The Official Statistics Debate Relevant names and issues to mention in your essay work. Who gathers statistics?

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The Official Statistics Debate

  • Relevant names and issues to mention in your essay work.

Who gathers statistics?

  • The government gathers statistics from the police.
  • It commissions research projects from university researchers and teachers.
  • Other agencies concerned with crime gather statistics.

Statistics: a social construction

  • Statistics may appear to be facts.
  • However, statistics are not fully reliable as they are socially constructed by the people who gather the data.

What do statistics measure?

  • Statistics measure crimes.
  • Crimes are socially defined, what is a crime will vary according to changes in norms, values and mores.
  • Things are made criminal, and they are legalised as society changes.

The case of domestic violence

  • There are more reported cases of domestic violence than in the 1970s.
  • Is there more violence?
  • Probably not – the police did not act on reports of domestic violence and many women regarded violence as a ‘normal’ part of marriage.

Jock Young

  • Jock Young (1994) pointed out that laws have been created, often quickly and without forethought, in response to moral panics or to political events.
  • Examples include various laws against terrorism

Stephen Moore

  • Stephen Moore points out that the police play a very significant part in the social construction of crime and deviance because it is they who record reported crimes.


  • Atkinson criticised Durkheim’s study of Suicide.
  • He said that Coroners create a definition of a typical suicide and then categorise individual deaths according to that social construction.

Frances Heidensohn

  • Heidensohn says that the police have a powerful ‘canteen’ culture, which has elements of masculinism, authoritarianism, intolerance of ethnic minorities, a desire for excitement and strong notions of law enforcement.
  • They will therefore categorise acts as criminal on the basis of these perceptions

Howard Becker

  • Becker pointed out that delinquent boys were less likely to be charged if they behaved with a sufficiently cooperative and pleasant manner and if they were seen as basically ‘good’ than if they were aggressive or hostile.

How do we know about crime?

  • Official Statistics
  • Victim Studies
  • Self Report Studies

Official Statistics

  • Tell us about patterns of reporting, recording and conviction.
  • We learn about public and police practice.
  • They give us a base line from which to work.

Victim studies

  • The best known is the biennial British Crime Survey.
  • This is available on-line.
  • Adults from a large sample report which crimes they have experienced.
  • They also report which crimes they have told the police about – this is usually less than half the crime experienced.

The British Crime Survey

  • The statistically average person aged 16 or over can expect
    •  a robbery once every five centuries (not attempts)
    • an asssault resulting in injury (even if slight) once every century
    • a family car to be stolen or taken by once every 60 years
    • a burglary in the home once every forty years
  • This glosses over the fact that some people are considerably more at risk than others.

The Islington Crime Survey

  • Conducted by Jones et al (1986)
  • Islington is the seventh most deprived area in England).
  • The researchers found higher levels of victimisation and multiple victimisation amongst women, ethnic minorities and the poor.
  • Burglary, robbery, or sexual assault had touched a third of all households within the last twelve months.

Feminists and victim studies

  • Feminist researchers such as Hanmer and Saunders 1984, Hall 1985 suggest levels of sexual crime against women are far higher that those revealed by national victim surveys and infinitely higher that those indicated by police records.

Fear of crime

  • The British Crime Survey shows that older women tend to be the most afraid.
  • Younger men - who are most likely to end up victim in a violent or criminal incident on the street - are the least likely to admit fear.
  • However the repercussions for older people may be more serious if a crime is committed.

Self Report studies

  • Ordinary people are asked what crimes they have committed.
  • These reveal high levels of petty criminality.
  • They tend to focus on minor misdemeanours rather than serious acts of deviance.

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