Statistics of Crime

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Official Statistics on crime are often likened to the ¡§tip of an Iceberg¡¨. Critically assess this assertion in light of the ¡§dark figure¡¨ of crime and any new forms of data that can provide a clearer picture of the true extent of crime.

Crime is continuously changing in its definition in people¡¦s perceptions with no complex classification being universally accepted. This forms the basis of the problems faced when attempting to count crime, who determines what crime is; the government of the day, the people, or the law? If crime cannot be defined then placing crimes into categories is even harder, how can statistics wholly represent ¡¥the true extent of crime¡¦ when one can not successfully categorise all crimes. The ¡¥dark figure¡¦ represents many types of crime and criminals, appearing for several reasons, to quantify this figure is impossible, however, an educated impression can be established when looking at various forms of data and information.

Official Statistics contain two parts; court statistics and offences known to the police. Crimes and the nature of punishment imposed on conviction are reported to the home office, by each police force (Jones 2000:14). Used as a starting point for investigating criminal offences, official statistics can be important for formulating policies and proving the effectiveness of them also as a social barometer where our society can be compared to other states or history. Recording the most serious crimes and which result in prison sentences. Official Statistics provide a, ¡§perfectly adequate (means to) judge the size and shape of the ¡¥crime problem¡¦¡¨ (Oxford Handbook1997:150). They are, however, greatly criticised and do not provide a complete picture when looking at crime for many reasons; court and police data are the only sources, providing a limited basis to draw educated conclusions. Many government agencies are not even consulted about their statistics ¡V transport police, environment, Inland Revenue and benefits have their own figures. Therefore official statistics can only begin to represent a very small amount of crime leaving way for a ¡¥dark figure¡¦ to form most of the iceberg (Oxford Handbook1997:149).

Over time the methods for counting crime have changed, for example; criminals are no longer charged for the most serious offence but for every victim (Home Office 01/03/06); definitions of crimes have been expanded or re-defined ¡V the upgrading of common assault to ¡¥notifiable offences,¡¦ (Oxford Handbook2002:323) making it impossible to compare crimes year to year and an understanding of what crime statistics show. The police play a key role in the figures that appear for numerous reasons; some incidents may not be recorded if they are impossible to solve; deemed too trivial; cases may not proceed to trial because there are few reliable witnesses or victims may mistrust the police and believe there is institutionalised racism. Police have also confessed to only tackling incidents that are ¡¥real crime¡¦ where there is greater reward and satisfaction (Croall2000:21). In many cases police are called to intervene in conflicts, however, many refuse to press charges; for fear of reprisals with family, living situations, and social circles. Victims of domestic incidents may be inappropriately dealt with, i.e. domestic violence victims may be dealt with by male officers who might also beat their partner, ¡§some officers have even admitted to not believing domestic violence to be a real crime¡¨ (Jones2000:16). Others may initially press charges but are unable to provide evidence in court or back away, ¡§In practice a series of hurdles exists at every stage of the process, which means there is a huge attrition rate, with only a small proportion of violent incidents resulting in either recorded offences or successful prosecutions¡¨ (Jones2000:14).

Police forces have been judged on their ¡¥clear up rate¡¦, leaving forces to question the...
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