Someone sees a statistic, believes it and uses the statistic to shape their own common sense understanding if crime, therefore their understanding is limited. Official criminal statistics do not account for all the crime committed in the UK, only for that which is recognised by the victims and the police. It is argued that there is a 'Dark figure of unrecorded crime', and it is said crime often goes unnoticed, ignored, unreported and unrecorded.
Theoretical information also enhances our understanding of crime. Theory provides arguments and explanations within a justified framework; in order understand the study of crime we need to trace the origins and developments of criminological theory through history. A theory is an idea accounting for or justifying something. There are theories for each different explanation of crime; the Sub cultural theory provides a common sense understanding of crime. Albert Cohen 1955 studied delinquent Boys. Cohen found that lower class boys strove to emulate middle class values and aspirations. However they lacked the means to attain success leading to status frustration which is a sense of personal failure.
One result of this was that they rejected those values that they could not be successful with and in attempt to gain status they inverted traditional middle class values mainly within schools creating delinquent boys. Such behaviour builds deviant sub cultures because they don't fit in and therefore start their own group of criminal activity. This shows one of the reasons why people commit crime, therefore giving us a sense of common understanding. Left realism is a perspective that focuses on the reality of crime. According to Jock Young (1977) people commit more crime because of relative deprivation. Young argued that people may commit more crime when they see themselves as deprived in comparison to other people. Many people live on the edge of society and outside of the mainstream with little stake in society. For example the lower class see something they can't achieve so find other ways to get it.
Therefore people adopt the utilitarianism belief of rational choice theory. Otherwise known as Cost benefit analysis in this theory, people use they use their common sense and reasoning to weigh up means verses ends, costs and benefits, and make a rational choice. Evidence for the working class being deprived compare to the middle class comes from Sociology Central 'The working class youth are more likely to be in low paid, or low skilled work (or unemployed). Criminal behaviour may be used as a source of excitement as well as money.' This shows that the working class commit crime to become more like the middle class in terms of possessions. People's common sense understanding is therefore true to what is happening in the real world to do with crime. Crime is an act which breaks the criminal law of society and theories such as those listed above gives reason why.
This essay has shown that common sense understanding of crime has limitations by examining at how statistical and theoretical information affects our understanding. Both the media and statistics play and important play an important role but portray a limited and controlled view on crime resulting in a false understanding. Theory and criminological perspectives on the other hand give people a clearer and more honest picture as to why crime is happening from day to day. This helps common sense understanding to become less limited as it leaves room for us to question and make our own choices and shape our own common sense understanding of crime. But it has less of an influence as the information found within these sources is not publicised due to lacking the required newsworthiness.
Becker, H. (1963) Outsiders: Studies In The Sociology Of Deviance, New York: Free Press
Bulmer, H (1969) Interactionism: exposition and critique, 3rd edn, Rowman Altamira
Berger, P. Sociology Central, Explainations for patterns of crime: Age [online] Available at: http://www.sociology.org.uk/pblsdca.pdf [last accessed on 22/04/09]
Cohen, A. (1955) Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the gang, Glencoe, IL: Free Press.