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Issues with Determining Levels of Crime

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2079 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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Can researchers accurately determine the levels of crime committed within a society?

In this essay I aim to outline the strengths and weaknesses of different sources of crime data and explain whether a combination of these methods can create a fully reflective picture of crime in society.

Official statistics of crime in England and Wales are produced by the Home Office in the form of report titled ‘Criminal Statistic, England and Wales’ pre 2002 or ‘Crime in England and Wales’ post 2002. This publication outlines offences committed in categories such as legal categories or the areas in which they were committed (Maguire, 2012). This data is collated from the police, courts, and prisons (Newburn, 2017). These statistics can create an accurate picture of the crimes that are recorded and sentenced throughout time however, this method does allow for the emergence of the dark figure of crime.

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The dark figure of crime is a term used to describe the crimes that are not officially captured in official statistics (Wilson, 2009). There are multiple reasons as to why offences committed may not make it into the official police statistics, most of which cause the crime to either go unreported to the police, or unrecorded by the police themselves. Some reasons for crimes going unreported as outlined by Young (1988 cited in Newburn, 2017), when looking at the British Crime Survey, are that the felt their concerns were too trivial (55%), they felt that the police would be unable to do anything (16%), or that they had a fear of the police (2%). Further to this, Black (1970) identifies several reasons why a reported crime may go unrecorded by the police such as the severity of the allegations, the relative distance between the complainant and the offender, the level of respect shown to police,  and the race or social class of the complainant.

The crimes that do not get captured by the official statistics can be measured in alternate ways, such as the British Crime Survey (BCS), now known as the ‘Crime Survey for England and Wales’, and other victimisation surveys. These surveys ask respondents a series of questions about crimes they may have been victims of throughout the last year (Newburn, 2017). They often aim to measure the gap between reported and unreported crimes, assess public attitudes towards crime, assess the effectiveness of crime prevention measures, and to measure fear of, and responses to, crime (Sparks et al, cited in Newburn 2017). However, these surveys do have limitations regarding who can report victimisation for example, until recently it didn’t include those under 16 so didn’t account for youth victimisation, it uses a household sampling method therefore does not account for homeless victimisation, and it doesn’t include businesses so corporate and commercial victimisation is not accounted for. Additionally, the self report aspect of the survey may mean that not all data collected is fully truthful for example, a person may not report crimes relating to controlled substances as the possession of these items themselves is criminal (Newburn, 2017). Further to this point Hope (2005, cited in Newburn) suggests that other factors such as knowledge of incidents, memory decay, education of the respondent, and interview conditions may also affect the accuracy of the data that is gathered.

Overall, it can be concluded that although the new publication ‘Crime in England in Wales’ uses information that has been collected both as official statistics from the government and the BCS, it may still not paint a full accurate picture of crime. This is due to the fact that whilst victimisation surveys can help fill in gaps in knowledge of unreported crime this too has its weaknesses, therefore the data collected may still not be a full reflection of society.


  • Black, D. J. (1970) “Production of Crime Rates,” American Sociological Review, 35(4), pp. 736.
  • Newburn, T. (2017). Criminology. New York: Routledge
  • Maguire, M., Morgan, R. & Reiner, R. (2012). The Oxford Handbook of Criminology, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • Wilson, J.(2009).  The Praegar Handbook of Criminology. Oxford: ABC Clio

What causes the difference in the rates of offending between genders?

Biological theories of offending suggest that the difference in crime rates occur due to physical differences between men and women. These theories suggest reasons why women may be less likely commit crime, less likely to have their crimes discovered, or less likely to be prosecuted for their crimes. Lombroso and Ferrero (1895, cited in Heidensohn, 1996) suggested that women commit less crime than me because they are less evolved and are more primitive therefore are less able to commit crime. Alternatively, Pollak (1950, cited in Silvestri and Crowther-Dowey, 2016) claimed that women are deceitful and cunning by nature therefore can hide their crimes. However, many studies of biological theories have been criticised for over-reliance on stereotypes of the criminal woman (Mallicoat, 2019)

Sex role theories of crime suggest that the difference in crime rates is best explained through sex-role socialisation (Pollock, 2014). This theory sees a biological difference between men and women which then have specific behavioural sets, or ‘sex-roles’ applied to them via the process of socialisation (Walklate, 2007). Sutherland (1947, cited in Walklate, 2004) suggested that boys were more likely to become delinquent than girls for two reasons, because boys are less strictly controlled than girls, and that boys are socialised to be tough, aggressive, and risk takers, which he believed to be factors in the development of criminal behaviour. On a similar note, Parsons (1937, cited in Walklate, 2007) explains that due to the role mothers play in the household, raising children, girls have little problem finding appropriate role models whereas, boys do not have a male role model available as frequently therefore they reject any expressions of feminism and and pursue expressions of masculinity.These expressions of masculinity, being powerful and rough, often lead to anti-social behaviour which can develop into criminal behaviour. These theories have been criticised for assuming that the roles assigned to each gender are equal within society thus drawing away attention from the social reality of power relationships (Connell, 1987, cited in Walklate, 2007).

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Social control theory presents the idea that women are controlled in society by a shared value system in society and by ideologies of how women should behave (Heidensohn, 1986. Cited in Abbot, Wallace, and Tyler, 2005). Heidensohn (1985) suggests that women have heavy-responsibilities at the domestic level and that these preoccupations can act as a constraint to crime. Similarly, she has been outlined that women are controlled in the home, in public, and at work. Dahl and Snare (1978, cited in Heidensohn 1985) explain that at home women are too heavily supervised by their husbands and families to commit crime. In terms of in public appropriate behaviour for women is defined more narrowly defined than it is for men. Women are controlled in public through fear of male violence, fear of acquiring a bad reputation, and by the separation of the private and public spheres (Heidensohn, 1985). Furthermore, women at work carry the burden of dual roles, work and housework, which limits what she can do. Additionally hierarchies in work are often headed by men which reinforces women’s roles as subordinate to men. On this note, women are often subjected to sexual harassment at work which reinforces mens authority and control (Hadjifotiou, 1983, cited in Heidensohn, 1985).

Liberation theory is the concept that as women become emancipated, or liberated, the rates of female crime will increase. Bishop (1931, cited in Heidensohn, 1985) argued that as women became more emancipated they began to realise that they could never be equal to their male counterparts, making them frustrated, leading to a life of crime. Alternatively, Adler (1975, cited in Heidensohn, 1985) argued that as women become emancipated they are allowed new opportunities into masculine areas of experience and thus can commit traditionally male crimes such as violence.


  • Heidensohn, F. (1996). Women and Crime. Second Edn. London: Macmillan Press Ltd
  • Silvestri, M. and Crowther-Dowey, C. (2016) Gender & crime : a human rights approach. Second edn. London: Sage (Key approaches to criminology).
  • Walklate, S. (2007) Understanding Criminology : Current Theoretical Debates. Maidenhead: McGraw-Hill Education (Crime and Justice).
  • Mallicoat, S. L. (2019) Women, gender, and crime : core concepts. First edn. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications
  • Walklate, S. (2004). Gender, Crime and Criminal Justice. Second edn. Devon: Willan Publishing
  • Walklate, S. (2007). Understanding Criminology: Current Theoretical Debates. Third Edn. Berkshire: Open University Press.
    Abbot, P, Wallace, C & Tyler, M. (2005). An Introduction to Sociology: Feminist Perspectives. Third edn. London: Routledge
  • Heidensohn, F. (1985). Women and Crime. First edn. London. London: Macmillan Press Ltd.

Is there such a thing as victimless crime?

Victimless crime can be defined as ‘behaviours that violate the criminal law but inflicts no harm on the consenting parties’ (Coomber et al, 2015). Some crimes such as drug use, abortion, and homosexuality have been suggested to be victimless crimes as they involve ‘voluntary participants rather than crime victims or complainants’ (Schur, 1965. Cited in Coomber et al, 2014).. Coomber et al (2015) suggest that whether a crime can be seen as victimless depends on whether the involved parties are consenting and whether the act causes harm.  In this essay I will discuss whether crimes can be truly seen as victimless by discussing these two factors.

Paul Barnes (2009) identifies market abuse as ‘the actions of investors that unfairly take advantage of other investors’. One form of this is insider trading which is ‘the illegal buying and selling of securities by persons acting on privileged information’ (Dictionary.com, 2019) . It has been stated that the potential victims of insider trading are the sellers of the stock ahead of a raise in value however, it can be said that, despite these being sold to those with insider knowledge, they would have sold their stocks anyway therefore, the insider knowledge held by the purchaser does not directly affect them (McGee, R, W. 2008. Quoted in Procon.org, 2008). Alternatively, Barnes (2009) suggests that there are clear ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ relating to insider trading as those with insider knowledge can sell their shares ahead of bad news, and that the buyer of these shares loses out as they are set to lose money on tainted stocks. This leads us to the assumption that whilst insider trading to purchase rising stocks may be a victimless crime but using it to sell falling stocks can be seen as having victims as the purchaser receives financial harm.



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