing pain and discomfort resulting from menstruation. Men cannot disguise sexual arousal due to erections whereas woman can take part in sexual intercourse while faking interest and pleasure.


Stephen Jones (2009) - States Pollak gave no real evidence that female domestic servants commit many crimes against their employers or that woman are better at concealing crimes than men 

Heidensohn (1985)- States that much shoplifting is committed by men. Also comments 'concealment of menstruation is by no means universal and changed sexual mores have long since made nonsense of his view on passive, receptive, females brooding vengenance'

Pollaks work has no credibility today but he was important for being the first to suggest that statistics greatly underestimated female criminal activity.

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Otta Pollak - For and Against

Evidence For:

  • Graham and Bowling: showed differences between OS and self report studies
  • Food-Page et al: found that woman who had admitted to committing crimes were less likely to be charged compared to men. Study found 11% of females admitted offending compared to 23% of men and 1% of woman had been taken to court but 4% of men.
  • Hood - 3000 defendents- woman were about one third less likely to jailed in similar cases

Evidence Against:

  • Farrington and Morris: woman are not sentenced more leniently for comparable offences
  • Box (1981): If woman are treated leniently, it might be because their offences are less erious and they are more likely to show remorse.
  • Buckle and Farrington: sutdy of shoplifting witnessed twice as many males shoplifted despite the fact that offical statistics are equal. Suggesting woman shoplifters may be more likely to be prosecuted than males.
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Chivalry Thesis

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Double Standards in the Court Justice System

Hilary Allen (1989)

  • Based upon statistics from 1987 that showed leniency towards female offenders.
  • E.g. 73% of woman but only 54% of men were found guility of committing motoring offences were given fines. The difference resulted in far more men being given prison sentences.
  • She also found serious cases where woman had managed to escape prison but a male defendant would have been expected to recieved a prison term.

Pat Carlen (1997)

  • Scottish Judges were more inclided to punish childless women than women with children or who were deemed "good mothers".
  • Also poor pregnant mothers would be likely to be sent to prison so children were born into more suitable surroundings.
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