The various Methods of data collection

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As a newly appointed member of Russex County constabulary, I plan to obtain national crim statistics- focusing mainly on 'rape' statistics. I will comment on the value of data and highlight advantages and disadvantages of this data and finally and come up with appropriate business actions that could be taken and enable Russex constabulary to help prioritise their work.

Methods of data collection

Official statistics are those published by the central Government. This source of statistical information informs the general public about the extent of 'notifiable offences'. Official statistics are easy and cheap to access as you can observe them on the Home Office web page. The second source of statistical information comes from the British Crime Survey (BCS). These statistics are 'unofficial' and the procedures used to gather information are completely different to the first, as the statistical data comes from surveys carried out by the public themselves. The statistics given are based on a large representative sample of the general public about their experiences as victims of household and personal crime. The BCS endeavours to provide a count of crime that consists of episodes not reported to the police, therefore examining the "dark figure" of crime which is not recorded in official statistics.

The British Crime Survey (BCS) is a large random survey of private households, designed to give a count of crime that includes incidents not reported to the police, or those reported to them but not recorded. The main BCS interview takes place face-to-face, with no gender matching of interviewer and respondent. This context is not conducive to accurately measuring levels of highly personal victimisation. Estimates of the level of sexual victimisation obtained by the main BCS are acknowledged to be underestimates

Consequently, the survey now makes use of Computer Assisted Self-Interviewing (CASI), whereby respondents keyed their responses into a laptop computer themselves. This method provides respondents with an increased sense of confidentiality and minimises 'interviewer effects'. Respondents who answered the self-completion modules were routed through a series of three 'screener' questions, designed to identify whether or not they had been a victim of a sexual offence. If they responded positively to one or more of these, they then answered a series of follow-up questions, designed to elicit the exact nature of the 'last incident' experienced.

Data as a management tool

Data collection is practical because you cannot manage what you do not measure.  Statistics from data enables a police department to make smart judgments and assists them in possibly identifying department and procedural problems.  Data collection is also a great gesture to the community, showing law enforcement has the willingness to take an inward look to prevent discrimination.  It also displays a true commitment by law enforcement to address community concerns and needs.  Data collection gives everyone something to work with even though it might be just a partial solution.  With mandatory data collection, officers will be forced to think about what happens during an encounter and what they do and say and possibly what parts should be looked at closer.  Data collection provide a basis for important policy changes. . 

Statistical techniques

Line Graph

A line graph is most useful in displaying data or information that changes continuously over time. The example below shows the Rape of a female from 1993-2005/06

Some of the strengths of line graphs are that:

They are good at showing specific values of data, meaning that given one variable the other can easily be determined.

They show trends in data clearly, meaning that they visibly show how one variable is affected by the other as it increases or decreases.

They enable the viewer to make predictions about the results of data not yet recorded.

Unfortunately, it is possible to alter the way a line graph appears to make data look a certain way. This is done by either not using consistent scales on the axes, meaning that the value in between each point along the axis may not be the same, or when comparing two graphs using different scales for each. It is important that we all be aware of how graphs can be made to look a certain way, when that might not be the way the data really is.

'Rape of a female' - Long-term national recorded crime trend

he rate of rapes on females during this period has dramatically increased (see above). Leah Williams from the Women's Resource Centre stated that 'there were 1,842 rapes reported in 1985, compared to 14,449 in 2005.  There may be a good explanation for this trend. Research by feminist scholars Hanmer and Saunders (1984) cited in Goodey (2005) found that 'everyday' reality of women's encounters of violence by men were not revealed in the BCS because the BCS is not designed to reveal such information. Therefore the number of rapes on females may not have increased during this period, but the number of reports to the police has increased. This suggests that rapes which may have occurred prior 1995 are only being reported to the police in the last decade. This may be due to the social construction of the police changing. There are more female officers now than previously which makes rape victims more willing to talk to female officers than male officers. Society has also changed in order to provide more victim support for rape victims by establishing rape centres for victims. However, Hough (2004) stated in the Guardian newspaper that the BCS shows that the major types of crime have fallen dramatically since 1995, however, recorded crime has increased. This increase is due to the change in the way in which police count crime. In 1998 it was decided that victim reports of crimes will be recorded even if they are doubted. This may be an alternative reason to why there is an increase in rape crimes, as rape is hard to record without sufficient evidence.

Reservations over data

How accurate are the estimates?

Unreported rape - may feel that the government cannot do anything about it

There are several reasons why the BCS self-completion modules are likely to underestimate the true level of sexual victimisation in England and Wales for women

• general survey errors associated with response, sampling and coverage - in particular, the BCS does cover institutions, the homeless or women under the age of 16, which excludes some 'high risk' women

• the 'crime context' of the BCS may lead to some women not reporting incidents they do not view as criminal, particularly where the perpetrator is known

• the 'screener question' format will exclude women who do not identify with the particular terminology used in the questions

• the BCS interview is not always conducted in private and the presence of other people in the room may inhibit disclosure, especially if this includes the perpetrator of an attack.

Conclusion actions and recommendations

Sexual offence statistics could be improved by enhanced police procedures, and by having better facilities to encourage a greater willingness of victims to come forward. The sexual crime reduction team are committed to tackling sexual offences and to providing the right support for victims. Better facilities have been introduced through the introduction of 13 sexual assault referral centre across the country. The Government 'want to make these multi agency services for victims available on a national basis, along with a rape help line'.

 Low reporting rates to the police particularly occur in the area of rape, where the respondent might find it embarrassing or difficult to talk about the attack. However, this problem is trying to be countered out. 'Computer - assisted self-interview forms have been introduced for issues such as sexual attacks'. Even so much of this area of offences is still missed as victims might want to stay in denial, and keep the fact that they have been a victim of a sexual assault within their sub-conscious, due to finding it to painful to think about.

Further specialist training for sexual offence cases should be undertaken by officers. As a result of these services, victims should feel more confident from the outset that their case is treated with professionalism and empathy. In turn, it will improve theirs and others confidence in the criminal justice system. Ultimately, this enhanced approach should lead to more reporting, recording and subsequently more realistic statistics.       

Offer tips for rape prevention.

Wider use of rape clinics, and awareness of these.

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