Victims or witnesses report a crime to the police.
The police record the offence if they are satisfied it’s a crime.
They don’t have to catch an offender to record the crime. Police can also discover
crimes themselves such as arresting someone who they see committing a theft.
Police recorded crimes cover large amounts of offenses, making them more valid
than other types of data.
We can compare crime levels over time because records have been kept for
hundreds of years.
Data can be analysed and patterns and trends identified.
Police could be racist and discriminate against ethnic minorities by giving stronger
punishments to them.
The offence might be recorded wrong, manipulated or not recorded at all, making
the records incorrect and therefore invalid.
Police statistics may be unreliable because:
Police officers aren’t consistent in how they classify crimes.
Government rules on how to record crimes change.
The police have tried to encourage victims of homophobic abuse, domestic abuse and
sexual abuse to come forward. Therefore the statistics on these crimes are higher than
in the past, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are more common.
People are asked if they have been victims of crime, whether they have reported it
to the police or not.
51,000 people over the age of 16 are interviewed each year and asked if they have
been the victim of a list of selected crimes. It is therefore possible to compare
findings with police statistics over time.
Higher levels of crime have been uncovered than official police statistics and
sensitive crimes such as rape and domestic violence are more likely to be picked up.
Victim surveys and crime statistics only tell us about the crimes and don’t tell us
anything about who actually committed the crime.
A cross section of the population is asked what offences they have committed.
This method is used in both the US and other foreign countries.
It is possible to find out about victimless crimes such as illegal drug use.
It reveals information such as gender, age and social class about offenders that
the police haven’t caught.
Respondents might lie, exaggerate or mislead the interviewer, making the results
There are no surveys on professional criminals but just on young people and
students because they’re easier to study, therefore the studies are unrepresentative.
Participants in crime and delinquency may be unwilling to talk about their
participation in crimes for fear of the consequences.
Self report studies how found that:
Female offending rates are closer to males than convicting rates say, suggesting that
females ‘get away’ with more crime than males.
Differences in offending by ethnicity and social class are small.
Why are police recorded crimes invalid?
Offenses may be recorded wrong, manipulated or not recorded at all.
How many people are interviewed for the
British Crime Survey?
51,000 people over the age of 16 are interviewed each year.
Give a weakness of self reported studies.
Respondents may lie or exaggerate, making the results invalid.