Crime statistics are numerical accounts of information which has been recorded in relation to crime. There are several problems with this approach and any therefore and research which involves crime statistics should be treated with caution. In the past 30 years in England a new system has been introduced which surveys the public’s experience of crime. The British Crime Survey has been taken annually since 2001.
There is a large hidden figure when looking at official crime statistics. It is likely that as few as 2 in 100 offences results in a conviction. Only offences which are reported to the police are counted in official statistics. Sometimes a police officer may not do anything about a report of criminal activity if they feel it is trivial or not as important as other crimes. Getting crimes reported is the first key issue in statistics construction. Not all crimes are reported: police learn about almost all killings but many assaults go unreported, particularly if amongst acquaintances. Property crimes often also go unreported, especially when losses or small or victims feel there is no chance of them getting their property back. Reports of rape are on the rise but a number of rape or sexual assault victims still don’t contact the police for a fear of not being believed or in fear of stigmatization. Often victims of domestic abuse are too scared to report the crime because they are being threatened.
Many issues shape the public’s responsiveness to reporting crime. First, some people have tolerance to certain crimes. Many people turn a blind eye to ‘petty’ crimes like vandalism as they don’t consider it to be severe enough for police interference. In incidents like a teenager stealing a chocolate bar from a corner shop it is unlikely that a police report will be filed as the seriousness of the offence doesn’t seem bad. Another issue is confidence in the police, sometimes victims may feel like the police won’t be able to help them. Victimless crimes also happen, for example drug use, and as nobody is directly being targeted these crimes do not get reported. Often, awareness of a crime is an issue. In fraud cases it is difficult to tell a crime is being committed unless an investigation is carried out therefore many cases go unreported.
There is evidence to prove that offences committed by adults of a high social status are less likely to lead to arrests and convictions than those committed by people of a lower social status. ‘White-collar crime’ is defined by Sutherland as ‘crimes committed by persons of high social status and respectability in the course of their occupations.’ Such crimes include bribery and corruption in politics and business, misconduct by professionals such as doctors and lawyers, the misuse of patents and trademarks and misrepresentation in advertising. There are many problems measuring white-collar crime. Firstly, it is difficult to detect without investigation as many are victimless crimes. Secondly, in cases of bribery and corruption, both parties involved may see themselves as gaining from the arrangement, both are liable to prosecution so neither are likely to report the case. Lastly, in cases where the victim is the general public e.g. misrepresentation