Advantages of using official stats
Cheep and easy to acess- avoid all ethical dillema's involved in the generation of data through observational and interveiw methods.
All police categorise in a standadised way- improves reliability
official stats cover every area- so theres no issuses of representivness
they can be broken down into a range of social categories and crime types meaning patterns and trends can be identified.
theories of crime based on acceptance of stats- ie mertons theory
official crime stats may not be useful because they only tell use about the increased reporting of particular crimes by the general public and victims rather than actual increase in crime itself.Examples...
- the public has become less tollerant of crime as it has become more prosperous and matericalistic- leading to higher reports
- Stats for some juvenile delinquency reflects public intollerance fulled by moral panics which increase the public profile of the folk devil group and so make it more likely they'l be reported- delinquency amp spiral
- victimless crimes depend on police detection i.e prostitution or soft drug use
- self report studies indicate the volume of crime should be greater and female and mc males are just as likely to commit crimes as those included in crime stats.
Findings from the CSEW- victimisation survey
They show that individuals are less likely to report a crime to the police if they regard it as:
- too trivial
- a private matter- wish to seek revenge or protect offender
- too embarresing
- may not be in position to give information
- they may fear repirisals
More likey to report if:
- they see it will benefit them
- the have faith in the police
The media and sensitisation- victim surveys are dependent on people beleiving they are victims. The media heiten sensitivity towards criminals and forms of behaviour this is known as sensitising the public a positive outcome of this has been the change in the perception of domestic violence from a "familly matter" to a criminal activity.
The role of the police
The police filter the information suplied to them acording to whats importent to them.
- seriousness- may regard the offence as a trivial matter
- Social status- may veiw the person reporting the crimes social status as not high enough to regard the issue as worth pursuing
- Classifying crimes- this depends on how serious they deem it (from assalt to agrivated assalt by example)
- discretion - only 10% of offense are uncovered by the police however the chances of being arrested increase marginally depending on the demeaner of the person being challeneged. Anderson- Those who co operate and are polite with the police are less likely to be arrested than those who are disrespectful
ballence between promotions and relationships at work- canteen culture vs carear objectives arrests reflect a balence between comradship and a desire for promotion.
The role of the courts
Official stats of crimes reflect the decisions and sentances of the courts these stats are also a reflection of social progress.
The british couts work on the assumption that many people will plead guilty and arround 75% charged do plead guilty as the recult of an informal and largely unspoken agreement that the defence will try and get the charge to the lightest possible axepted by the prosection. (called plea bargening in america). The result is an overwhelming magority of guilty pleas for often less serious crimes
The role of the goverment
whats considered a crime changes over time as the goverment changes law in responce to a cultural change and influence of power groups. Changes in the rise and fall of crime reflect changes in policy more than rates of offense i.e canabis use- the police are reacting to the publics feeling.
Evaluation- different perspectives crits of OCS
- positivists- early c+d studies such as Merton are based on un critical acceptance of OCS
- Interpretavist- "labeling" veiw rejects the accuracy of ocs instead it concentrates on understanding the way we are socially constructed.
- marxists- stats reflect inequalities + scapegoating
- Feminists- crime stats don't represent violence in a domestic setting women feel unable to report them
- Left realists- stats can't be discounted but prefer local victim survey as it reveals the basis for many peoples fear of crime
Marxist crit of the OCS
- suggests cap state collects and constructs criminal stats in order to serve interests of the rulling class. Stats serve an ideological function whoever has the power to collect and construct such stats has power to control and manipulate public opinion. ie scapegoating in the 70's onto young black men to divide and rule.
- Box- OCS diverts attention from mc white collar and corpoate crime. The crimes of the powerful aren't as harshely punished as wc crimes.
Left realism and Official Stats
Lea+ Young- argue the OCS are largely correct and young wc afro caribs do commit more crime than other groups despite media aplification spiral