A Discussion of the Usefulness of Official Crime Statistics and Other Types of Crime Information.

2191 Words Mar 14th, 2008 9 Pages
Although ‘official' statistics should provide an accurate representation of crime, criminologists and sociologists are keen to emphasize that they should be seen in a critical mindset. This essay is focused on determining just to what extent official statistics provide an accurate representation of the extent of crime through examining different arguments concerning their limitations and benefits. This essay also focuses on other types of crime data such as the victim survey and qualitative data, to see whether they provide a more truthful portrayal of crime.

The first half of the essay analyses the usefulness of official statistics. Here a main theme is the socially constructed nature of crime and crime statistics, and the consequences
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The fluid, evolving nature of the legal system and police policies means that depending on the time scale under analysis, the use of official crime statistics can be a very inaccurate method of analyzing crime trends.

A core criticism of official statistics is that they are socially constructed. A central representation of how official statistics are socially constructed is the fact that ‘no act can be considered a crime, irrespective of how immoral or damaging it may be, unless it has been made such by state legalisation' (Michael and Adler, cited in Muncie, 1999: 37). Therefore, an argument can follow that official criminal statistics represent only legally criminal acts, and so miss other more serious ‘social harms' and acts of deviancy and ‘wrongdoing', such as corporate fraud, swindling, domestic violence, abuse and harassment, and violations of human rights committed by the state (Muncie, 1999). This means that official crime statistics paint an unrealistic picture of the extent of acts that are resulting in what I see as the more socially useful expressions of ‘social harm' or ‘social injury'. Also, because such deviant behaviours are not classified as criminal and so there occurrence is not documented in official crime statistics and targets of concern for the government and media, people may feel less guilty about carrying out such acts.

A line of thought that follows from this is that put forward by the radical perspective (Coleman
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