crime statistics


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crime statistics

the official statistics recording ‘serious crime’, which in England and Wales are compiled from the record of ‘notifiable offences’ which each police force is required to assemble. As with all OFFICIAL STATISTICS, debate exists as to the reliability of these statistics as indicators of the incidence of crime. Plainly such statistics can record only reported crime. Apart from this, numerous ‘biases’ and sources of inaccuracies exist in the collection of statistics. For example some categories of crime (e.g. WHITE-COLLAR CRIMES, crimes by women) appear to be systematically underrecorded, the result of police decisions not to prosecute, while other categories of crime (e.g. ‘mugging’, drug offences), which are the subject of public concern, may attract disproportionate police attention; there are also differences over time and between different police forces in the efficiency with which statistics are collected. An alternative source of data on the incidence of crime are crime surveys (e.g. Jones et al., 1986).

In Britain, these indicate that official statistics of crime underestimate the actual incidence of some categories of crime by a factor of five (for vandalism, minor thefts, etc), with smaller, but still substantial, under recording occurring for other categories of crime.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
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