in seven leading criminology and criminal justice journals were coded regarding
the research methods used, focusing on the general research designs,
data-gathering methods, and statistical analysis techniques employed. The
results indicated that survey research was by far the dominant mode of
acquiring criminological information, that cross-sectional nonexperimental
designs still predominated, and that multivariate statistical methods were the
norm. The findings could aid criminology and criminal justice faculty in
devising graduate methods curricula that reflected the state-of-the-art as
currently practiced by criminological researchers (Journal of Criminal Justice 2006).
Whereas the cons; does
not show complete picture as doesn’t break down statistics (e.g. no statistics
regarding socio-economic background of criminals), Open to political abuse,
parties pick best figures to support their argument, OCS are socially
constructed as society decides what is criminal so that’s what is recorded, Unable
to infer human stories underpinning crimes/don’t know reasons why, May be based
on operational definitions (clear understanding of what is being measured) criminologists
don’t agree with, Police may engage in administrative practices which result in
statistics that are partial in their picture of crime (e.g. coughing and
cuffing), and, Counting rules used by police to categorise crimes change
overtime so it’s hard to draw comparisons of crimes between particular time
There are many pros
and cons within the OCS; the pros include; easy and cheap to access – little
effort is needed on behalf of the criminologists, contemporary data, collected
in a standardised, systematic, scientific way, reliable – can be quickly
checked and verified, allows for comparison between groups, few ethical issues
and no direct contact with criminals, and, no criminologists put in danger – just
to name a few.
The OCS are our main source of information
about crime, e.g. functionalists, whereas subculturalist sociologists attempt
to explain why the working class and young people are more criminally minded
just because the statistics say they are. On the one hand whilst research based
on the OCS can be considered reliable because they can be easily checked and
verified, the information within the OCS may not necessarily be 100% reliable
because police administrative practices, such as coughing and cuffing, could be
distorting the image of crime being created.
Official crime statistics.
Cohen went on to
discuss, Moral panics: an exaggerated over reaction by a society to a perceived
problem – driven by the Media, the media plays a crucial role in the social construction
of Crime & Deviance, the distortion and exaggeration caused by the media to
create a public reaction which leads to the public labelling certain groups. Moral
entrepreneurs: editors, police officers, politicians, legal professionals –
their role in the media coverage and the media interest which leads to a social
reaction and amplification.
Stan Cohen, a sociologist
had a subcultural approach to crime and deviance. Subcultural theories argue
that certain groups develop norms and values that are different from those held
by other members of society (Mods, Rockers, Punks, Hippies etc). Cohen, performed studies on the Mods and Rockers
in the 1960’s and 1970’s and found that the media had a significant part to
play in amplifying deviance which in turn created more Mods and Rockers and
exaggerate the amount of violent crime and the risks of certain groups becoming
victims e.g. young women and the elderly – research to an extent supports the
view that the media cause fear of crime. Schlesinger and Tumbler (1992) –
tabloid readers and heavy users of TV expressed greater fear of going out at
night and of becoming victims.
While the news
media show an interest in crime, they often present a distorted image of crime,
criminals and policing (compared to official statistics). Williams and
Dickenson (1993) – British newspapers devote 30% of their news space to crime,
Richard Ericson et al’s (1991) study of Toronto found that 45-71% of the press
and radio news was about deviance and its control.
is the broadest form of knowledge available. There are a variety of different
methods that can be used, for different kinds of research, I.E. qualitative
(word based research, point of view from the participants, deep data) and quantitative
(number based research, point of view from the researcher, reliable data), case
studies, surveys, questionnaires, interviews, focus groups, ethnography,
documentary analysis etc.
data, is widely available to anyone who wants to look at it, whether that be
local crime rates in any one particular area, or a whole group of statistics
for world wide issues, although there are many different viewpoints available from
official police statistics, to victim surveys and the CSEW (Crime survey for
England and Wales), which often have different statistics for the same crimes
(official police statistics often only include reported crimes and that of a
higher level, where as victim surveys and the CSEW record everything that has
been reported over the whole year).
The media, official
data and research is how we know about crime, although the media tend to
distort how we perceive it. In the society we live in, the newspapers and
tabloids have most of the control regarding public knowledge about what is
really happening in the world. They make it an ‘easy read’ and often draw you
in by having a messy headline.
How do we know about crime? Explain and
critically assess how we obtain knowledge about crime in society. Consider specific
research methods, official sources and wider public knowledge.