Uses and limitations of official statistics
Official crime statistics are statistics which are published by government agencies or other public bodies such as international organizations relating to the number of crimes committed. They usually provide quantitative and qualitative information on the crimes, where they are committed and their number. (Haralambos, 1981: 563) The official crime statistics describes statistics from an organization that belongs to the government. They are usually disseminated by the national statistical system. Official statistics are used in order to be informed and observe trends of crimes within a society. (Gross, 2010:884)
Official crime statistics
Official crime statistics are usually released by government agencies and have several limitations. In our study we are going to consider the use of official crime statistics by the United Kingdom Government and the limitations that come along with it. (Martin et al, 2009: 52)
Limitations of official statistics
The UK’s official crime statistics are not accurate in terms of its reflection of our everyday experience of crime. The forecasts of crime trends fail to take into account the aspects which are the driving force behind unreported crime. Official crimes are overwhelmed by dark figure of unreported or hidden crimes that take place in almost every aspect of our lives.
The official crime statistics are only mechanisms of prediction and very less is done to what is happening that affects people’s daily lives. They do not have any mechanisms for correcting a particular kind of behaviour.
The official crime statistics do not represent the real life experience of crime. For example data from the British crime survey revealed that there is a remarkable variation in the percentage of crimes being reported by the police.
Some of the official statistics are doctored by politicians thus giving a poor representation of the kinds of crimes that are being reported and the statistics that are recorded about the crimes.
Self report studies
These are surveys or research methods which involves the respondents who read a question and select a response by themselves without the influence of the researcher. It involves asking a participant about his/her feelings. Self reports include: questionnaires and interviews. They are mainly used to gain participants responses in observational studies and experiments. (Martin et al, 2009:234)
Limitations of Self report studies
The self-report answers may be exaggerated. The respondent may include information that does not reflect the exact state of the situation.
Respondents may be too embarrassed to reveal their private lives thus leading to the report being biased thereby not reflecting the real situation on the ground.
They are usually dependent on the person’s feelings at the time he/she is giving the report.
The respondents are also likely to forget pertinent details which may result into giving false information.
This is a type of survey that involves asking a group of people to whom crime have been committed against over a fixed period of time and whether or not they have been reported to the police. This kind of study can be carried out at the national level or local level. The victim studies require that the public report any form of crime committed to them. Victim surveys show that the level of criminal activity is at least double the number which is reported by the official crime statistics. (Martin et al, 2009:235)
Limitations of victim surveys
It is usually not an easy task for the respondents to always recall precisely details of their experiences. This in turn affects the results collected as they are prone to errors.
It is usually not effective for collecting data from crimes such as rape and domestic violence as the victims are always very reluctant to discuss such issues with survey field officers.
General victims surveys do not record crimes against children, drugs firearm related offences and crimes against businesses. This also leads to information biased towards one sector being recorded and ignoring information which could be of very good use for investigations against crime.
According to the crime statistics, most of the people who commit crimes are men. There is a smaller number of women who are involved in violence related crimes like robbery and domestic violence. Instead women involved in the domestic violence are always the victims. There is a major problem especially when it comes to reporting of crimes. Depending on the nature of crime, some victims are not ready to disclose their experience. Some of them even decide not to report the crime at all. Women who are victims of rape always feel embarrassed to speak about the ordeal and sometimes decide not to report as they feel traumatised. Many people have also lost faith in the police in terms of the quality of services they offer. Some people therefore decide not to report the cases as they feel that they may fail to get justice from such institutions. These facts have led to inaccurate Official crime statistics being recorded. (Haralambos, 2004 pp 995)
Martin Holborn, Peter Langley, & Pamela Burrage (2009) Haralambos and Holborn - Sociology
Themes and Perspectives Student Handbook: AS and A2 level Collins Educational Publishers 234-243
Michael Haralambos & Martin Holborn (2004) Sociology: Themes and Perspectives Collins Educational Publishers Sixth edition. 992-1001
Michael Haralambos (1981) Sociology, Themes and Perspectives Collins Educational Publishers 563-574
Richard Gross (2010) Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour Hodder Educational Publishers 882-885