Crime Statistics

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Criminology essay. 2500 words. Due 10/09/2010
Question 2: using research into street violence to illustrate your argument, identify dilemmas associated with relying on police statistics as a measure of crime.

When the annual crime statistics are reported, they can generate many emotions within society. These feelings can be conflicting depending on whether the crime statistics show an increase or decrease in crime fields. When crime rates are down the community feels relieved, protected and safe, restoring confidence in the legal system, however when crime rates are high, there is a sense of community fear, insecurity and a loss of confidence in the legal system is the result. However crime statistics are not one hundred percent reliable or a true or correct depiction of the crime rates within Australia or any other society. There are many reasons as to why the crime statistics are not truly dependable. Unreliable statistics can be the result of unreported crime, as criminologists and sociologists refer to it as the “dark figure”1 of crime, also when police are targeting or “blitzing”2 a particular crime within the community, this will see crimes in those field increase, as well as crimes not being recorded until they are reported and ever changing society can have various limitations on the reliability of crime statistics. Consequently official crime “statistics are an inaccurate reflection of our everyday experience of crime”3. Crime statistics are crime figures that have been recorded by the police when a person makes a report that they have been wronged or a crime has been committed. Therefore crime statistics can only represent the crimes reported. “Street crime is often the type of criminal activity that is used as a reference point for ‘crime talk’. It also has subtle influences, most notably being a metaphor for the state of a society. The most visible field of crime is street crime”4, the types of street crime that are most visible, for instance is drug use and dealing, are often used as a “pointer to the nature of a society and the sense of orderliness and values”5. “Street crime is the visible face of crime”6. It is the type of crime that is most likely to be reported in the media, and contains the types of behavior that stimulate public emotions about crime. However not all street crime is reported. This can be due to the crime committed, who committed the crime, whom the crime was committed against and whether or not the crime will be reported, resulting in unreliable street crime statistics. Reasons for unreliable statistics can be due to unreported crime for example drug dealing, the people who are buying the drugs will not report their drug dealers as they are profiting from the crime. Other reasons for unreliable street crime figures can be due to police targeting or “blitzing”7 particular fields of crime. In recent years “growing emphasis has been placed on crime prevention, particularly situational crime prevention techniques. The basic aim is to try to address the situational variables that can limit or prevent crime. Crime prevention is increasingly directed at minimizing opportunities via increasingly punitive measures”8, surveillance etc. Therefore the greater the emphasis and police resources into decreasing street violence the more potential offenders will refrain from committing any offences because they know the risk of them getting caught is very high, resulting in a decrease in street violence. Media campaigns such as “knives scar lives”9 is a Melbourne campaign to combat street violence and make people more aware of the impact of drunk street violence has on themselves and others. Changing legislation and social values towards street violence has an impact on crime statistics, ie giving police greater powers to search persons of interest for weapons and pubs legal restrictions on alcohol serving and opening hours which decreases the number of “drunks”10, potentially being involved in...
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