Social scientist has been aware of the pitfalls and limitation in official crime statistics. Arguments have surrounded the official crime statistics to be sideways, and they can be distorted by social and institutional factors. (Reiner, Maguire and Coleman et al) In this assignment we will analyse the problems surrounding the interpretation of official crime statistics and illustrate how they are constructed and consequently where their systematic biases lies. Dark figures-non-reported and non-recorded criminal behaviour
The core problem interpretating the official statistics on crimes that have been recorded by the police arise from the fact that they are incomplete and biased. For an event to be recorded and known to police category it has to overcome two hurdles: Addressing of Issues and Appropriate handling of procedures. Criminal behaviour must come to the attention of the police and should be recorded as such by the police using his appropriate procedures. Many criminal events may fail to enter the record at either stage.
They may not come to be known to the police at all, even they do, the police may not record them as crimes for variety of reasons. Therefore, the problems of non-reporting and non-recording lead to the official crime statistics becoming icial crime statistics becomeiate handling of procedures. unreliable. (Reiner, 1996) Many offences will fail to become apparent to police due to various social factors. Awareness is such a problem. Some individuals, organisations or government bodies may not be aware that a crime has been committed against them.
The ingenuity of the fraudster, the complexity of the act, lack of knowledge and vigilance of the victim and the police can enable the crime to become invisible. (Jupp et al. , 1999: 7) The invisibility of crime, leads to victim failure to report and the police unable to take a proactive approach to discover Although victims are aware that they have been victimised by criminal acts, they maybe reluctant to report to police due to variety of reasons: fear of reprisals, fear of self incrimination, embarrassment (Devis et al.
, 1995: 82-84) and lack of confidence in the police (Koffman, 1996) However what is more problematic is police bias in recording processes. A great deal of discretion remains in police hands about whether and how to record possible offences, which do come to their notice. They can exercise their discretion for not to record due to their perception, such as considered some cases as too trival, deemed not to constitute a criminal offence, with the result that they are either not recorded at all, or are officially 'no crime' later.
(Maguire, 1997) Thus, the police are reluctant to record some cases due to some institutional reasons, for example, to improve their overall clear up rate. (Coleman and Bottomley 1981) (Maguire, 1997) These reasons lead to approximately 44% of crimes reported to the police do not end up in official statistics. (BCS 1998 p. 19) In this sense, whether to record incidents into official record or not is dependent on the police's culture as well as their institutional practice. These dark figures lead directly into two major dangers in the interpretation of official crime statistics.
(Reiner, 1996) Firstly, they act as an unreliable guide to trends in crimes. An increase in the rate of recorded crime could occur not because of rise in offending behaviour, but because of a higher proportion of crimes being reported by victims, or from more proactive policing discovering more offences, or from police recording a higher proportion of the crimes they become aware of. (Reiner, 1996) Secondly, the statistics may be a highly misleading indication of the pattern of offending.
If some crimes are particularly likely to come to light then the picture conveyed of the prevalent characteristics of crimes, victims and offenders may be correspondingly distorted. (Reiner, 1996) Limited coverage of cases in official crime statistics The incompleteness of official crime statistics are also related to the counting method of official crime statistics. Even as a record of criminal offences officially known to the police, it is still incomplete. Notifiabble offences only included those being tried in Crown Court, leading to a larger number of summary offences, which do not appear in the figures.
Although in general the notifiable offences included, which might widely be regarded as more serious, however is not necessarily the universal case. Summary offences encompasses such cases as common assault, assault on a police officer, crudely to children and drink driving. They are arguably more serious than many cases which regarded as notifiable offences, such as criminal damage or minor thefts. (Maguire, 1997; Reiner, 1996) In addition, the official crime statistics do not include offences recorded by police forces for which the Home Office is not responsible.
(Maguire, 1997; Reiner, 1996) Other governmental policing agencies, such as British Transport Police, Ministry of Defense police as well as other governmental departments like Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise and Department of Social Security. These former departments generally have investigative and prosecutional functions dealing with the vast majority of cases by using their administrative powers to impose financial penalties, yet these are all excluded in official crime statistics, (Maguire, 1997; Reiner, 1996 Coleman et al.
, 1996) unless there is a prosecution and they become part of the statistics in later section of official crime statistics. (Reiner, 1996) This counting method of official crime statistics project the government as well as public perspectives on crime, they both regarded summary offences and those white collar crimes as less important, while in fact, these cases are not really trival in nature. Problems in counting rules of official crime statistics
Apart from the question of the coverage of the official crime statistics, many technical problems exist in the precise construction of the figures that may hamper the recorded numbers misleading and unreliable. (Reiner, 1996) The basic problem is transforming complex incidents into precise numbers of offences for the purpose of recording rates of crime. There are important questions to ask whereby the method in which the individual crimes are counted.
Some kinds of offence tend to be repeated many times within a short period, to the extent that there may be several separate actions or people involved they may consider to form part of one concerted criminal behavior. The number of offences that should be recorded is a matter of interpretation and judgment, without a clear counting guideline, consistency will be unattainable, (Reiner, 1996) thus it will generate difficulty in comparison.
In 1980, an attempt was introduced to establish clearer rules -The instructions for the preparation of statistics relating to crime by Home Office; (Reiner, 1996; Coleman et al. , 1996) nevertheless there is still room for ambiguity and discretion about accounting for crime which could bring about variations in figures. The general rule is now that if several offences are committed 'in one incident', only the most serious is counted, with the exception when violence is involved, in which case the rule is 'one offence for one victim'.
(Maguire, 1997; Reiner, 1996) Though, with regard to the other offences there is only the guideline that a number of incidents which form part of the same series should be counted as one offence. This clearly allows individual police officers responsibility in compiling statistics with a choice of measure of discretion in deciding whether a number of events constitute parts of the same series or separate events. (Reiner, 1996) Farrington and Dowds (1985)'s study based on Nottinghamshire illustrated different police counting method and reactions that distorted the picture of crime.
The study suggested that its apparently huge crime rate in comparison to other counties was due to a greater tendency for the police in Nottinghamshire to record thefts of items of little value, offences originating in admissions, and multiple, continuous or series offences as separate crimes. (Maguire, 1997; Coleman et al. , 1996) hence, the different crime rate reflected differences in police reactions to crime while there was little relations to difference in criminal behaviour. (ibid. )