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Lies, More Lies and official Statistics - Why Can't We Really Trust the official Crime Statistics?

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Lies, more lies and official statistics. Why can't we really trust the official crime statistics?

Every year crime statistics are recorded for England and Wales in order to show the rate of crime, for the types of crime that are being committed and whether the crime is increasing or decreasing to previous years. Realistically if a crime did not exist in the statistics then it did not occur. This is where past research has criticised the high percentage of the unreported crime that occurs. Statistics exempt the idea of social life therefore we should not see statistics as 'social facts'. In this essay I will be looking at the official statistics of crime and how they are affected, self reporting of crimes, the dark figures of the statistics, whether the role of the police is affected on the figures, how the change in the law can also affect the statistic reports and lastly how useful these statistics can be either in a negative or positive approach.

Statistics are recorded from the public, which means when a crime is committed and an individual from the society has seen it they will either choose to report the crime or not. The crimes that are being reported come under the statistics. The British Crime Survey (BCS) is taken annually from the home office in order to see the rise and loss in the various criminal acts that have been performed. The figures also include some offences that may not be considered very serious. However one can say that a crime may have not be committed as there is no victim present to discover the offence or an individual may find themselves believing that they have not committed a crime. Therefore this allows them to find their way into the official statistics. "Studies in Britain indicate that between 77 and 96 percent of these are initially discovered by members of the public in various guises. (Bottomley and Pease, 1986: 34).

When reporting a crime, to a certain degree if a crime is not official it will not be recorded even if the crime is clear, this is due to the fact that the victim may be satisfied with the action that is taken, some statements are not accountable therefore recording a crime will be unnecessary. Crimes are measured in certain ways so that they fall under a certain heading within the BCS, such as all the burglaries committed are recorded by the police on a daily basis.

Although gaining statistics from the public, a more accurate measurement is vital from the police force in order to give correct numbers. The policing have very little knowledge of what actions have taken place during the crime, therefore without the victim or witnesses the crime can be ignored. Some crimes are not even recorded and this is where the 'dark figure' reveals itself. Munice J and McLaughlin E (2001) supported the ideas of Radzinowicz and King (1977) whom "suggested that only about 15 percent of all crimes committed in England and Wales were recorded officially." Which brings me to conclude that the crime statistics are not entirely reliable or valid this is because most crimes are not recorded from either victims as they may feel too frightened to report abuse such as rape that have left a emotional harm to themselves. Also crime may not be recorded from the police as they may be following the role of proactive and reactive which allows them only to report certain crimes to the home office.

Unreported crime such as domestic violence does not go into the statistics Therefore, "there are two sources of 'bias' in the police recorded counts of crime-the propensity of the public to report crime and the practice of the police recording it. (Hale C and Wincup 2009: 54)

The police of criminal justice define crime differently as to the public. This is because they believe that the crime should come under the criminal law. In order to find this, the police tend to try and identify if a criminal act was performed either for the witnesses or victim. Even so, after this the discussion of "act as a criminal and the detection of that act" rises.

Police statistics effect the BCS as policing have different culture expectations and have different procedures that officially affect the statistics. This makes it unreliable as each community has different police forces made up of different characteristics and therefore they may consider some crimes as a minor and some less important even though the crime may be serious. "The process of socialization of new recruits leads them to focus upon 'not what the job is for, but how it is and ought to be done'" (May, T. 1997:70). Therefore the crimes that are reported to the police are considered to be a criminal offence therefore this would not make it in to the BCS. The BSC designate that only 1 in four crimes are reported. This shows that the crime statistics are more or less bias and very unreliable due to the fact that the police force does not take certain offences serious and also that the public may be uncertain to report crimes.

There are many other factors that relate to and also affect the crime statistics. These include law changes which created controversy ascertaining whether there is more or less crime in the present years. An example to this is the drug law which has made the public increasingly creating the crime of taking class A drugs which means that changing the law can have vast affects as these increase the crime statistics. "The prime minister and the home secretary claimed that 61 percent of those arrested had illegal drugs in their system." (Munice J and McLaughlin E, 2001: 37). Changed in the law also include new political powers which overrite the rules creating sudden changed that public do not expect. However how reliable does this make the BCS as the numbers have only increased due to the changes

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