The Ben Kinsella Trust – A Useful Resource for Knife Crime Teaching Resources

Knife Crime statistics have remained stubbornly high over the last few years, and this is in spite of ongoing campaigns to reduce it.

One such organisation which campaigns to reduce Knife Crime is the Ben Kinsella Trust, named after a teenage victim of Knife Crime from 2008.

The charity has produced numerous teaching resources aimed at key stage four students focussing on the laws surrounding carrying knives and the consequences of carrying them.

Unsurprisingly it has a very victim centred focus, featuring lots of videos with victims of knife crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is obvious relevance to the Crime and Deviance module and I see two uses to teachers – firstly, some of the resources can be downloaded and adapted, there’s lots relevant to the topic of victimology especially.

Secondly you could get students to analyse the work of the trust itself – getting them to consider how effective such campaigns are, and why they exist.

It does seem somewhat unfortunate that it’s left to the relations of a murdered teenager to spend the rest of their days campaigning to reduce knife-crime, after all.

One would hope that either progressive social change would reduce such incidents OR the police would have sufficient funding to tackle knife crime and at least hold it level (rather than seeing it increasing like it has done recently), but neither of these seem to have been the case, hence why we have a need (a function, in functionalist terms) for charities such as the Ben Kinsella Trust.

It’s a tough one this – a charity doing very positive work, but honestly I’d rather there were no need for it in the first place!

Women are Receiving more Online Abuse than Ever…

Social Media can be a toxic place for women who are getting more online hate than ever, while companies such as Facebook prefer to profit from this trend rather than protect the female victims, and the police lack the expertise (or the resources/ willpower) to do anything about it either.

This is based on research outline in a recent Panorama documentary fronted by Marianna Spring – BBC’s disinformation and social media reporter.

Social media platforms such as Facebook direct people who show an interest in it to hateful content in order to increase their profit margins.

Why do men think it’s oK to send women hateful messages online?

The extent of online hate against women

The documentary consists of Marianna’s own experience, interviews with very minor celebrities and politicians and some more quantitative analysis, so all in all not a bad mix of methods.

Marianna herself has been keeping an 18 month video diary about the online abuse she’s been receiving – which include rape threats, frequent use of C and F word and lots of sexualised commentary – much of it is too explicit to publish on the BBC!

DEMOS analysed more than 94 000 posts and comments about Love Island and Married at First Sight.

Women received more abusive comments that men and the abuse was focused on their gender – with women being accused of being manipulative and sexual while men were accused of not being masculine enough.

Ethnic minority women also received more abuse than white women.

Women MPs also receive a disproportionate amount of hate – the show features Ruth Davidson who used to be an MP who got a lot of online abuse and who thinks men might target such women as they don’t like powerful women voicing their opinions.

The UN asked over 700 women prominent on social media – 1 in 5 women said they’d experienced harm in the real world and that this was linked to their online activity. Women who reported on disinformation were more likely to be targeted in real life.

Ineffective policing of online hate against women

In Spring 2021 Marianna started to receive more violent comments, one possibly by someone with a prior conviction for stalking.

She reported this to the MET in April – but by the shooting of the documentary (late summer I think this was) nothing has been done – she had been passed around liaison officers who seemed to lack the ‘expertise’ to do anything about it, her latest doesn’t know how to use Instagram for example.

There has been more than a 100% increase in women reporting online hate in the past four years, but only a 32% increase in the number of arrests.

New research suggests that 97% of accounts reported to Twitter and Facebook (Instagram) for posting hate messages about women are not taken down.

Facebook spreads Online Hate against women

The final section of the documentary involved an experiment in which a fake profile was set up with the same interests as some of the accounts well known for posting abusive comments against women.

The account didn’t post anything itself, it just followed other accounts and got recommendations based on that.

TikTok and Twitter didn’t recommend any misogynistic content, YouTube recommend some but not too much.

But Facebook and Instagram were the worst- they directed the new account towards a whole online world of hate against women.

Relevance to A-level sociology

The evidenced outlined in this documentary is an unfortunate reminder that women are still more likely to be victims of abuse than men, in this case, online abuse in the public realm.

This is most relevant to the gender and crime topic studied as part of the Crime and Deviance module, usually taught in the second year.

It’s also a warning to stay away from Instagram and Facebook where you can – use TikTok and Twitter instead.

Facebook may change its ways, but clearly it’s set up to put profit before ethics, this won’t change.

Organised Crime Thrived During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Criminal Contagion: How Mafias, Gangsters and Scammers profit from a Pandemic is a recent study produced by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organised Crime.

As the title suggests the book is an exploration of how Organised Crime has exploited opportunties during the Pandemic, and been thriving as a result.

As lockdowns closed down businesses, Organised Crime stepped up and transformed their practices to take advantage of the opportunities provided with people losing their jobs and just the general fear and confusing.

How organised crime exploited the pandemic

There was a massive increase in Cyberscams targeting both businesses and individuals offering such things as free Coronavirus testing kits and some of the government sites offering financial helps were cloned by criminal organisations to phish for people’s personal details.

There was even one website which offered ‘Coronavirus anti virus software’ which you could download to protect you from Coronavirus – playing on people’s fear and confusion (NB people did actually fall for this). Of course this was just a virus which extracted information from any computer it was downloaded to.

Online porn also increased massively – along with the exploitation of people uploading ‘home made content’ – regulating this kind of thing is difficult, to say the least.

One case from South Africa outlined a case where local gangs were going around houses telling people that cash was one of the main things that was spreading the disease and that people should hand over their cash so it could be cleaned.

Mafia Loan sharking also increased – with loan sharks preying on the many people who lost their jobs during the Pandemic.

The drug trade, however, remained relatively unchanged by the Pandemic, which is surprising given the closing down of trafficking routes. This was because many organisations had large stockpiles of drugs ready to sell, and a lot of health shipments related to the Pandemic (PPE shipments for example) actually contained drugs.

On the street level, local drug dealers dressed as health officials so they appeared as legitimated public officials out and about during lockdowns.

The Pandemic also put extra pressure on Criminal Justice Systems around the world – courts closed, and public order officials were hardest hit with sickness as they were on the frontline, compromising their ability to police the pandemic.

There was also a mass release of criminals from prisons as these were a main vector of transmission of the virus, including four major Mafia bosses in Italy.

In many countries where there is massive corruption, a lot of the funds released for public health made their way to private hands.

Source: I took this summary from this most excellent Thinking Allowed Podcast. (September 2021).

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is fantastic resource for students studying the Crime and Deviance module in their second year!

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Hidden Girls – A Documentary on the Exploitation of Girls in Gangs

Gangs in the UK are increasingly ‘recruiting’ very young girls, as young as 10, to hold and run drugs and weapons for them and, for the even more unfortunate, to use as sex-slaves.

It seems that girls are very much the victims within gangs, as they have very little chance of moving up the gang hierarchy. They may well make it to the status of ‘youngers’ but it seems that’s where their progression stops – the best they can hope for is to be in the front line running drugs and weapons and recruiting more girls into sexual exploitation.

They have almost no chance of becoming elders, the people who run local gang cells.

If you want a thoroughly depressing watch, then Hidden Girls on BBC3 (available on iplayer) is for you.

The documentary focusses on two female victims of gang exploitation, exploring how they got involved with the gangs, what gang life was like and how they got out of the cylce of exploitation.

The main method used is semi-structured interviews with the two victims, and also some other professionals who work in the field.

Both victims had very unstable home backgrounds from a young age – one talks of how she experienced her mother (not herself) being abused constantly by her father, and when that relationship ended her mother eventually ended up with a new partner who was a gang member and her house became a base for drug dealing, she was roped into the gang that way, eventually ending up holding drugs and weapons for the gang, from when she was 12.

She doesn’t recount too much about her life as a gang member, but she ended up in what she thought was a ‘loving relationship’ as a teenager with a gang member in their 20s, and I dread to think what kind of abuse she suffered, although this isn’t talked about explicitly.

She went through years of self-harming but eventually managed to get out through finding a place in a ‘safe-house’ with a key worker to support her.

The other victim talks about how she was (basically) neglected at home with there frequently being no food or other amenities – washing her hair with cold water and fairy liquid was normal.

She ended up hanging around with a gang, from the age of 11, because she enjoyed the banter and jokes, getting giving stuff for free, and eventually being asked to hold weapons and drugs.

It sounds like she avoided sexual exploitation herself, but only because she had an older girl friend in the gang who advised her that if she wanted to avoid the dreaded ‘line-up’ ritual (where several male gang members have sex with one girl at once) she had to bring in other young girls and persuade them to be the sex-slaves.

She now regrets all the victims she created and runs Out of the Shadows – an organisation aimed to help young people out of a life of crime.

The documentary also talks about how social media is facilitating the sexual exploitation of young girls, although the links to gangs in relation to social media aren’t really explored.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This post has primarily been written for students of A-level sociology and this material on female victims in gangs is mainly relevant to the Crime and Deviance topic.

More specifically it is relevant to the topic of gender and crime – it is support for the view that female criminals (because these victims are also criminals) usually come from a background of abuse and neglect at home.

It also reminds us just how much gangs are a male phenomenon, with females being victims within the gang structure.

So there is obvious relevance to the topic of victimology here too, these are good examples of hidden victims.

This topic is also worth exploring for research methods – according to the woman who set up Out of the Shadows it is very difficult to access these female victims while they are victims – they tend to keep quiet about their exploitation and suffer in silence, so methodologically this means there is no reliable data on the extent of female victimisation in gangs and it might only be possible to explore this from a historical point of view, once they are out.

Needless to say this is also a sensitive topic, so an interesting one from an ethics point of view.

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What are the Impacts of Crime on Victims?

Students of A-level sociology are required to study Victimology as part of the Crime and Deviance compulsory module, which means examiners can legitimately ask them this question!

What are the impacts of crime on Victims?

Victim Support notes the following ways in which crime can affect victims in the short and long term:

  • Feeling upset or angry (strong emotional reactions)
  • A victim may feel as if they have lost control of their life, things may spiral downwards (this kind of links to Anomie)
  • Victims may blame themselves.
  • Victims may develop physical symptoms linked to the stress of being a victim
  • Victims may develop longer term anxiety related disorders.

The site notes that the way an individual responds to a crime will depend on a number of variables such as the type of crime, whether they know the victim, the support they get from friends and family and their past experiences of crime.

NB – If you’ve been a Victim of Crime, Victim Support UK is a safe space to go get support and advice.

Personal Stories may be the best way to understand the impact on Victims….

The Cumbria police have put together a video series in which one Domestic Violence Survivor talks through how she got out of an abusive relationship…

Impacts on Victims’ families

NB – it’s not necessarily just the victim who is affected, all of the above can have negative affects on relationships and children if one member of a family is the victim of crime.

One of the most heart breaking crimes where this is felt in the UK is among the families of victims of knife crime, as outlined in this article here.

Secondary Victimisation

Secondary victimisation is when victims relive the trauma of their crime, which may occur when they are cross-examined by the prosecution team in court, or through harassment by agents of the media.

It is most commonly associated with Feminist perspectives on Crime and Deviance – historically victims of rape have also been subject to secondary victimisation when they are ‘put on trial’ by being accused of lying ny the prosecution, for example.

This report from the BBC provides stories from Victims who say they have been ‘re-traumatised by the system’.

Help for Victims of Crime

The Ministry of Justice is another place Victims can go to in order to find out more about whether they are actually victims of crime, and to seek further support as necessary.

Citizens Advice is another place offering advice about getting legal support as a victim of crime.

The Economic and Social Costs of Crime

AQA A level sociology revision resources | Revisesociology.com

This topic is an important part of the Victimology topic, which students of A-level sociology will study as part of the Crime and Deviance option in their second year of study.

The Economic and Social Costs of Crime in England and Wales

The Home Office produces an annual report on the Economic and Social Impacts of Crime, summarising the impacts of crime in England and Wales. The latest report was published in 2018, reflecting on the cost of crime in 2015-16.

The report notes the following costs:

  • The overall cost to individuals for 2015-16 was £50 billion.
  • The overall cost to businesses was £9 billion
  • Violent crime accounts for 75% of the total costs of crime to individuals, but only one third of crimes are violent crimes.
  • Homicide (murder) is the crime with the greatest overall cost, at just over £ 3 million per incident
  • Rape (to put it bluntly, but this is the words of the Home Office, has the highest ‘unit cost’ for non-fatal crimes – at just under £40 000 per incident.

TBH this is one of more bizarre tables I’ve seen…

How the Cost of Crime is Calculated

The Home Office includes all of the following when working out costs:

  • Value of property lost or damaged
  • Physical and emotional damage to the individual
  • Lost output as a result of being a victim
  • Health costs
  • Policing and Criminal Justice costs (which will include prison)
  • Costs of preventing crime (such as security measures).

So if we take into account all of the above, we can see why murder has such as high unit cost – all that lost output from the victim and the cost of keeping the murderer in jail for over a decade (most murders are caught).

Limitations with this data

There are limitations with measuring some of the costs of security – the Home Office uses the revenue of cyber security companies to calculate this for example, but I guess it doesn’t take into account specialists companies have to take on to install and maintain cyber security operations.

It might take into account emotional costs – but what about the costs of ‘fear of crime’ – which the media makes sure doesn’t correspond to the actual risks of crime, which could be creating more anxiety disorders which in turn is linked to a reduction in economic output?

Finally, some of this sounds a bit harsh, such as putting a financial figure on the cost of being a victim of rape, it somehow doesn’t quite get to the ‘real’ cost, maybe?!?

What is the Cost of Cybercrime?

Cybercrime is one of the most harmful types in terms its economic costs to individuals and businesses.

This reason alone suggests that students of A-level sociology studying the crime and deviance module should pay special attention to to this type of crime.

What are the economic costs of cybercrime?

A recent McAFee report estimated the global cost of Cybercrime in 2019 to be over $1 Trillion.

Accenture does an annual survey on the costs of Cybercrime to business and that revealed that the average cost of malicious attacks is just over $1 million to a company, with several days of downtime as a result.

In the United Kingdom, this report estimates the costs of Cbyercrime to be £27 billion every year.

This compares to the following:

  • The overall size of the global economy in 2020 was around $84 trillion, meaning global cybercrime accounts for 1% of global economic output.
  • Tax dodging by mainly corporations but also wealthy individuals costs the global economy just over $400 billion annually. (Source: The Conversation)
  • In 2015/ 16 the UK government estimated the total cost of ALL crime to be around £50 billion – besides cybercrime, fraud and theft were very high cost crimes, both made much easier with the growth of online networks.

The projected costs of Cybercrime are much greater. according to Cyber Security Ventures the global cost of Cybercrime is set to reach $10.5 trillion dollars by 2025

Analysis/ Evaluation – what to make of these figures?

These statistics suggest that the costs of Cybercrime are growing rapidly, and if you believe the projections, then Cybercrime is by far the most damaging type of crime in terms of financial cost.

However, you need to question the validity of data published by Cybersecurity companies – it is in their interests to exaggerate the extent of cybercrime so they can sell more security software!

Having said that, official statistics themselves show a HUGE increase in the amount of cybercrime in the last five years, and so it’s likely that the costs of cybercrime would have increased too.

I haven’t here distinguished between cyber dependent crime and cyber-enabled crime – I think a lot of the increasing costs are due to old types of crime (fraud and especially theft) becoming more common online (as opposed to face to face) – I guess the internent just makes it easier to attempt to commit these types of crime, en masse (as through phishing) rather than the slower and more risky physical thefts.

The depressing thing is that I find none of this surprising – we live in more networked world, and one unfortunate consequence is that it’s now easier to attempt to commit fraud and theft against faraway victims online – it’s simple rational choice theory – computer networks make it more convenient to attempt crimes such as phishing and identity theft with less risk.

And while I’m sceptical about Cyber Security companies exaggerating the extent of online crime, I’m inclined to agree with them that this is on an uptrend as that’s what official statistics from all around the world suggest, not to mention the increasing amount of anecdotal evidence from people who have been scammed, and TBH I only need compare the amount of phishing emails in my inbox today compared to five years ago to realise the increase in attempted crimes against me, and presumably millions of other people receiving such mail in their Spam folders every day!

It seems it’s more important than ever to take your online security and safety very very seriously.

The problems of controlling global crime

Globalisation has resulted in more global crime in several ways:

  • Increased trafficking of goods across across international waters – illegal drugs is the most obvious, but there is also counterfeit clothes and electronics and the smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes to avoid taxes.
  • Increased human trafficking – for example women and girls being shipped into the sex-industry against their will, but also trafficking for forced-marriage, cheap ‘slave’ labour and the role of organised crime in helping to move migrants across borders to escape dismal situations in their home countries.
  • Various financial crimes – the use of tax havens by wealthy individuals and corporations to avoid tax.
  • Cybercrimes – these are very numerous and include everything from online frauds and scams to cyberwarfare between governments.
  • Environmental crimes – illegally dumping waste in one country can easily seep across borders, especially if toxic fumes become air born.

The above isn’t supposed to be an exhaustive list, it’s just to give you a reminder of the scale of global crimes.

Global Crimes: Very difficult to police!

Different countries have different norms and values and thus different legal systems – what is criminal in one country may not be criminal in another – for example dumping E waste is not illegal in Ghana, even when the toxins from that waste leach into the water and the sky (when people burn plastic to get the metal to sell for example). International Law isn’t well enough established to penalise countries for committing ‘environmental crimes’ and neither are individual nation states.

While there is an international court of justice at the Hague, but this only resides over those accused of the ‘worst crimes against humanity’ (for example genocide), it doesn’t deal with ‘lesser crimes’ such as ‘every day’ trafficking and cybercrime. There is no ‘international court’ for these crimes, it’s down to individual countries to put the criminals on trial, however governments may be unwilling to do this (See below).

Some people in those countries which supply illegal goods may actually see the activity of criminal networks as benefitting their country. A possible example of this is the Mafia in Bulgaria who ship a lot of heroine up into Europe – there will be tens of thousands of people in both Afghanistan and Bulgaria who see themselves as net winners out of the global drugs trades. There may well be a lot of victims (drug addicts) in the West but the British government has limited power to stop the supply of drugs coming from Afghanistan, all it can do is control the supply at its own borders, at customs.

In some cases the governments in those countries where global criminals are based will actually turn a blind eye to their criminal dealings because the net inflow of money benefits that country.

Cybercrimes are especially difficult to police because often the victims (of online fraud for example) don’t know who the criminals are – they remain hidden behind VPNs and so the origin of the fraud may not even be traceable.

Even if agreements can be reached between one or more countries, it takes a lot of resources to build a case against a criminal organisation operating in more than one country, so there are also practical barriers.

Finally, and possibly most simply, there is a lot space out there – both real and virtual, most governments don’t have the resources to put every inch of a border under 24/7 surveillance, let alone keep the huge areas of cyberspace under observation. There’s a lot of ‘dark space’ for crime to take place in our global real and virtual worlds!

How the Media Simplifies Crime

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

This 2019 blog post from the John Howard Society of Canada is useful here:

The media simplify the coverage of crime in the following ways:

  • Media coverage tends to focus on the individual criminals, and their psychological state, with very little focus on the social context which led to a crime being committed (so very little sociological analysis in the mainstream media!)
  • Crime stories quote the police and victims and their families, but rarely experts in the field – nice link to the news value of ‘personalisation’ here.
  • Coverage is usually ‘emotional’ and often ‘angry’ with little objective analysis of the actual risk of the wider public also falling a victim of the crime featured. As a result, the media spreads an unrealistic fear of crime.
  • Coverage of crime is often associated with only one policy option – harsher punishments for offenders – there is very little discussion of alternatives to punishment, despite the fact that a lot of evidence points to the fact that harsher punishments are not the most effective means of controlling crime.

You can find several examples of this simplification of the crime narrative in the BBC News and crime-focussed documentaries (even though the later are supposed to have more depth and breadth)

  • Documentaries typically take the side of the police – following them around, or having them in as experts in the studio – Crimewatch even encourages the public to phone in and help the police
  • The underlying causes of crime are rarely looked at in the news or crime documentaries – as we will see next term factors such as family breakdown, poverty, child abuse mean that many criminals are themselves victims of an unequal society and a harsh upbringing, but this is rarely considered.
  • You rarely hear from the criminals – they tend to be talked about by experts. One obvious example of this is the issue surrounding the war on terror – have you ever heard the Islamists point of view in the mainstream media? The west has been engaged in a ‘war against Al Queda’ for a decade now – wouldn’t it maybe help our understanding of this war if the BBC had made some attempt to let a radical Islamist at least explain why they think terrorism is legitimate? Maybe just once in the last decade?
  • Where political protest happens, the media tend to focus on the violence done by a fringe minority rather than the issues that are being protested about – focussing on violent clashes between police and demonstrators (if there are any) rather than on the issues and speeches that went on during those demonstrations.

Sensationalisation of Crime in the Media

This should be a useful update for students studying both the Crime and Deviance and Media options as part of A-level sociology.

If we include fictional crime programmes, the Media tends to sensationalise crime: Many programmes almost revel in crime and especially deviance, sometimes even glorifying it. Consider the way that deviant celebrities are treated or consider the hyperreal, idealistic representations of war in games such as Call of Duty.

Fictional crime dramas tend to normalise police violence and erase the issue of Racism according to this Guardian article.

The researchers suggest that the main cop or detective characters are depicted as inherently ‘good’ even though are frequently doing ‘bad things’ – like ‘roughing up’ suspected criminals, or much worse. In fact, the vast majority of the central characters do things which are in breach of police-conduct standards and often illegal, and yet they are not portrayed as bad for doing so.  Police illegality is seen as normal and acceptable.

The researchers further suggest that crime dramas ignore the central issues of Racism in the police force, in reality they say, everything is about Race when it comes to policing (think of the skewed stop and search rates) and yet this issue is barely even mentioned in fictional crime dramas.

This blog post by a final year university student at the University of Bournemouth contrasts how the right wing press and left wing press cover the recent increase in Knife Crime in the UK – the Telegraph and Daily Mail take a ‘moral panic’ approach using the phrase ‘Wild West’ Britain to describe the increase, while the left wing press are more objective and make more of an effort to understand the causes.

The author also looks at the issue of Drill Musicians getting negative press for ‘inciting violence’, another example of a moral panic, maybe?

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