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    An Outline of the Sociological Methods for Recording Crime

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    For everyone to know the amount of crime that takes place in society, it has to be reported and recorded. People can report crime either directly to the Police or by using the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW). There are also self-report studies which are used for people to admit to crimes that they may have committed. There are complications with these methods as they all depend on the accuracy and truthfulness of the Police, victims and criminals. If the methods aren’t done accurately, data will be inaccurate making the data collected unrepresentative of the amount of crime which actually takes place.

    The (UN)Official Crime statistics is a main source to find out information about crime. When the Police have recorded a crime that has been reported, it will become a part of the OCS. The data is collected in a systematic and scientific way making it a popular source for positivists. A benefit of the OCS is that they can be easily and quickly searched up online so it is simple to see how much crime has taken place in the UK or in a specific area. The weakness of this method is that not all crimes that are reported to the Police may not be recorded which means it won’t be added to the statistics. The iceberg theory is an example of how inaccuracy occurs in the OCS. The tip of the iceberg represents the crime statistics which we are able to view, which is only a small amount of the iceberg. The remaining of the iceberg which is under the sea, which we can’t see, represents all the crime which goes unrecorded or has even been recorded but not reported by the Police. There are many crimes which victims may not want to report such as rape due to shame or fear.

    There are even crimes such as bike theft which a victim will not report if they feel it is unnecessary to do so. Because of this, the statistics become unreliable because not all crimes that have happened are put on the system. This is why the crime statistics are also known as the Unofficial Crime Statistics because of its inaccuracy of all crimes being reported and recorded.

    Another method for recording crime is the Crime Survey of England and Wales which was previously known as The British Crime Survey. The CSEW involves face to face structured interviews with a national sample of around 50,000 people per year who own a home. Respondents of the survey are interviewed in their homes and asked to fill in a questionnaire on a computer about all the crimes that they have been a victim of. Many commentators and politicians believe that the CSEW is more accurate in comparison to the police recorded statistics. There are some limitations of the Crime Survey such as the response rate being around 75% which means that it is likely that important data is being missed.

    Another limitation of the survey is that the survey is only targeted at people who own a home. This is a problem because homeless people and businesses are also victims of crime so this makes the results of the data collected unrepresentative. Also, the survey is only given to people over the age of 16 to answer which means that child victims are also not included in the data making it misleading for crime in society. Some people may not remember crimes which they have been a victim of which is also another problem for the exactness of the results of the survey.

    Self – report studies are used to get people to say what crimes they have committed. Self- report studies tend to be carried out on younger people, typically white working -class boys. The questionnaires are confidential and anonymous in order to improve validity. For accuracy, it is down to the honesty of the respondent. As it is commonly young boys who are given the self-report study, they may exaggerate or even lie about crime which they have committed which alters the accuracy of the study. Another weakness of the self-report study is the ethics of the research. Ethics of the study is important because in order for it to be carried out, confidentiality must be maintained along with the respondents having the right to withdraw themselves.

    An example of a self-report study is the Farrington study which took place in East London in 1986. 411 boys, aged 8-9, from 397 different families, were participants of this longitudinal study. They were selected from 6 state schools in East London. The aim of the study was to document the start, extent and end of the criminal activity in the lives of families. Interviews took place at different stages of the lives of the participants where they disclosed crimes that they had committed. The last stages of the interviews were when the participants were around the ages of 48. 394 of the participants were still alive and 365 of them agreed to be interviewed at this time. There were many findings of the study, such as, 161 of the participants had criminal records before the age of 48, the number of offences that the participants took part in peaked at the ages of 17-18 and by the age of 32, 78% of the men were living successful lives.

    There are theoretical views of the sociological methods of recording crime. Marxists are critical of the unofficial statistics as they believe that the capitalist state collects crime statistics in order to serve the interests of the ruling class which is known as an ideological function. Marxists think that whoever has control over collecting statistics also has control over manipulating public opinion. Marxists argue that the ideological function of the crime statistics is to criminalise groups which are usually youth, the working class and African- Caribbean’s. Functionalists accept crime statistics and believe that it is valid information. As Functionalists believe that crime is needed in society in order for it to function, it can be suggested that Functionalists view crime statistics as a representation of the continuation of crime which is making society work.

    In conclusion, all methods of recording crime are useful as they all impact society’s understanding of how much crime takes place. I think the most useful method of recorded crime would be the unofficial crime statistics because although not all crimes are reported and recorded to or by the Police, it gives a clear understanding of crime that is going on in society which is a benefit for research into specific crimes or crimes in certain areas.

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    An Outline of the Sociological Methods for Recording Crime. (2022, Nov 27). Retrieved from

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