Defining and Measuring Crime and Deviance.


This assignment will discuss the problems between crime and deviance, what counts as crime and deviance and how it varies with place and time. It will include the difference and similarities and give examples of defining crime and deviance. Finally the essay moves on to looking at how to identify why official statistics do not reflect in today’s society and may not be totally accurate.

Crime is usually looked upon as an infringement of criminal law where as deviance has a vast and wider approach to crime and is consequently much harder to define. Crime is not a naturally occurring phenomenon it is manmade and more significantly, they are influenced by powerful groups within society. (Doherty, M.2005 page9)

The simplest way of defining crime is to present it as something that is totally against the law and punishable by the state. For example, in this country the sale and consumption of alcohol to under 18 year olds (minors) is against the law and it can carry a heavy fine and penalty. Drugs in Britain are illegal and can carry a severe sentence such as imprisonment. (www.sociology.org.uk)

In the 1960’s legislation decriminalised aspects of homosexuality, abortion and prostitution at one point they were classed as criminal but they are no longer categorised as crime. (Croall.H 1998 page5).

Abortion is still an issue even though it’s no longer classed as crime, cultures criteria vary from country to country. Attitudes to homosexuality and abortions have changed dramatically, but is still frowned upon by those who still think it is morally wrong and its society who decide if it’s acceptable or not, as you can see crime and deviance are both social constructions and they can vary between cultures and time. (www.womansphere.com)

Deviance is a non conformist behaviour which society in general frowns upon as it transcends away from the social norms. Deviance may result in formal or informal punishment or stigmatisation (negatively viewed and scorned by others) for example Goths are seen as deviant as they go against social norms. (www.tutor2u.net)

Crime is usually looked upon as a violation of criminal law whereas deviance has a wider approach to crime and is therefore much harder to define.
Rape and murder are defined as criminal and deviant, so the problems that have escalated over time concerning crime and deviance are what one could define as crime may in another one’s mind be defined as deviant. Therefore it is true to say that not all crime is deviant and not all deviance is crime it could be neither or both (www.ruthssociology.com) Crime is a behaviour that is against the law, which in fact can carry a heavier punishment than the punishment of deviance itself.

Having looked at the problems in defining crime and deviance, this essay will now move onto looking at the difficulties in measuring crime.

Official crime statistics are collated by the government and compiled by the home office every 6 months; they gather the statistics from all the police forces in England and Wales for the previous year, so it can achieve a better understanding of the trends in crime. The home office looks at the different uses of official statistics, by monitoring trends, looking at different areas- for example is there likely to be more obscurity with gangs in under privileged areas, than in upper class areas. Comparing age groups, monitoring how effective policing is – are there enough police, community police officers and specials out on the beat to deter the problems that may occur. (www.homeoffice.gov.uk).

The difficulties concerning crime statistics are that they do not always include figures from other agencies, for example The British Transport Police, The Ministry of Defence, The Inland Revenue, Customs and Excise and The Department of Social Security. The statistics do not include those that are detected by private security agencies such as store detectives. (www.homeoffice.gov.uk).

Racial crime is soaring, and goes unreported for the reason that the victims live in fear of reprisals, if they report the incident. It will often go unreported since the victims feel they have no confidence in the police and see’s reporting the incident as pointless.

For criminal offences to make its way into the statistics then these things must happen for that crime to be reported. Somebody must be aware that a crime has taken place, then that crime must be reported and the police must accept that a law has been broken. The statistics do not include crime that the public do not report or are unaware of. If a particular crime does not get recorded or goes undetected because of certain situations as some may see it as too trivial, even feeling embarrassed or afraid of reprisals for example a stolen purse, a man that has been raped, or someone complaining about a gang member, (Jacobs, M 2006 page 19)

Identity fraud is another main problem, as the victims are oblivious that they are actually the victim of this horrendous crime until maybe years down the line or when they apply for credit etc. Incidents like these are rarely reported so it then just becomes another “dark figure of crime” so that can question the reliability of the crime statistics. (Jacobs, M 2006 page 19)
Another problem that affects crime statistics is white collar crime. As quoted by (Sutherland: cited in lexisnexis.com)

White collar crime has been defined as a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.
White collar crime is committed by people who have responsibility and if they did get to court then it was showing few and far between in the statistics. White collar crime is very different from conventional every day crime as it can be a non-violent offence as the victims can sometimes be unaware. (sociologyguide.com)

In conclusion this essay has shown the main problems involved in measuring crime and deviance. It is imperative for society to know that different police forces classify crimes differently, and crimes vary within different areas, time and generations’, and that the main reason crime statistics are hard to measure is due to the dark figure. So it is significant that official crime statistics are not to be taken at face value.

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