1. List three reasons why governments collect and collate crime data.
Statistical data are useful for governments as they give an indication as to the scale of social and crime problems a society or city faces. They can be transformed into tools like crime maps, highlighting where and when crimes occur. Crime data can also inform criminal justice policy, and allow for more intelligence-led policing.
2. What is meant by the term ‘justice gap’?
The ‘justice gap’ refers to the distinction between the crime that is reported and what is actually recorded.
3. Give three reasons why members of the public may decide not to report a crime to the police and consider how (and why) this varies between offence type.
There can be all kinds of reasons why the public may choose not to report a crime to the police. It may be due to their perception of the seriousness of the issue or of police effectiveness, lack of time, fear, embarrassment, or even complicity.
Table 5.1 sets out which types of offense are most and least likely to be reported. Considering the reasons set out above, and any more you have thought of, what do you think might lie behind the reporting rates of the most and least reported offenses?
4. Give three reasons why the police may decide not to record an incident that has been reported to them.
The crime victim may choose not to participate in the police investigation. The police may also change their policing priorities, thus focusing on particular crimes. The 2014 HMIC report also cited insufficient knowledge, experience, or supervision by the police as a reason.
5. What is meant by ‘attrition ’in the context of the criminal justice system?
Attrition is an encompassing term and refers to the filtering out of crimes at different stages of the criminal justice process, from police recording and investigating to prosecuting the case and bringing it to trial successfully. As such, it is inclusive of the term ‘justice gap’. There are different reasons why crime cases are dropped from subsequent stages of the criminal justice process. It may not be considered to be in the public interest to prosecute a case, or the likelihood of securing a conviction may be low.
6. What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of the police developing crime mapping techniques?
Benefits. They provide a monthly picture of crime incidences per area, which can be compared and contrasted to previous time periods and their presenting crime problems. They can help the police direct resources where they are needed for the purposes of crime prevention, which in turn increases police efficiency in the use of their allocated resources.
Drawbacks. They may create artificial crime concerns, creating a misrepresentation of an area and its problems due to the snapshot nature of the recording. Such misrepresentations can be further augmented when politicians and the media use them, leading to an exaggerated public fear of crime, calls for tougher crime policies and punishment, and their implementation.
7. In what ways is the CSEW thought to provide us with a more accurate picture of crime levels than police recorded statistics, and does it manage to achieve this?
The CSEW sheds light on the ‘dark’ figure of crime (that is unreported or unrecorded crime) and as such contributes to a more accurate representation of crime victimisation when it is seen in a complementary fashion to the police crime data. This is so because it has its own limitations like any other crime data gathering method. Two key limitations of the CSEW are: it does not reach all members of the population because it is household based, and it is not well suited to uncover highly sensitive crimes, such as domestic (sexual) violence and child abuse, as the perpetrators of such crimes are likely to be members of the same household completing the survey.