The article states that ‘official’ figures has found there to be a 12% increase in violent crime. The home office figures indicate a rise in most serious crimes , such as, rape, serious wounding, racial attacks and harassment. The article speaks of Blunkett’s retaliation to these figures and that his results from the BCS have found a 5% decrease in offenses. These statistics(BCS) are based on interviews with the public and not actual crimes reported by the police.
The newspaper ‘The Independent’ (22nd July 2004), reported ‘Crime: The Truth’. This article stated that crime has fallen by 395 in the last nine years. These statistics come from The British Crime Survey, and they are crimes that people have experienced but have not necessarily reported. A decrease in violent crime was found compared to the 12% increase found in the home office reports. However an increase in violent crime due to crack and gun culture was found.
The way in which the statistics are complied are very different and therefore the results are very dissamilar and there is a dramatic discrepancy between the data. The crime correspondent talks about the insatiable reporting of ‘ bad’ news in the media and the hunger for reports of violence, murder and sex. (Benneto, 2004). The piece also states that there is a fear of the country’s ‘binge’ drinking problem and that it could lead to a rise in crime levels and violence. A 5% decrease is a far cry from the 15% decrease that labour have predicted for the next five years. The Sun states that since labour has been in power violent crime has trebled.
It is hard to distinguish between reality and fantasy when reading some articles in newspapers and magazines, where does the information come from? This leads on to the subject of the reliability and validity of the statistics, and the limitations of the methods of collecting the data. The home office statistics are constructed through recording of crimes thorough the police. This data is incomplete, in that many crimes are not recorded, some are ‘domestic’ and unreported. The information comes solely from the police and crimes committed through other bodies are left unrecorded , for example, The Transport Police, Vat Customs and Excise and so on.
The British Crime Survey collates its data from surveys on random samples about crimes they have witnessed or experienced. This reveals higher crime levels in some areas and lower in others. It has its limitations in its methodology. Firstly, the samples are random and therefore not conclusive of all members of society. What areas do the survey take place in? What age group? What sex? There are many variables involved in how the crime data is measured. The survey is not carried out on under 16’s, which eliminates a huge proportion of possible ‘ criminals’ and ‘victims’. It also does not include sex offences, child molestation and murder.
Mayhew and maning(1992) compared the BCS and Police Stats and found that only 48% of violent crimes were reported. An example of misinformed newspaper reporting can be seen in Cohen’s(1973) investigation into the article ‘Wild ones ”beat up” Margate’ in The Daily Mirror in 1964, 18th May. It was stated that the ‘gangs’ the Mods and Rockers had been causing trouble and ‘smashed’ their way throughout the town of Margate. It was front page news, and scared the public into believing these ‘gangs’ were dangerous and to fear for their safety.
Cohen(1973) found their had been much less of a disturbance than reported and that the the violence was more verbal than physical. It was later reported further that the incident may have been ‘ a little over-reported’. This was the media distorting events and attributing to the public a moral panic , an increase in police prescence and thus realting to the youths behaving asthey have been ‘labelled’ from the media. Wilkin’s(1964) model of deviancy amplification clearly demonstrates how the media create scare tactics through its prevarication in some reports.
n conclusion, the statistics that are available from all sources are inaccurate and do not give the full or correct picture on the levels of crime. The media manipulate the statistics to construct the story and the public’s view on crime and criminals. The public’s higher fear of crime can be attributed to by the media’s representation, but , crime has become an integral part of entertainment , to which the public choose to watch and enjoy. Crimewatch attracts more viewer’s than the news, so there is an obvious fascination with crime and trying to understand it.
In February, 1980, similar reports from two newspapers used statistical data to assist or repudiate the levels of crime. The London Evening News(28th February) headlined ‘ London Violence Growing’ and The Evening Standard (28th February)declared ‘London Is Winning the Crime War’. They were both right but had used different statistics to validate their report, as with the two papers compared in this essay.
The Sun Newspaper will always use much more shock tactic journalism to attract the attention of the publ away from the other tabloid papers. The Independent is very different and attracts a very different calibre of reader. It is more informative , factual, reasoning and shows both sides of story(in this incident). The government really have as much idea of the levels of crime as the general public do. The general public may even be more informed. Many people are beginning to feel much more unsafe and insecure at home, in the car, walking and so on.
This could be due to a rise in crime levels, or is it beacause we are in a state of moral panic? Watching murder, rape and burgulary late at night on TV and then waking up to newspaper reports on what has happened the night before, does lead to fear. The reliability and validity of the statistical evidence that is available is under question. It really does not explain the full picture and reality of crime. The contradictions between data can mislead all concerned when trying to assess the levels and severity of crime in society.
Benneto, J.(2004) ‘Crime : The Truth’, The Independent, 22nd July.
Box, S.(1998) ‘Crime, power and ideological mystification’ in Muncie, J., McLaughlin, E. and Langan, M. Criminological perspectives, London, Sage/The Open university.
Muncie, J(1997) ‘ The construction and deconstruction of crime’ in Muncie J. and McLaughlin, E. The Problem of crime, London, Sage/ The Open University.