Defining and Measuring Crime (1)
Crime refers to any behaviour that is unlawful and punished by the state. It is an act that is harmful to an individual or group.
However a problem associated with defining crime is that what counts as a crime varies between culture and changes over time
What is considered a crime in some cultures may not be considered such in others e.g. bigamy is a crime in the UK but not a crime in countries where polygamy is practised. Forced marriage is a crime in the UK but not in some cultures.
What was considered a crime in the past is no longer considered as such e.g. homosexuality was illegal until 1969 and still is in some countries. Smacking was common practice some years ago but is now considered criminal
However despite the variations crime is a universal concept, some behaviours are universally regarded as unacceptable – murder, theft and rape.
Reliability – do crime statistics give consistent findings? Are all crimes measured equally?
Validity- do crime statistics measure what they claim to measure? Do the numbers give an accurate measure of crime that is happening?
1) Official statistics
2) Victim surveys
3) Offender surveys
· These are government records of the total number of crimes reported to the police and recorded in official figures.
· They allow the government to develop prevention strategies and initiatives.
· They are published by the Home office annually.
Official crime statistics in the UK are compiled independently of the government in charge so can’t be manipulated for government gain
e.g. if labour is in power and put a policy on crime so want to look as though there policy is working
Official crime statistics significantly underestimate the true extent of crime.
Crimes not appearing on official statistics are called ‘the dark figure of crime’. The figure lacks reliability and validity.
Some crimes are not reported
Reasons why some crimes may not be reported include: stigma (rape, domestic violence), victim was involved in criminal activity (drug dealing).
Crimes which must be reported for insurance (burglary) are nearly always reported.
Some crimes are not recorded
Sometimes crimes that are reported are not recorded because the police do not take it seriously enough or they consider it a domestic issue.
These record peoples experience of crime over a specific period.
The Crime Survey for England and Wales asks people to document the crimes they have suffered from in the past year.
50,000 households are randomly selected to take part in the survey
Victim surveys potentially provides information about the ‘dark figure’ of crime.
This means it may be a more valid measure of crime than official crime statistics.
Based on retrospective data
People may not have an accurate recall of the crimes committed in the previous year or they may include crimes that occurred more than a year ago.
This means the figures may ...