Previous to April 2012 the Home office was the most definitive source of being accountable for recording official statistics, since then the Office for National Statistics took responsibility for such data. This essay will cover the current trends portrayed by the Home Office criminal statistics, and the levels of insight we obtain form understanding them. Initially to learn and get an understanding of the current crime problem we must understand that there are official statistics recorded by the Home Office and also criminal justice agencies, and some statistics relating to the British Crime Survey.
In some instances these may be deemed ‘unofficial’ but are still in fact funded by the Home office. It will also explore the two main forms of measuring crime; police recorded crime and the British Crime Survey and what information can be gathered from them. The latest National Statistics on crimes detected by the police in England and Wales…are based on data collected from the 43 Home Office police forces and the British Transport Police’.
(Home Office) The release suggests an estimated 9. million crimes measured by the BCS in 2010/11. This figure in comparison to last year’s 9. 5 million is not statistically significantly different. These figures tell us that since the survey started in 1981 crime has remained at its lowest level. Crimes recorded by the police in 2010/11 were 4. 2 million; presenting a 4% decrease compared with the previous year and also at its lowest since the new counting rules was introduced in April 2002.
From these statistics we can learn that both forms of measurement indicate the falling levels of crime, the primary trend is that since 2004/05 crime has been fairly flat, as there were a few significant statistical changes each year, and the reduction in police recorded crime is smaller than that was reported in the previous three years. Thoroughly examining these statistics will give us an insight to the current crime problem, what crimes are being committed, of what type and give us a general idea of victimization rates.
The BCS provides estimates of the number of crimes experienced across England and Wales. With regards to the type of crime, Home Office crime statistics tell us that there has been a 14% increasing domestic burglary compared with previous BCS survey. It indicates, in the long term, burglary has fallen by 57% between the years of 1995 and 2010/11 and non-domestic burglary, in contrast, decreased by 4% in 2010/11, continuing the general downward trend (down 41% since 2002/01).
Police recorded violence against the person fell by 6% between 2009/10 and 2010/11, decreasing in both violence with injury down 8% and violence without injury down 4%. The 2010/11 BCS estimates violence to be 11% lower than the 2006/07 and 2010/11. From both sources we can see a consistent fall in vandalism, where the BCS shows decrease by 9% and police recorded crime by 13% in comparison to the previous years. Victimization rates also recorded by the BCS; conducted survey in 2012/11 indicates estimated 6. 1% of households experienced vandalism which shows a 7% decrease compared to the previous year.
But in question how reliable are official crime statistics; ‘criminologists have long recognized that there is a large hidden or ‘dark figure’ of crime and that official crime rates reflect only those crimes reported to the police’ (Croall, 2010). Considering recorded crime by the police we understand statistics compiled by court and cautioning records give an official picture of those responsible for criminal offences, these together present a picture of the ‘crime problem’. There’re various reasons why these statistics are not representative of the total volume of crime.
First the discretion between recorded and known offences should be taken into account; official statistics don’t a give complete record of criminal offences, here the issues of policing are considered, discretion, resource, deployment and targeting, insufficient evidence, withdrawal of complaint, discretion (prejudice or bias), institutional pressures (organisational performance), court practices etc. Until 1988 summary offences were not coverede. g. driving after consuming alcohol. Neither statistics on recorded crime cover offences dealt with administratively by organisations such as Inland Revenue.
Therefore it is questionable whether they (criminal damage from vehicle or from shops) can be seen as more serious than summary offences dealt with administratively. There’s major issue with the reporting and non-reporting of crimes in relation to official statistics. Majority of recorded crime results from reports by the public and, are a various issues why a crime may not be reported such as; lack of awareness that a crime took place (fraud), victimless crime (prostitution), the matter was dealt with privately. Triviality, distrust in police, the victim was powerless etc. Since some rimesare more likely to be reported than others, official statisticsdon’t reflect the overall pattern of crime. Also police recording practices where police have statutory obligation to record crimes; having some discretion over whether a crime is serious enough to warrant their attention. Police forces also have ‘counting rules’ to calculate the extent of crime where the basic rule is that there should be an indication of the number of victims rather than the number of criminal acts. Evidence therefore shows that official statistics on recorded crime from police fail to provide a reliable and valid measurement of crime.
They maybe systematically biased in underestimating the extent of certain crimes. It can be argued that official statistics are a social construction interaction, based on series of interpretations, definitions and decisions which are influenced by a variety of factors and vary from situation to situation. Official statistics are socially constructed; they are the end product of a range of decisions. The BCS, a victim study conducted annually, where respondents are asked to recall crimes against themselves or any other member of the household over a 12 month period.
There are various crimes excluded from the BCS; crimes such as murder, where the victim is no longer available for interview, so called victimless crimes e. g. drug-possession and fraud. The volume of crime statistics the BCS cannot always be directly compared with police figures, since the BCS includes both unreported and unrecorded crime. Arguably giving a more complete estimate of many crimes compared to police recorded crimes. The trends indicatethe new measure of the National Crime Recording Standard, increased the volume of police recorded crime.
This change raised the volume of police recorded crime by 10%, but it does not reflect a real increase in crime. In evaluating the BCS, we can say that for the crime it covers, it provides a more accurate picture of the ‘crime problem’, extent of crime and of trends in crime than police recorded crime. One reason is because it estimates include unreported and unrecorded crime and also the trends identified by the BCS are not affected by changes in recording practices unlike the trends identified from police records.
However, only a ? of BCS can be directly compared to police recorded crime, being a household survey, it doesn’t cover a range of crimes which appear in police stats e. g. corporate crimes. Problems with official crime stats are magnified as they are examined over time. As more crimes may be reported as time goes on, new types of crime may be emerging and new opportunities opening up for existing crimes. Changes in legislation and law enforcement may result in more crimes being recorded. E. g.
Insurance companies require a police report when a crime has been committed. People may be less willing to tolerate certain types of crime e. g. increases in violence related crime due to violence being less tolerated. The decision in 1977 to include offences of criminal damage of ?20 or less in police crime statistics raised the annual total by around 7%. To include summary offences boosted the total of recorded crime, as well as giving impression of increase in violent crime show how changes in legislation have affected crime statistics.
Also the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS) in 2002, designed to reduce police discretion in recording reports of offences from the public, resulted in ‘rises and falls difficult to interpret’ (Croall 2010),resulting in the highest proportion of reports crime ever recorded by the police. To conclude, when questioning what we learn from official home office statistics we must consider such factors in which methods of crime are measured, as illustrated we cannot gather a true picture of the ‘crime problem’ through one approach.
We may ask, does the rise in recorded crime mean that more crimes are being committed? Evidence presented suggests this may not be the case, shows that at least part of the increases in recorded crime may have nothing to do with changes in the actual volume of crime. Such apparent restrictions and constraints e. g. the omitting of offences recorded by police forces outside the ambit of the Home Office, ‘blur our vision’ of current crime trends.
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