Crime Statistics

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Mike Maguire:

Crime statistics are not simple reflection of ‘facts’, but one of many possible tools for gaining a better understanding of the highly complex and rapidly changing forms of behavior that can be described as ‘crime’. A ‘rise (or fall) in crime’ indicated by police records or survey results should be regarded as an important piece of evidence about, rather than conclusive proof of, changes in the scale and patterns of such behaviours.

Crime statistics are not immune from political and social change, and the ways in which data about crime are collected, analysed, and presented (and the importance and resources attached to them) are both influenced by, and influence, changes in thinking about the nature and importance of the ‘crime problem’ and how to respond to it.

Professor Tim Hope in his article ‘What do crime statistics tell us?’ concludes that: “crime statistics are the product of a dialogue between reporter and recorder, between citizen and state. Thus rather than being an unfortunate set of biases that need to be circumvented, analysis of the various social processes leading to those biases that tell us about the dialectic at the heart of criminology – the relationship between deviance and regulation”

Some Theories about Crime Data

Realist Approach
This view sees the official record as an indicator of the state of crime in society. “ Thus even though there may be the dark figure of crime out there – which ultimately may be unfathomable – in this view, it remains possible to refine and develop our statistics so that they aspire to if not actually ever perfectly achieve an accurate reflection of the underlying extent, pattern and trend of crime in society…. Nevertheless the intention is to use these statistics as indices of the amount of crime in society” – Tim Hope in his article “What do Crime Statistics tell us?”

Constructionist Approach
“The official crime statistics should be regarded as recording decisions that...
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