Official Crime Statistics and Public Debates on Law & Order

Official Crime Statistics and Public Debates on Law & Order

Official crime statistics

Sociologists can gain quick and easy access to UK government crime statistics. Although these may be helpful to an extent, there are many reasons why these figures may not be entirely reliable. The most obvious of these is that there is an unknown gap between recorded crime and crimes which go either unreported or unrecorded. This gap is known as the hidden figure.

      • Many victims of sexual assault are too afraid or too ashamed to report the attack to the police.
      • Petty crime, e.g. vandalism, will often go unreported.
      • Crimes which involve close family members may be dealt with between the individuals concerned.
      • Employers who have been defrauded by their own employees may wish to avoid unwanted negative publicity by dealing with the matter privately.
      • Not all reported crime gets recorded. Police officers may feel it is too petty or that there isn’t enough evidence to show that a crime has actually been committed.


Public debates on law and order

Society is often in a state of panic when it comes to law and order and each subsequent generation seems to think that things are worse than they’ve ever been before. Part of this is to do with deviancy amplification, which occurs when the media exaggerates the presence of crime and antisocial behaviour.

The result of this is to provoke fear, outrage and moral panic. Antisocial behaviour like binge-drinking, happy-slapping, gang violence and vandalism are usually associated in the press with young people. Although the young are more likely to commit crime than older age groups, they sometimes become scapegoats for other things that have gone wrong in society.

Blame for what is widely seen as an increase in antisocial behaviour among young people is sometimes directed towards parents, teachers, the breakdown of the nuclear family, the secularization of society, the economy as well as on the individual’s themselves.

Governments have introduced new policies in an attempt to control antisocial and criminal behaviour among young people. These include fines for the parents, curfews as well as, famously, the Antisocial Behaviour Orders (ASBOs). Many people consider these to have been ineffective, since some gang members regard an ASBO as a kind of trophy or status symbol.