Why crime statistics fail

Why Crime Statistics Fail To Accurately Reflect The Amount Of Crime Committed

Crime statistics were first published by the police force in 1876 in England and in Wales. Crime statistics attempt to provide accurate statistical measures of crime in society. Crime statistics are measured by police records and is used as a data resource also along with the police records there is a public survey called the British Crime Survey, the survey acts as an important source of information about different levels of crime and takes into consideration of the public's feelings and attitudes of the public towards crime, as well as other criminal justice issues. The effect of the BCS gives a participation in playing an important role in informing Government Policy.

The BCS along with the police records determine the amount of criminal offences that have been recorded in England and Wales, the data that has been recorded by police are that of people/victims and police recording criminal offences whereas the BCS enquires by asking people about crimes they have experienced within the last year. By this survey this provides information to inform crime reduction measures and to evaluate their effectiveness. This is one of the key methods in which information about crime has been distributed to the public through the use of crime statistics. This again provides an important role in informing Government policy and to provide paramount indication of the extent of crime committed in England and in Wales. Using both police recordings and the British Crime Survey it gives us a more accurate and a better overall picture of the extent of crime being committed each year.

However, although using the British Crime Survey and in conjunction with the police recordings there are still an inaccurate number of crime statistics being committed. Official crime statistics are overwhelmed with a ‘dark figure' the gap between the degree of crime which is committed and of that, that gets recorded onto the official crime statistics is often reported as the dark figure of crime. It is reported that only half of the crime that has been committed is reported by the police. Koffman (1996) reported that crime statistics are not always the legitimacy of the actual crime that has been committed ‘it's widely accepted that these are official crime statistics, based on offences reported to and recorded by the police, provide a poor reflection of all crimes that are actually committed each year.'

The first British Crime Survey was carried out in 1981; this showed a dramatic difference in crime statistics in both the British Crime Survey and Police recordings. The British Crime survey reported that 11 million people were a victim of crime in England and in Wales whereas the police had only recorded 3 million of crimes committed in 1982. Hough and Mayhew reported in 1983 that ‘only a minority of incidents that are recognised as ‘crimes' by their ‘victims' end up in the official statistics'

Statistics does not include offences recorded by the British Transport Police, the Ministry of Defence Police, or customs and exercise. It is apparent that there are various factors that contribute to the continuous dilemma of the dark figure of crime.

There are various difficulties associated with the use of the official criminal statistics connected to the concept of the dark figure. There are a number of factors that may contribute to the unequal amount of recorded crime compared to the actual crime that has been committed and to the openly mistrust of criminal statistics. One of the key issues is embedded in which offences that are committed and changed into statistics.

For a criminal offence to be actually reported it must be detected and detectable. A lot of circumstances criminal offences are not identified or recognised as a crime. Criminal offences that are trivial and go unreported are crimes such as vandalism, minor shop thefts. Also white collar crime is sometimes identified as a victimless crime this is where there is no victim to detain a crime like this could be fraud.

Alternatively a victim may fear that they will not be taken seriously by the police and therefore does not substantiate the effort that may be vital or possible consequences such as further victimisation. For example, a victim would not report rape to the police he or she fears that they will not be taken gravely. Or another victim of crime of racial harassment may not want their local police authorities because he or she may worry that the police will not act to protect his or hers interests.

Further more people were not taking into consideration the extent or the seriousness of the crime that had been inflicted on them or they may have thought that the police could not take further into account of the crime.

As Muncie (2001) reported, ‘the British Crime Survey has consistently revealed that only about 50 per cent of crime is in fact reported to the police.'

Another main factor is the police policy which is to record any reported crimes. It is also believed that almost half of crimes that have been committed are not reported by the police. There are many reasons why this may be because of various reasons such as the home office having set guidelines in recording crime, when someone wishes to report a crime to their local police it is then in the police officers hand whether to report the crime and make a decision whether or not. Also local police authorities have their own policies implemented subject to their own analysis. This allows local police authorities to use the performance targets which monitor the performance on tackling crime it theoretically focuses on reducing and preventing crime. Although this seems a reasonable and beneficial in the 1990's and the 2000's the performance targets were examined on a Basic Command Unit and showed evidence that police were under recording crime.

There has been a dramatic difference in the recordings from police recordings and the British Crime Survey results, with the police being known for only recording half of the actual crime committed. The British Crime Survey reported that there was a crime increase throughout the period of the 80's and the 90's reaching to 19 million crimes in 1995, with now domestic burglary and vehicle crimes are reported to have dropped by fifty percent. Measurements from the British Crime Survey in 2007 to 2008 showed that there was no change to crime being committed than the previous year, however police reported that there was a fall of five percent since 2007 to 2008.