What are the major problems with regard to the collection of crime statistics?
There are two main sources for published crime statistics; the British Crime Survey, a face to face victimization survey, covering experiences of crime in the previous twelve months, and police recorded crime which is supplied by 43 different territorial police forces on a monthly basis (Home Office, 2011). Both sources have different strengths and weaknesses such as police discretion for recording certain crimes or the time period covered in the British Crime Survey (Walker et al 2006). Also, both sources cover different areas of crime in greater depths, for example, police recorded crime provides a more fuller picture for the levels of indictable offences such as homicides. The British Crime Survey can provide a more accurate image of summary offences that may be unrecorded or unreported to the police. Solely, the sources fail to provide an accurate image for crime statistics, but when used collectively, it is possible to gain a fuller picture for crime statistics. On a monthly basis, 43 national police forces provide data that make up the official police recorded crime statistics. The data provided by the police contain major pitfalls and so cannot be taken at face value to form an accurate number of crimes reported in the official statistics. There are three significant factors which shape the statistics published; formal recording rules, the recording behaviour of the police and the reporting behaviour of the public (Maguire, 2006). Firstly, the recorded crime statistics do not include all offence categories, being heavily weighted by indictable offences such as homicide, which are triable in the Crown Court only. This means that a vast majority of summary offences, such as minor assaults which are tried in a Magistrates Court, are not reported in the official statistics published by the Home Office. Further to this, the recorded crime statistics do not include high levels of tax and benefit fraud, although internal records are kept of the latter offences. By excluding many summary offences and fraud cases, we cannot gather a full and accurate picture of crime statistics. However, to rectify this problem, the Home Office has made changes in 1998/9 to include more summary offence categories such as common assault, harassment and assault on a constable which added over 250,000 extra offences. This increase, although artificial, to an individual unaware of the technicalities, would suggest an extreme increase in the levels of violent crime, although this is not actually the case. A further issue with the recording rules of the police is how crime is counted. Several crimes may be committed in a short space of time and is consequently regarded as one crime, for example a thief may steal from a three people, this would be regarded as one sole crime. In 1967, following the recommendations of the Perks Committee, clearer counting rules were put in place (Maguire,2006). However, these rules were further revised in 1998 to take a more victim based approach to counting crime, so using the previous example of a thief stealing from three people, whereas previously, these crimes would be counted as one crime, following the new rules, the thief would be accountable for three separate crimes as there are three victims. Although the rules have been revised, some crimes have not been effected by the changes, this includes ongoing domestic abuse. This is because, although there are many different occasions of assault, there is only one victim, therefore only one crime has been committed. With the inclusion of more offences and the changes in counting rules, it can be said that there has been an increase in the number of crimes reported in the police recorded statistics of around 14% from 1997/8 to 1998/9 (Home Office, 2001:28) Although the official recording rules provide the basics for recording crime, there is still room for
Chloe Wraight, Level 4...
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