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The dark figure of crime is a term that is used by criminologists and sociologists to illustrate the number of crimes which are committed but never reported or discovered. (LawTeacher, 2013). There are a number of different reason as to why some crimes go unreported, and also a number of consequences which occur due to these crimes not having been reported. One example of this is that not all known crimes are actually entered into official statistics, for example offences such as shop lifting, and other offences seen as “minor” by police officers, are not always recorded. Another example of crimes going unrecorded by officers are domestic disputes, which police sometimes believe are nothing more than arguments so they fail to report them. This contributes to the dark figure of crime as there is a crime occurring but officers neglect to investigate further and simply dismiss the case. 

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Another reason as to why some offences go unreported is due to the priorities of the police force and individual officers. The types of crimes which police focus on obviously affects the detection rate of certain crimes. The priorities of the police officers are put in place by the government, the media and pressure group concerns. For example, the recent emphasis on speed cameras being put in place has taken a large number of police traffic patrols off of the roads, which has in turn reduced the number of traffic offences recorded by police officers. An example which can be used in relation to and as a result of the increase in speed cameras is an increase in the number of police officers targeting paedophilia, which has resulted in the increase of detection rates and reports of incidents of paedophilia. (C Thomson, 2009).

These examples reinforce the idea that detection rate of crimes depends on the priorities of the police. Now that the police are focusing less on road offences such as speeding and are targeting other offences, there has been an increase in the number of recorded incidents of paedophilia. Not only does this show that the priorities of police officers has a large impact on crime rates, but this can also help to explain the dark figure of crime in other ways. As police officers are focusing less on road crimes due to the speed cameras put in place, speeding offences may have reduced, or simply get taken care of by these machines, but other offences which occur in these areas will continue and will go unreported, thus contributing to the dark figure of crime. 

Another example as to why crimes may go unrecorded is that victims of a crime may not report the offence to the police. This may occur due to a number of different reasons such as the victim being worried that their situation isn’t going to be taken seriously or seen as an offence, the victim being powerless due to factors such as age and disability, or inability to do so due to circumstances such as being in the same room as the person who is committing the crime.

These are only a small number of reasons as to why crimes may go unreported to or by police officers. These reasons are also considered under the belief that police officers are doing their jobs properly and ideally with no prejudice or bias. In the real world there would be other factors which come into play when targeting and recording crimes such as police officers being prejudice and targeting individuals of a certain race, for example black people. In the documentary filmed by Mark Daly for the BBC, Daly joined the Greater Manchester police force and began to secretly document and film other officers working with him. Footage he captured shows Greater Manchester police officers making racist remarks and even images of an officer dressed up with a Ku Klux Klan mask making racist comments (Susan Swarbrick, 2016).

This documentary by Mark Daly brings to light how easily and how common it is for not only everyday individuals to have prejudice towards others, but that it even occurs in the police force.This is relevant as it demonstrates that police officers not only have prejudices towards people of certain races and cultures, but they could easily act upon these personal views and target certain races. This affects the dark figure of crime as it shows that individual police officers purposely target civilians of specific races with no good reason other than due to their ethnicity. The documentary shows footage and audio recordings of officers making extremely racist remarks and even includes footage of an officer saying “i’ll stop him because he’s a Paki, sad isn’t it, but i would. He’s a Paki and I’m stopping him because i’m ******* English” followed by the sound of him and fellow officers laughing at this comment. Situations like this which occur regularly, and not just in the UK but around the world, are not only wrong but are considered as hate crimes. 

These situations contribute to the dark figure of crime not only because of the fact that the police officers are committing hate crimes which go unnoticed, but as they are focusing on and targeting individuals of certain ethnic backgrounds, other possible crimes will go unnoticed due to the lack of targeting and patrolling of areas which are considered to have low crime rates. 

It is important for criminologists to understand that when studying crime through official statistics, these statistics are collected from courts and are made up of the number of convictions which take place. This means that not all cases or reports will be included in the official statistics, this also doesn’t include all of the cases which go unreported by a victim or which are reported but not actually documented by police officers. The main motives by the government when releasing these statistics are to be seen as an active and social government and also to make the rest of society feel safe, this way the public are aware of the crime rates which occur in certain areas. 

However, the public are only aware of the amount of crime and types of crimes which occur through the official statistics which are released by the government. Apart from being unreliable due to the amount of crimes which go undetected, these statistics can also easily be manipulated by government officials for many different reasons. An example of this is when the UK government released figures which showed that in April of 2010, the overall recorded crimes in England and Wales was below the level that the labour inherited in 1997. However, the conservative party pointed out that there had been an increase in violent crime over the last 13 years as a way to indicate that their opponents were not doing their jobs very successfully (The telegraph 2010). This is just one of the many ways in which criminologists can never rely truly on crime statistics due to the fact that they can easily be manipulated in favour of those who are in power. 

A large factor which affects the crime rates which are recorded, is the methodology behind collecting the data. The methodology used to record official crime statistics changes over time and is constantly being updated, this means that even if the methodology behind recording crimes is improving, we cannot accurately compare statistics over time as they will not have been recorded in the same way or to the same standards in the past. According to a 2010 analysis by the conservatives, crime had risen by 44% since the year 1998 to the year 2010, however this increase can simply be explained by the way that police officers have been recording offences of assault since the year 2002. 

A very large proportion of the crimes which go unreported by victims are domestic abuse crimes. The federal Bureau of justice statistics shows that on average a total of 716,000 instances of domestic violence are reported every year. These do not include the cases of domestic violence which resulted in deaths. However, over half of these incidents of domestic violence went unreported, an estimate of 582,000 instances of violence went unreported and unrecorded. This is the equivalent to 44% of all instances (Crime and justice news, 2017). 

To look at these statistics from a different perspective which may seem more relevant to individuals from the United Kingdom, a study conducted by Detective Inspector Miles Ockwell, from the specialist domestic abuse unit in Brighton shows that a large majority of these domestic abuse cases go unreported, this plays a large role in the dark figure of crime as there are no records of theses crimes. Another very worrying factor is that there were 3,359 domestic abuse crimes reported to the police in Brighton, and according to the British crime survey, 10,984 women were victim to physical and emotional violence in 2010. This number is still not exactly accurate as there are probably even more of these cases which go unrecorded and not even reported into the British crime survey, this issue is yet again known the dark figure of crime. This could be as a result of a number of different factors but is still a large and ongoing problem in todays society. 

Visiting the same issue in relation to a different subject matter, domestic abuse towards men is another very large issue within the dark figure of crime. According to The Guardian (2010), 40% of domestic abuse victims are males. Men who are the victims of domestic abuse are often 

Revisiting the issues in relation to methodology and the unreliability of comparing statistics from the past to now, technology has played a very large role in shedding some light upon areas of the dark figure of crime. Modern technology such as CCTV cameras being put into many public and private areas play a big role in capturing crimes through video recordings. These CCTV captured crimes also serve as documented proof and are frequently used in court trials to bring reliable justice to the court. As this method of capturing crimes is relatively new, the amount of crimes caught on camera cannot be compared to crime rates from the past as they may have occurred but would not have been recorded and added into official statistics. This once again shows that official crime statistics from over the years can still be quite unreliable and criminologists need to be aware of this while carrying out analyses. 

Police officers are not the only powers which are in charge of controlling and reporting crimes, others who are also reliable for this include border control and customs officer jobs. These officers are in charge of enforcing laws, taxes and duties in regard to the export of goods, materials and people. These officers may also be contributing factors to the dark figure of crime as they may let some crimes go undetected and unreported. Even though they are customs officers and still make human error on occasion, there have been instances in which a customs officer has abused his/her power and allowed illegal behaviour to occur under their watch. These customs officers can be bribed by those engaging in illegal activity such as smuggling illegal substances across a border. This is known to have happened on occasion and even occurred in the UK very recently when Public servant Craig Richard Eakin was fund guilty of using his position to assist in an organised crime which involved smuggling illegal tobacco into countries (Eoin Blackwell, 2017). 

All of this information on how official crime statistics are recorded and compared over the years shows that it is very difficult to reliably and truly know the real rates of crimes. This also shows how criminologists have to be very weary of these “official crime statistics” when examining statistics and analysing data. 

 

Reference page 

1951Media Channel (2013) The secret policeman, video. Available online: https://youtu.be/GlegfH33SPg Accessed 02/01/2018. 

C H Thomson (2009) Hidden or dark figures of crime. Available online: https://sociologytwynham.com/2009/01/10/hidden-or-dark-figures-of-crime/ Accessed 14/12/2017. 

Denis Campbell (2010) More than 40% of domestic violence victims are male, report reveals. The Guardian, 5th September online. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2010/sep/05/men-victims-domestic-violence Accessed 02/01/18. 

Eoin Blackwell (2017) Customs Officers Arrested As Part Of Organised Crime Raids. Huffington Post, 10th August online. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/08/09/customs-officers-arrested-as-part-of-organised-crime-raids_a_23072995/ Accessed 02/01/2018. 

LawTeacher. November 2013. The Dark Figure Of Crime. Available online: https://www.lawteacher.net/free-law-essays/criminology/the-dark-figure-of-crime.php?cref=1 Accessed 14/12/2017. 

Susan Swarbrick (2016) Face to Face: BBC Journalist Mark Daly uncovers the truth to make a difference. The Herald, 29th August online. Available at: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14710236.Face_to_Face__BBC_Journalist_Mark_Daly_uncovers_the_truth_to_make_a_difference/ Accessed 28/12/2017. 

The crime report (2017) Report: Nearly Half of Domestic Violence Goes Unreported. The crime report, 3rd May online. Available at: https://thecrimereport.org/2017/05/03/report-nearly-half-of-domestic-violence-goes-unreported/ Accessed 02/01/2018. 

The telegraph (2010) Lies, damned lies and crime statistics. The telegraph, 22 April online. Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/7621284/Lies-damned-lies-and-crime-statistics.html Accessed 02/01/2018. 

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