The Statistical Picture Of Female Crime Criminology Essay

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Over the decades it is becoming apparent that females; women in particular are becoming more violent, as the above headlines illustrate. This chapter will analyse whether or not women are becoming more violent, one strategy in order to establish this is to analyse whether women are engaging in more criminal behaviour today than formerly. In order to examine this it is vital to compare the female percentage of recorded crimes from earlier times with today. It is also necessary to compare this with males. The various crime statistics provides an overall image of violence. Due to the statistics on violence being limited this will give an analysis and help to make judgement of how violent women have actually become.

Arrest, self-report, and victimisation data all reflect that men and boys both perpetrate more conventional crimes and the more serious of these crimes than do women and girls. One of the most regularly observed features of the criminological landscape is that the bulk of crime appears to be undertaken by boys and men (Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990 cited in Newburn, 2007). Indeed, 'sex differences in criminality are so sustained and so marked as to be, perhaps, the most significant feature of recorded crime' (Heidensohn, 1996 cited in Newburn, 2007). Relatively speaking, however, measured, women tend to be much less involved in most sorts of offending. The proportion of women with a conviction is lower at all ages than that for males. (ibid)

However, statistics are said to be open to interpretation and can be manipulated. Due to lack of recorded offences as all offences will not be reported or the police may neglect it. The reasons why most offences might not be recorded for instance men victims of domestic violence will not report due to feeling ashamed or embarrassed of being tortured by their wife. Women may not always report because they do not want their partners to be punished or they feel as if the police will not do anything about it due to them being female. There are several other reasons vice versa.

Official criminal statistics

The official criminal statistics provide notifiable (triable by jury) recorded offences, and can be drawn from aggregate data recorded by official agencies such as the police and courts, but also from criminological research studies. This data is a good starting point in order to analyse to what extent females are getting more violent. It is also a reliable source to compare statistics in comparison to males. (Jones, 2010)

It is widely accepted that in most society's men commit more criminal offences than women as noted above but to what percentage is outlined as follows. In 1997, women comprised 17 per cent of known offenders. Eight per cent of women have a conviction by the age of 40, compared with 34 per cent of men. Serious violence against the person accounted for 10 per cent of women's offending. (Home Office, 1999 in Heidensohn, 1996) This indicates clearly that men are more violent than women but women are still capable of committing violent acts even if it is only 10 per cent of their overall offending.

The officially recorded crimes show that women over longer periods of time and within differing judicial systems have a lower rate of officially recorded crimes. Farrington (1981 in Heidensohn 1985) presents this by estimating the accumulation of criminal convictions over a lifetime in England and Wales; 'This analysis shows 11.70 per cent of males convicted up to the seventieth birthday, 21.76 per cent up to their twenty first birthday and 43.57 per cent at some time in their lives. For females, the figures were 2.1, 4.66 and 14.70 per cent.' In relation to this, females are not only much less criminal than males, they are seen so much less criminal, whereas, convictions are statistically at least said to be 'normal' for males they are very unusual for females. It could be argued though, that the statistics are not very accurate as since the 1960s this low criminal participation rate has not been sufficiently remarked upon or studied. (Heidensohn 1996)

However, over the decades there has been a great rise in female offending. In 2009, there were a higher proportion of foreign national women in prison for drug offences (48%), fraud and forgery (24%). The frequency of reoffending rate is also a measure of the number of offences committed by a cohort of offenders in a one year follow up period. While the frequency of reoffending rate for men increased by 4% (from 149.9 to 156.2 offences per 100 offenders) between 2007 and 2008, that for women increased by 16% (from 129.4 to 150.5 offences per 100 offenders). The adjudications; the rate of punishment for disciplinary offences in prison in 2009 were higher for women (150 adjudications per 100 prisoners) than for men (124 adjudications per 100 prisoners). However, trend data indicate that the 2009 rate for both female and male prisoners represented a five year low. There were differences between the offence profiles of British male and female prisoners. In 2009, violence against the person was the most prevalent offence type for both sexes (with more than 28% of women and 30% of men in prison for this offence). This indicates women are catching up with men. However, the rest of the offence mix differed, with more women in prison for theft and handling (13% versus 5% for men), and more men in prison for sexual offences (12% versus less than 2% for women). (Home office, 2010a)

Arrest statistics

Arrest data provides an indication of a way to examine various offending behaviours but it is not always an accurate way to look at the overall offending rates as it does not include all offences especially those which have not been identified by the police. It can also be said that it is not always a good data to use in order to analyse women's offending behaviour as they get away with most offences and most of them are not reported. Hales (et al 2009) found from the 'Offending Crime and Justice Survey 2003-06', that gender had a huge input in the motive of individual offending. He found that self-report data showed that individuals within the age category of 10-25 years of females were less likely to be offenders than males. The Home Office (2010b), however, noted that in 2008/09 more female juveniles were arrested than males a figure of 22% with males stood at 18%. This has been on-going for the last five years. Also to be noted, in 2004/05 to 2006/07 there was an increase in both female and male juvenile arrests.

In comparison to arrests carried out between 1953 to1974, in 1974 one out of 6 persons arrested was a woman. The average rate of change over the entire two decades was .2.5. For the serious crimes in 1953, 1 out of 10.6 persons arrested was a woman, and in 1974, the ratio had dropped to 1 out of 5.4. The average rate of increase was .46 for the entire period. This was the average increase in proportion of women arrested for all crimes. The average rate of increase was the greatest in the period 1967-1974-.49 for all crimes and.57 for serious offences. Also to be noted that from 1961 onward the percentage of women arrested for serious crimes was greater than the percentage of women arrested for all offences. (Walklate, 2004) The proportions of female and male arrests for serious crimes as a percentage of total male and female arrests for all crimes reported are the following. In 1953, 1 out of 28 women were arrested for serious crimes as opposed to slightly less than 1 out of 10.9 male arrests. But two decades later, more women were arrested for serious offences (about 1 out of 4) than were males (about 1 out of 5.2). This shows that women are becoming more violent as the decades go by, and as their roles adjust within society. (Simon, 1979)

Do men and women commit the same kinds of crime?

There seems to always have been a huge controversy when looking at the comparison between male and female offending types, the main reason being that the traditional sociologists and criminologists neglected the fact that women are also capable of offending. Heidensohn (1996) stated that, even though offending rates are not the same as the sex differences plays a part to this, however, women do offend whether it's the least serious or most serious. They can plan a part in terrorism or homicide even domestic abuse and burglary. It was also found that women had a huge input in property crime compared to men.

However, many criminologists have found that women's involvement and motive behind becoming involved in criminal activity is more to do with contributory reasons, such as to provide for their family and children when they do not have a legitimate way of doing so. Many women even go into prostitution in order to provide for their family and so on. Walklate (2004) states this as the 'Feminisation of Poverty Thesis'. This was a survey carried out of 1,000 mothers who were in prison. The survey outlined the most common reasons why women tend to offend. Firstly, they stated having no money was the most prominent reason (54%), secondly, mixing with the wrong crowd had a major affect (46%), thirdly, need to support their children (38%), fourthly, consuming drinks or drugs (35%) and lastly, family problems and having no job (33%) (Newburn 2007)

Further to this, Tarling (1993 in Walklate, 2004) found in 1990 the figures of male and female offending rate ratio form as the following; male and female participation in sexual offences was 105:1, theft and handling stolen goods 3:1. Females are always less in sexual offences as it is not possible for them to carry out this offence, whereas theft and handling is more convenient for females at times a necessary need as the above information implies this. Heidensohn (1989 in Walklate, 2004) states, overall women offend less than men. As many of the criminal activities are male driven, such as murder is seen to be more of a male activity due to males being regarded as a stronger and less sympathetic character compared to women. Men are also found to be the highest number in relation to being the perpetrator and also victims of murder.

Murder is one type of violent act carried out by an individual whether male or female, throughout the years females have not been mentioned a lot to have carried out this violent act. In the 2001 statistics showed that 42 per cent of female homicide victims were killed by their current or former partner and this was only 4 per cent for males. This does not draw a conclusion that women have never committed such offences. However, Scrapec (1993 in Walklate 2004) states, women's motivation behind this type of offence are always different than men. He identified that those women who kill have been in a violent relationship with a male partner which has led them to this outcome. It is due to them being abused beyond what they can take where they cannot endure any more abuse which leads them to murder their partner. Jones (1990 in Walklate 2004) also found that overall men and women do commit the same kinds of crime but at different pace, and a woman carrying out a serious offence is less than men.

Holmes (2010) identified 10 offences where female offending rate was at the most highest and this was during the period 1999/00 and 2008/09. Firstly, shoplifting around 49,251 females or can be said 15% of all offenders are most likely to carry out this offence. Secondly, non-domestic abuse violence which was at 28,101 around 9% of all offenders. Thirdly, fraud was the third highest at 23,559 around 7% of all offenders, possession and use of drugs was at 21,598 also around 7% of all offenders and lastly, domestic violence assault at 16,836 around 5% of all offenders.

Furthermore, in relation to the above categories of offences this shows that females make a significant contribution to all known offences. They can also carry out offences which they cannot fulfil themselves but play a role in such as rape. Women can be charged as collaborators for their contribution to this type of crime. There are also certain types of offences for which only women can be charged for such as infanticide and prostitution. Overall, women's participation in different offence categories does vary considerably. (Heidensohn 1996)

In order to bring this to a summary, Mayhew has identified that women participate in all known offences but the offence which they carry out the most is shoplifting due to this being a public activity and easier to carry out. Many of the offences are the similar to the offences males tend to carry out but it is not necessary to draw to a conclusion that there are 'sex specific' crimes or just 'masculine crimes' as women are in all other offence categories as well (Smart 1977 in Heidensohn, 1996). Lastly, crimes recorded are not just carried out by males as females do also have a part to play in criminal activity.

Do men and women offend for the same or different reasons?

The reason behind women offend can be seen as a different matter at times or sometimes it is the same purpose as men or in general the same motive for every human being. People in general tend to offend as noted above for money, anger success, kicks and out of pure need.

Women tend to commit more offences due to anger, this is not expected by a woman but if she openly shows her aggression it is seen as a fearful break with her femininity hence people are more shocked at the stroppy female drunk than at a blaspheming boozed up bloke. Due to society perceiving women in a different way to men, they assume men are vicious and can be angry but women are not allowed to show their violent side. They are also not allowed to kick off, there is a wide spread misconception in relation to this dating back to the 'biological passivity' theories of Lombroso and beyond which assumes that women are either totally good or totally cracker's. In other words justifying that women who do carry out violent acts are not women. And lastly, most women offend out of pure need. Many women in prison are 'very poor, disadvantaged women who are not very articulate, who can't read very well…ignored, unhappy people'. It is often stated that women's crime is glibly connected with psychiatric disturbance; however this can be said to be an emotive argument, as desperate measures take upon a given situation in great need. (Hicks 1987 in Bardsley, 1987)

Carlen et al (1985 in Walklate 2004) identified; when women are given or find the opportunity to commit crime they will take upon that opportunity which can be for the same purposes as their male counterparts. This is similar in the cases of white collar crime and terrorism. Drawing on from this in the field of crimes against the person it has been observed that sex repression, envy, jealousy and vengeance seem to furnish the motives of crime more often for females than male offenders. (Pollak 1961)

Women in prison

Females within the Criminal Justice System have been increasing as so the pattern between male and female crime appears to be converging as the statistics have shown. Women in prison are also an indication of women becoming more violent. However, for years, women have been only a tiny fraction, usually around 4% of the total prison population. Part of the reason, of course, is women's relatively low crime rate compared to men's. Historically, women were much less likely to be imprisoned unless the female offender did not fit the stereotypical female role. Such differential treatment of women, sometimes referred to as chivalry's seems to have become a statement of the past, as Chesney-lind and Pasko (2003 in Wormer, 2010) observe.

The following is what they identified; women were only 4% of the U.S. incarcerated population in 1980, by 2000 women comprised 6.4% of the prisoner total (in local jails and prisons), and by 2008 women comprised 6.9% of the prison total (West& Sabol, 2009 in Wormer, 2010). The growth rate for the last two years has levelled off. In the United Kingdom, the incarceration rate for women has increased 50% from 1998 to 2009 (ibid). This increase seems to be pronounced among older women who are serving short sentences of several months for non-violent offences such as shoplifting. Canada similarly has seen an increase; over the past five years a 30% increase of the number of women held in custody awaiting trial, and the number of the prison population for females has gone from 5% to 6% since 2001 (ibid). This clearly illustrates that women are becoming more violent, something that was very rare to see is now becoming more common. There are more women serving prison sentences than previously and it has raised a huge amount in the United Kingdom.

The following are the recorded figures for United Kingdom (Prison reform trust 2010); 6 August 2010 the number of women in prison within England and Wales was 4,230.1 which show's an increase of 33% from the previous decades. If looked back at 1995 the prison population of women was at 1,979 nothing near to what it stands at now. In 2000 it went to 3,335 and then in 2007 it was recorded at 4,283. Altogether there were a total of 11,044 women in prison in 2009.

Moreover, a point to be noted which was identified by the Prison reform trust (2010) was that women only serve short sentences. The figures to clarify this stand at for 2009, 61% of women served six months or less, 27% of these women were said to have no previous convictions what so ever, which was more than men. Another point is that over half of these women entering custody every year do so on-remand. They spend altogether on average up to four to six weeks within the prison and also 60% of these women do not receive a custodial sentence. In 2009, estimates of 1,052 women were prisoned due to breach of court order and 64.3% of women who were released from prison in 2004 were seen to be reconvicted within two years of their release. This in comparison to the figure ten years ago which was at 38% is seen as a significant increase (ibid).

This section has outlined that women tend to be less involved in most sorts of offending and the bulk of crime appears to be undertaken by boys and men mostly. This has been the debate for many criminologists and sociologists. However, statistics show women do participate in criminal activities but they get away with most of the offences and most of them are not reported. This could be one of the main reasons why women's violent offences are not always recorded within the statistics and it is difficult to establish whether they are violent or not. The official statistics shows the different crimes women commit which is an indication as to they are violent as violence needs to be present in order to commit an offence.