How far do recorded crime rates show how much crime occurs in society
Introduction • What is a ‘crime’?
• Definition of recorded and unrecorded crime
• Indicate how crime rates are recorded and by whom
• Discuss reasons behind recorded and unrecorded crime
• Discuss how crime rates are recorded and by whom
• Discuss whether crime rates are recorded and collated accurately
• Discuss impact on society
How far do recorded crime rates show how much crime occurs in society?
In order to define what a recorded crime rate means, it is necessary to understand the difference between the term ‘recorded’ which relates to crimes which have been reported and ‘unrecorded’ which relates to crimes which have not been reported (flowchart in Mooney et al., 2004, p. 8). Recorded information is provided via statistics collated and produced from both ‘quantitative’ evidence and ‘qualitative’ evidence (Mooney et al., 2004. p. 18 & 19) and are collated and produced by government agencies (i.e. the Home Office) – recorded crime stats supplied by the 43 police forces in England and Wales and qualitative data by the annual British Crime Survey (BCS).
Changes in the law, community services available, fear for one’s safety or the perceived seriousness of the crime could relate to the levels of recorded and unrecorded crime. Individuals may prefer not to report crime as sometimes ‘victims felt that the incident was not sufficiently serious’ or ‘that the police would not be able to do much about it’ (Mirrlees-Black et al, 1998, quoted in Mooney et al., 2004, page 19).
Surveys, which are carried out by government agencies, collate information in the form of quantitative evidence and qualitative evidence. Quantitative evidence is produced from numerical information and qualitative evidence relates to quality or form rather than quantity (Mooney et al., 2004, p. 18 & 19). Qualitative evidence may not be accurately reflected as questions could be asked which may not be seem relevant to the person being interviewed or the questions could be interpreted in different ways and different responses given.
Quantitative statistics may not always be a true reflection of crime rates as unrecorded information is not included. This would result in not having all of the facts presented in true form and could result in misrepresentation in crime rate figures.
This could also be reflected in comparisons between ‘then and now’ whereby inaccurate statistics could result in incorrect comparisons of data indicating an increase in a particular crime which should perhaps reflect a decrease or vice versa. An increase in a certain area of crime could result in ‘moral panic’ which is ‘a condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests’ (Cohen, quoted in Mooney et al., 2004, p. 23).
As unrecorded crime is not included in statistics, recorded crime rates may not always be a true reflection of how much crime occurs in society. However, recorded crime rates do offer a good estimation and guidelines as to increases and decreases in certain areas of crime and provides useful information. There is also the qualitative data provided by the BCS to ‘flesh out’ the picture provided by recorded crime stats.
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Mooney, G., Kelly, B., Goldblatt, D. and Hughes, G. (2004) Introductory Chapter. Tales of Fear and Fascination: the Crime Problem in the Contemporary UK, Milton Keynes, Open University.
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