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By Getmovedto1 Feb 26, 2013 2077 Words
What are the main strengths and weaknesses of official crime statistics and victimization surveys? In this essay I will be discussing the main strengths and weaknesses of official crime statistics and victimization surveys. I have done tremendous research to back up my work, I have also used famous criminologists and other bodies who understand criminalization to help re-enforce my points. Most experts and successful authors, such as Tim Newburn, Brent E. Turvey and Clive Coleman have attempted, through their literature to show how crime has evolved and how surveys have influenced the public’s views about it. The first ever national crime statistics were published in France, 1827. Adolphe Quetelet, a scholar and previous astronomer was the first individual to take a serious approach and interest in criminal statistics. He then went on to become a leading body in criminology and social sciences for his work. Official crime statistics are placed under the ideology of crime rates in the UK and Wales. Numbers that the BCS, police and other law aboding bodies can gather together from the public, their research and other sources to help give the most accurate rate of crime they can. Victimisation surveys are generally random samples of the population asked whether they have been a victim to crime within a specific period of time. The reasons why these two different types of surveys must be taken are so that crime statistics can attempt to be more solid, although the argument is always made that there will never be an accurate percentage of crime and I will also be touching on why this statement has and always will be made. Crime statistics and Victimisation surveys are polls taken and received by victims of crime or the criminals and individuals who commit them. There has been much controversy amongst crime statistics of how accurate and precise they really are. I will be discussing these issues, but overall focusing my main points onto the strengths and weaknesses of official crimes statistics and victimisation surveys. Without crime statistics there would be no base grounds on the numbers of crimes averagely committed, by what sex and by what age group. However, without victimization surveys crimes may stay ‘hidden’ crimes such as domestic violence, burglary and intimidation. Why I mention these three in particular are because statistics show that most common repeat victims of crime are within these types of offences. Other offences also include other household theft and vandalism. One example of a top victimization survey is the British Crime Survey. The British Crime Survey or BCS for short is a nationally represented survey with a successful sample of approximately 47,000 adults living in private households in England and wales every year. The BCS started its survey’s in 1981 and it became a fluent survey database until 2001/2002. This survey is a face to face interview where the respondents or victims are asked about their experiences and feelings of crime that may have happened to them or people they know in the last 12 months, the BCS also ask them about their opinions of crime and crime related topics such as anti-social behaviour. These types of people would also be asked about the effectiveness of the police and how they deal with these issues of crime. The British crime survey is a very important key piece of information and source of data on the background of respondents and the overall circumstances of victimization. A public, accurate crime statistic is most commonly the police, a more community based, less national and less accurate version as it’s range of scope does not cover the nation; however both sources limit themselves to a set of offences. Making it easier to gain a more accurate percentage. One main difference between the BCS and the police is that the BCS excludes victimless crimes, drug dealing and murder. The reason for this is the victims are no longer available to discuss the events that happened. Other crimes they exclude are sexual offences; this is generally due to the small number reported and the unwillingness of respondents to come forward. Another main difference between the two is that BCS thefts including personal property and other household items, because with the police they would involve everything included in the theft, jewellery, personal belongings, with the BCS it would all fall into a similar category making it a difficult task to achieve. A weakness of official crime statistics and victimisation surveys is that an argument could be bought up are they actually official? Just because they’re published doesn’t make them correct. What about the crimes that aren’t reported, Because of victims being afraid, intimidated or not having trust in the police. These events being called ‘Hidden Crimes’ or as they are often referred to ‘Dark Figures’. In addition to this, modern day statistics are now more enclosed, for example in Tim Newburn’s ‘Criminology’ he discusses how crimes such as violence against the person accounts to events such as murder, assault, however not reckless driving which could be considered to focus fully on physical damage. So as statistics are not as open to as many crimes as they wish, some will slip through and possibly go into a much minor category. Obviously a disadvantage being that individual may feel neglected and reluctant to detail the events. Due to the declining of main volume crimes in the recent years, beliefs about crime are still quite high. A third of the population from 2003 still believed that crime was a high rated problem. Advantages of Statistics such as these are that they tend to give the public a clear understanding of what crime rates are at. This table shows beliefs about crime, public fear that possibly the tabloids could have caused. This is discussed a weakness to crime statistics and the public, in a way the media are creating crimes, feeding on crime fear.

As I mentioned earlier Crime statistics are never fully accurate and power is always an important factor when determining crime. Smaller crimes such as robbery are associated with the ‘Underclass’ Theory by Charles Murray. These types of offences are more down to the individual rather than a group. Dr Ziggy MacDonald of the University of Leicester wrote a piece in the Economic Journal about ‘Hidden Crimes’, one of the things his research showed was that ‘forecasts of crime trends fail to take proper account of what drives unreported crime. For example, someone who is currently unemployed is 7% less likely to report a burglary than someone who is currently in work, while someone on a relatively high income is 8% more likely to report a burglary than someone on less than average income’ He discussed how the decrease in employment could eventually lead to the higher rate of theft from people’s properties, and resulting in victims not reporting it, maybe thinking it won’t matter as their income isn’t high enough to replace the item anyway. Even though the difference between low income individuals and high income individuals is 1% which from my research closely is around 16% burglaries every year as a crime rate, 1% of those victims with a low income are subjected towards not reporting theft of their possessions. Certain individual’s economic status (as shown in from MacDonald’s work) can become a huge factor when determining ‘Hidden Crimes’. People could feel helpless as income is low, or they may live in a deprived area, with no way of being helped their behaviour could become ‘broken’ referring to the ‘broken glass theory’ a single building could have a shattered window for a period of time and the community around that area may feel unwanted, leaving a physical and emotional gap between this community and the open world. Because of this, other buildings may become trashed and broken, people would begin to avoid the area it ‘self, the idea of fear within these ‘Hidden Crimes’. This adds to the statistics the BCS and the police may not know about, smaller areas may not be expected to have high rates of crime and therefore focus is taken away from them. Bigger areas such as Birmingham would be a prime target for crime, the assumption is made. Another theory could that there could possibly be Marxist Criminology, Crime due to class divisions within a society or community, or perhaps crimes of the powerful, individuals or groups of people being treated differently in society, expelled from other physical and emotional contact, leaving them no choice but to turn to crime. Transference, to be precise. In August, 2011 the riots in the United Kingdom gave breach to a huge collaboration of crime sprees. Over 1000 people were arrested, yet possibly over 100,000 protested against this Marxist Criminology from politics, student fees and tax increases. Not every individual was caught, making statistics even scarcer. These significant changes within society set alight events that triggered this. This idea of Neo Marxism relating to ‘Dark Figures’ as not every individual in society has the same equal access as other fortunate people, be it financially, emotionally and they lash out because of it. Yet these ‘crimes’ aren’t recorded, they go unnoticed and became a damaging part of a society. In relation to this is the Left Realism theory, a social democratic approach to the analysis of crime and the development of effective policies of crime control. At the heart of all of this is a source of suffering for the poor and the vulnerable, this links from the ideology of smaller much petty crimes. Bullying for example which as many of 44% of suicides by children from the ages of 10-14 are potentially linked. Data sources of the years have developed and grown onto this topic from the 1900’s as society and trends begin to evolve. Children picked on because of their backgrounds or income, yet data sources still have a less accurate number to this topic than any other. Official crime statistics do not generally show crimes committed by corporations, if any results are shown, they aren’t ever big corporations. An example of corporations is Citibank, high profile data breaches, and even the business Sony. These ‘White Collar Crimes’ are not easily detected, distinguishing them from victimization surveys. They could be breaches of health and safety laws, not identifiable to the easiest detail. Linking to this could be an idea of a corporations being known as ‘Mavericks’ people who are the exceptions rather than the rules, so society and governing bodies refuse to believe that they would commit corporate crimes, allowing them to get off easy. Or even reducing the expected costs. One of the biggest corporate crimes was an incident that occurred in 1984 Bhopal. Hundreds of people were killed in a chemical accident, by a company called Union Carbide. They owned a pesticide plant which was around 3 miles from Bhopal. The leading director of that company told the BBC that ‘methyl isocyanate gas (MIC) had escaped when a valve in the plant's underground storage tank broke under pressure’ As laws are different from the USA and India, payments have still not been made to the families, who deserve compensation, an American firm that is above the law and have been forced into no legal action whatsoever. Could this have future affects to India, How people live, fear foreign businesses, Should they have to live in fear. In conclusion to my research and the theories I have mentioned. I believe that crime statistics can define the crime rate in the UK every year, both types of surveys have their weaknesses and strengths, society as a whole helps mould the body of crime, they can also be the reliable source to provide it, and stop it. My results and research from numerous sources have given an indication on the levels of crime in the UK. Bibliography

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