The Exaggeration of Violent and Sexual Crimes in the Media

Content analysis shows that the media exaggerate the extent of violent and sexual crimes, with over-reporting of such crimes giving us the impression that there is 10 times more of it than is actually the case according to sources such as the Crime Survey of England and Wales.

This blog post summarises some recent evidence demonstrating how the media exaggerate the extent of violent crimes and the extent to which they do this.

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

Violent Crime is exaggerated 10 times

Harper & Hogue (2016) found that in the UK sex offenses made up 20% of all crime reported by the media, but only 2% of all crimes were sex offences. So that’s an exaggeration by the media of 10 times the actual rate of crime. (Source.)

Twitter exaggerates the extent of violent Crime just as much as the mainstream media

An analysis of 32 million tweets in 17 countries in Latin America over 70 days in 2017 revealed that 15 out of 1000 were crime related.

The number of tweets about crime were then compared to the murder rates in those countries and the fear of crime as measured by surveys.

There was no correlation between the number of tweets about crime and the underlying crime rate.

Moreover, just like the mainstream media, tweets showed a ‘strong bias’ towards sharing information about violent and sexual crimes.

The study also found that 62% of accounts were linked to mainstream media accounts, meaning that only 38% of tweets were from regular users, many of which linked articles from mainstream media.

This suggests that Twitter is just an echo chamber for the exaggeration of violent crime in the media.

Latin America – people tweet a lot about Violent Crime, they are doing it to themselves!

One BIG STORY makes it worse…

One ‘big story’ can trigger an increase in similar stories. For example, Harper (2018) found that there was 300% increase in reporting of sex crimes against children when the news about prolific paedophile (and friend of Prince Andrew) Jimmy Saville broke in YEAR. (Source.)

Related Posts

Please click here to return to the Media and crime Hub Post.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – The Most Common Crimes in the UK

Fraud and computer misuse now account for half of all crimes in England and Wales, but 80% of victims no NOTHING about the criminals who acted against them!

Fraud and Computer Misuse now Account for Half of all Crime in England and Wales (1) , this means that in order to fully understand crime today, students of A-level Sociology REALLY need to know something about these two types of crime.

This is not only an important update relevant to the crime and deviance aspect of the AQA A-level sociology specification, it’s also VERY IMPORTANT that students educate themselves about the risks of being a victim of fraud and computer misuse and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and stay safe online.

Defining Fraud and Computer Misuse

The Office for National Statistics defines these crimes as below:

Fraud

Fraud involves a person dishonestly and deliberately deceiving a victim for personal gain of property or money or causing loss or risk of loss to another.

While Fraud can happen offline, most fraud today occurs online and the most common types known to include:

  • banking and payment card frauds
  • consumer and retail frauds
  • advance fee payment frauds

Computer misuse

Computer misuse covers computer viruses and any unauthorised access to computer material, as set out in the Computer Misuse Act 1990.

This can include any device using software accessible online, for example: computers smartphones, games consoles and even smart TVs. It includes offences such as:

  • the spreading of viruses.
  • hacking – gaining unauthorised access to information
  • denial-of-service (DoS) attacks – the flooding of internet servers to disrupt or take down a network or website.

Both of these types of crime are types of Cyber Crime (most fraud and all computer misuse).

How much Fraud and Computer Misuse are there in England and Wales?

The latest data from the TCSEW show that Fraud and Computer misuse have been increasing rapidly in recent years, and now account for more than half of all crime in England and Wales.

Fraud and Computer Misuse were only added to the Crime Survey of England and Wales recently, and there are so many incidents that the Office for National Statistics records records two totals – one with these crimes and one without, so we can make a fair comparison of all other crimes over a longer time scale.

This bar chart gives you an idea of just how much Fraud and Computer misuse there is compared to all other types of crime:

The above chart shows incidents, and the ONS estimates there were nearly 10 million adult victims of fraud and computer misuse in the 12 month period to December 2020, that’s more than 1 in 5 adults.

The increase has been so rapid that the UK government has recently declared that there is a ‘new battle front‘ against these types of crimes.

Fraud and Computer Misuse – Key statistics

To get a more in-depth analysis of Fraud and Computer Misuse we need to go back to this 2019 report: The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse (March 2019). This report notes the following:

Fraud

  • The amount of Fraud has increased in the last two years.
  • 76% of victims lost money, but around half lost less than £250.
  • Only 15% of fraud crimes were reported to the police
  • The likelihood of being a victim was generally lower in older age groups and greater in higher income households, there was little variation across gender and ethnicity.
  • In 63% of fraud incidents, there had been no contact between the victim and the offender.
  • Less than 15% of people could say ‘anything’ about the person who committed the Fraud against them – it’s a very ‘anonymous’ crime where the criminals are concerned!

Computer Misuse

  • Computer Misuse incidents have actually decreased in the last two years overall – especially crimes involving viruses being put on devices.
  • 21% of computer virus incidents resulted in data being accessed or lost.
  • As with fraud, older people aged over 75 were less likely to be victims of computer misuse
  • Over 90% of people reported taking security measures to keep themselves safe online, which could explain the decrease in this type of crime.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Students really need to pay attention to Fraud especially as it is the crime with the highest VICTIM count in England and Wales, so very relevant to victimology – and there is little variation by class, gender and ethnicity, only age it seems.

This material is also relevant to the media and crime topic, because more than half of all fraud is committed online, as are ALL crimes of computer misuse.

From a methods perspective, it’s worth noting that around 80% of victims of these crimes can say NOTHING about the people who committed crimes against them – these are truly faceless crimes, very possibly committed by criminals outside of the UK, so this is also relevant to the topic of globalisation and crime.

Find out More….

This Power Point Presentation from the Office for National Statistics outlines some of the problems with measuring these crimes.

If you want to find out more about how to stay safe online and protect yourself from these types of crime – there is a section at the end of The Nature of Fraud and Computer Misuse.

Students might like to do independent research on these types of cyber crime in Scotland and Northern Ireland to get a fuller picture covering the whole of the United Kingdom!

Qualifications

(1) Please forgive the slightly misleading title! The data on fraud and computer misuse are from England and Wales only, but for the sake of having a short, visible and digestible title I shortened this to the UK.

Who are the Victims of Crime?

How do patterns of Victimisation vary by social class, gender, ethnicity and age?

Are some people more likely to be victims of crime than others? And how do the characteristics of victims vary by different types of crime?

This post has been written for students of A-level sociology studying the crime and deviance module, it is an introduction to the topic of victimisation, which is explicitly on the AQA’s specification.

NB some of the latest up to date information in this post may well contradict the very probably dated information in your sociology text books!

The statistics below focus mainly on the victims of crime in the United Kingdom?

Characteristics of victims of any crime by ethnicity, social class and age (TCSEW)

The Telephone Crime Survey of England and Wales is based on a telephone survey of 30 000 respondents, making it the largest sample which addresses the question of who the victims of crime are.

(NB it’s currently a telephone survey because of Covid-19 restrictions, before that it was a face to face interview survey, to which it may return at some point!)

The TCSEW reports the following variations in patterns of victimisation for the year ending March 2020:

People of mixed ethnicity were more likely to have been victims of crime than other ethnic groups

20% of people from mixed ethnic backgrounds reported being victims, but the victimisation rates were very similar across all other ethnic groups (varying from 14-17%)

Gender seems to have very little affected on reported levels of victimisation

There were very similar reporting levels for both males and females in all ethnic groups.

The chart below demonstrates the remarkably similar patterns in victimisation by both ethnicity and gender (the only ‘significant’ difference being the higher reported rates for mixed ethnicity).

Younger people are more likely to victims of crime than older people

The chart below shows percentage of people reporting having been a victim of crime by age group – you’ll notice it generally declines as people get older, and there is a marked difference if you compare the 55s and overs with youngest three categories:

There is no obvious correlation between social class background and being a victim of crime.

In fact the picture is complex – there is no variation by class for white people, for black people, the unemployed report much lower levels of victimisation compared to professionals and for Asian people there is a slightly lower chance of being a victim the higher your social class background!

Repeat Victimisation

Data from the 2018 CSEW shows that 74% of victims of violent crime were victims once, whereas 26% were victims twice or more (7% three times or more) in the previous year.

Limitations with victimisation data from the TCSEW

  • These data look at ALL crimes, and the most common types of crime (which have INCREASED MASSIVELY in recent years) are fraud and computer misuse – which are quite likely to be ‘gender/ class/ ethnicity neutral’.
  • and it may be the case that for more serious crimes there are still significant variations by class/ gender and ethnicity – such as violent crimes including domestic violence and hate crimes.
  • These data may be invalid because the reporting rates might vary by social class, gender, age and ethnicity – a recent report on the victims of violent crime (see section below) for example found that children were twice as likely to NOT report a crime compared to adults. Also where being a victims of Domestic Violence is concerned, with women more likely to be victims than men, this isn’t the kind of thing you can easily report over the phone, during Lockdown.
  • And let’s not forget the crimes the TSCEW doesn’t cover victims of State Crime.

Who are The Victims of Violent Crime?

It’s worth looking at who the victims of violent crime are as the impacts are likely to be felt more severely than other types of crime, such being a victim or fraud or burglary.

Victims of Serious Violence England and Wales 2011-2017 pooled data from several years of the Crime Survey for England and Wales and extracted data on over 10 000 incidents.

Extremely low numbers of people are victims of violent crime each year. The report estimates that 2-3% of adults are victims of violence each year, and only 1 in 250 require some kind of medical treatment for their injuries.

  • Males were at greater risk of violence – both for adults and children
  • Younger people were more at risk than older people
  • People from deprived areas were were more likely to be victims – adults from the 10% most deprived areas were almost twice as likely to be victims of violent crime compared to adults from the 10% most affluent areas.
  • ethnic minorities in general were less likely to be victims of violent crime

The report states that 36% of violence experienced by adults, and 70% by children does not come to the attention of police or a medical professional

Who are the Victims of Domestic Abuse?

One type of violent, interpersonal crime probably not covered in a representative way in the above research is Domestic Abuse, because of its very low reporting rates.

Safe Lives reports the following patterns of victimisation for this type of crime:

  • 90% of victims are women, only 10% are men.
  • Women from low income households (less than £10 000) were 3.5 times more likely to be victims compared to women from households earning more than £20 000.
  • The majority of victims are in their 20s and 30s, so as with crime in general, young people are more likely to be victims of domestic abuse than older people.

NB the above stats are based on people seeking help and advice about domestic abuse, so many of these won’t show up on the TCSEW.

If these domestic abuse stats are valid, then women are actually at greater risk of violent crime overall than men. Safe Lives reports that 100 000 women are currently at risk of severe violence at home. (This assumes there isn’t just as many male victims of any violent crime NOT coming forward and reporting their victimisation!).

REPEAT VICTIMISATION is also a horrible feature of Domestic Abuse – SafeLives reports that the average victim is a victim of abuse 50 times over, something which you generally don’t find to anywhere near this extent with being a victim of other types of crime.

Who are Victims of Hate Crime?

Hate crimes recorded by the police have been increasing in recent years according to a recent Home Office Briefing (from 2020).

The vast majority of hate crimes are due to someone’s ethnic background (so basically racist abuse) followed by religion, and around 50% of religiously motivated hate crimes are against Muslims. Anti-semitic crimes have also been increasing steadily.

Crimes against LGBT and Trans people are also higher than you might think – the report notes (based on data from a 2017 survey) that 54% of Trans people have reported experiencing a negative incident outside their home, as have 40% of LGBT people).

The vast majority of victims said they did not report the hate crime against them.

46 million Victims of UK State Crime?

And counting….

At time of writing 46 million people have received at least one dose of one of the Covid-19 vaccinations. The live count is here.

It is possible to interpret these people as having been victims of one of the largest ongoing State Crime of modern times.

The UK governments has consistently declared the vaccines to be safe, whereas the simple and objective truth is, that by regular medical-trial standards scientists simply don’t yet have sufficient data to comment on the safety of these vaccines.

The fact that the UK government has not been clear about this means that they have misled the British public into taking part in a country-level medical trial without their full and informed consent.

This is in breach of people’s human rights as UN conventions clearly state that citizens have a right to not take part in medical trials.

Now it’s a stretch to make the case for this being a State Crime, as people have the choice to not get vaccinated, but there is pressure there – and the government is a leading voice in this, which could be interpreted as coercion, which opens up the door to defining this scenario as a state crime with 46 million victims and counting.

Corporate Enabled State Crime 2021 – Pegasus Spyware

Pegasus Spyware – an example of corporate enabled state crime breaching the human right of privacy in 2021

Pegasus Spyware is software which is able to bypass your phone’s security and gain access to data on your device, such as:

  • emails
  • Whatsapp messages
  • photos
  • Your GPS location

It can also switch on your microphone and camera and record what you are doing without you being aware.

Pegasus is the most sophisticated piece of Spyware ever developed and it takes surveillance to its most intense and intrusive level ever.

How Pegasus hacks your phone

Pegasus Spyware is the main product of the Israeli surveillance company NSO Group who sells its surveillance software to governments around the world.

The company says it ‘vet’s governments and only sells software to clients involved in combatting terrorism and other serious crimes – by infecting suspected terrorists’ phones and subjecting them to intense surveillance.

However, according to a recent Guardian investigation, a recent leak of NSO files has revealed that some of government’s clients have been using their Spyware to target journalists and other dissidents who are perceived to be critical of their regimes. Some of the countries who use the software with bad records of human rights abuses include:

  • India
  • Morocco
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Hungary
Countries using Pegasus Spyware in breach of citizens’ human rights

The leaked records include 50 000 phone numbers of people whose phones may have been hacked – The Guardian recently investigated hundreds of these numbers and found that in dozens of cases the software was indeed on their phones and in some cases the people who have been under surveillance, or people close to them have been murdered, possibly by agents of the state in an attempt to silence them.

(NB the company denies these allegations and says its software is only used legitimately by ‘vetted’ governments.)

The most serious consequence of this level of surveillance used in this way is that it poses a threat to democracy. Dictatorial states are obsessive about surveillance in order to crack down on opposition and this software increases hugely their capacity to do just this.

It also reveals as a ‘fantasy narrative’ the idea that surveillance companies and states work together to only surveil ‘criminals’ in order to keep ordinary citizens safe. In these examples it is the citizens who are being kept under surveillance and having their right to privacy undermined as a result, without their consent.

A Corporate-State Crime

This seems to be a good example of a corporate enabled state crime, with the governments identified above being the criminals and the victims being anyone who has had their phone hacked.

Privacy is a fundamental human right defined under the United Nation’s Human Rights Convention, and in the above examples there are 5000 potential cases of individuals having their right to privacy denied by governments, in breach of their human rights.

Relevance to A-level sociology

This material is relevant to both the crime and deviance module and the media module, especially the topics of state crime and surveillance.

Find out More

This video provides a good overview of the Pegasus Surveillance Project.

This link to The Guardian provides an excellent way into exploring all aspects of this issue.

Examples of State Crimes 2020-2021

Some examples of State Crimes committed by developed and developing countries and an analysis of the problems of researching the nature and extent of state crime

This post provides several examples of Contemporary State Crimes and links to sources of information students can use to explore State Crimes further.

Before reading this post, you might like to read these two posts:

Studying State Crime is an explicit requirement for students studying A-level Sociology, as part of the compulsory Crime and Deviance Module.

Below I have highlighted five countries who are responsible for some of the worst state crimes in recent years….

I’ve tried to select examples of mainly developed countries committing state crimes, to demonstrate that it’s not all impoverished, war torn countries or ‘rogue states’ who are state-criminal actors.

It is, however, important to realise that I have been selective (so there is some selection bias here and these examples will lack representativeness) but I think it has to be this way to make this topic manageable. I have included links below where you can search for further examples of State Crimes.

NB – this post is a work in progress!

Countries Committing State Crimes in 2020-2021

I’ve listed these in rough order of the number of victims. The United Nations and Israel deserve their places at the top given the fact that, following Noam Chomsky, they are the two worst terrorist organisations/ rogue states of modern times, even if in the last couple of years their crimes against humanity may have been out of the spotlight!

1. The United States of America

Historically, there’s only one real contender for the the worst state criminal in all of all of human history – the USA.

Below is a useful summary video which takes a trip through some of the War Crimes committed by the United States of America since the end of World War Two.

2. The State of Israel

Israel has been committing crimes against Palestinians in the occupied territories for several decades now – there are presently almost 7 million Palestinian victims of Israeli apartheid policies which forbids Palestinians from having equal access to regions across Israel. This 2021 report from Human Rights watch explores this. A more accessible report might be this one from Amnesty international .

Some of the crimes the state of Israel commits against Palestinian civilians include:

  • Unlawful killing
  • Prevention of freedom of movement
  • Forced displacement
  • Discrimination

3. China

The Human Right’s Watch Global Report 2020 singles out China has being increasingly repressive in recent years. It notes that ‘….the detention of more than one million Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims in Xinjiang to pressure them to abandon Islam and their culture, the crushing of Hong Kong’s freedoms, ongoing repression in Tibet and Inner Mongolia, and the crackdown on independent voices throughout the country. This has been the darkest period for human rights in China since the 1989 massacre that ended the Tiananmen Square democracy movement.’

4. The Russian Federation

Amnesty International outlines the criminal case against the state of Russia here.

Even in its post-communist years the Russian State has a long history of not allowing freedom of assembly to protest, and the censoring of journalists who criticise the state, and even the murdering of those who oppose the State.

5. Syria and Turkey

War Crimes are still being committed by Syria and Turkey in Syria – including the arbitrary killing of civilians, forced detention, which can lead to the death penalty, looting of property and displacement of peoples – there are now 6 million refugees from the region.

Interestingly the report also labels neighbouring countries as committing crimes by blocking access to these refugees!

6. War Crimes in War Torn Countries (Special Note)

NB – you will find plenty of examples of many state crimes in war torn countries such as Yemen for example, but it seemed a little bit too easy to focus on those, I’m trying to be critical here!

Three organisations which monitor state crimes:

  • Amnesty International has a useful hub page here which will allow you to explore contemporary case studies of States involved in various crimes – such as disappearances, political violence, torture and states denying citizens freedom of expression.
  • Human Rights Watch – monitors all sorts of State crimes – they cover some of the same ground as Amnesty but also focus more extensively on issues such as women’s’ rights, and reproductive rights and lots more. Their reports page is well worth a browse!
  • Transparency International – monitors global political corruption – they’ve developed an index based on surveys which asks people questions such as ‘have you paid a bribe to access a public service in the last year’ – they rank countries according to how corrupt they are and do research into corruption in several countries. You can access the latest world corruption report here.
  • You might also be interested in this rare academic source – The State Crime Journal .

Globalisation and Crime

The AQA Sociology Crime and Deviance Specification specifies that students must examine (among other things!) ‘globalisation and crime in contemporary society’.

Questions sociologists might ask about Globalisation and crime….

  1. How has globalisation affected crime in contemporary society?
  2. What are global crimes?
  3. What is the extent of global crime?
  4. What are the consequences of global crimes for individuals and society? (relating to crime control)
  5. Why has global crime increased? (It’s a reasonable assumption that it has as it’s relatively new on the specification, albeit 20 years out of date as is often the case with AQA A-level sociology).

You will need to be able to link your answers to these questions to other aspects of the Crime and Deviance Specification (when talking about consequences you might distinguish between effects on men and women, for example), and you need to be able to apply sociological perspectives.

Before we turn to looking at the relationship between globalisation and crime, it is worth reviewing the concept of globalisation, itself one of the most important concepts A-level sociology students need to know!

What is globalisation?

In short it’s the different regions across the world becoming increasingly interconnected resulting in increasing flows of the following:

  • economic globalisation means more global trade (the increasing movement of goods and services between countries) and more Transnational companies.
  • cultural globalisation means more communication between people and the intermixing of ideas, often resulting in ‘hybrid’ cultures.
  • There is also the increasing migration of people – for study, work, flight from wars (refugees) and (for the wealthy) holidays, which has elements of both cultural and economic globalisation.

Globalisation can be physical – the movement of people and objects across borders, as well as virtual – the increasing significance of the internet in our lives has really pushed globalisation forward.

There is thus also a ‘technological’ underpinning to globalisation – transport and communications technologies especially.

There is debate over whether globalisation is mainly a one way process from the West to the developing world, or more of a two way process; and a debate over whether it’s good (optimism) or bad (pessimism) and also those who believe it has been exaggerated, or in reverse, all of which you can apply to our coming discussion of the relationship between globalisation and crime!

For more information on Globalisation, check out my ‘Global Development and Globalisation‘ web page – there are several links which will allow you to explore the concept further!

What are Global Crimes?

There are different ways of classifying global crimes, but one way we can do this is as follows:

  • Trafficking – moving drugs, people and/ or weapons across international borders
  • Cyber Crimes – such as phising attacks, extortion and fraud
  • Financial crimes – such as tax evasion.
  • International terrorism
  • Most (if not all?) green crimes are also global in nature.

Some of the above global crimes are carried out by loan operators, some by organised criminal networks (some people consider ‘organised crime’ to be a category of crime in its own right), some by governments themselves (state crimes) and some my Corporations.

What is the extent of global crime?

Trafficking

The Global Financial Integrity Report on Transnational Crime estimates that the total global value of all trafficking is between $1.6 to $2.2 trillion, with drug trafficking making up the largest share, around 30% of this, with a global value of around $500 billion.

According to The United Nations 2021 Drug Report , globally in 2018 an estimated 269 million people had used a drug at least once in the previous year, equivalent to 5.4 per cent of the population. This is projected to rise by 11% to 299 people by 2030.

Most of the increase will be in developing countries, with high income countries projected to see falling numbers of drug users in the next decade.

Cyber Crime

Cyber Security Ventures estimates that Cyber Crime will cost the world $5 trillion in 2021, and estimates that cost will grow to $10.5 trillion by 2025.

NB you might want to be cautious with these statistics because I think the company which did the research sells cyber security protection, so it’s in their interests to exaggerate the risks!

Nonetheless this is something governments and companies take very seriously.

A couple of important aspects mentioned in the article are that RansomWare is one of the fastest growing types of cyber crime – where your computer is hacked and data frozen, only to be released when you have paid a ransom (this may not be too much of a hassle for an individual, but if companies or government agencies are victims this is a much bigger dea.

Also, a lot of cyber crime takes place in the Deep and Dark Web, thought to be several times greater than what we can see online (visible, accessible public networks), and that This is also related increasingly to drug trafficking – increasingly people buy and sell drugs via the deep and dark web.

Tax Havens and Tax Evasion

The IMF estimates that there are $ several trillions of dollars of Corporate Funds stashed away in tax havens, costing the tax payer from between $500 to $600 in lost tax revenue (so a similar financial cost to the value of drug crime).

Estimates for how much individual wealth (rather than Corporate wealth) are stashed in tax havens are more varied, given the secrecy surrounding these funds, but two estimates cited by the IMF are from between $8 trillion to more than $30 trillion, costing the taxpayer around $200 billion a year in lost revenue.

There is a conceptual problem with labelling the use of tax havens as ‘criminal’ – companies and individuals often use loopholes in the law to get their funds out of countries where they are taxed and into tax havens where they are not taxed, or taxed at a very low rate, so we have to use a broader definition of crime as something which is harmful (through lost tax revenue) to ensure we include the use of tax havens in our examples of global crime.

Global Terrorism

Trends in global terrorism are actually going down (so some rare good news!).

According to the Global Terrorism Index, in 2019 ‘only’ just under 14000 people died in global terror incidents, the fifth year of decline since a peak of 34500 deaths in 2014.

Most terrorism deaths are located in a small handful of war torn countries, mainly Afghanistan, where 40% of deaths from Terror attacks occur.

While terrorism is often very locally felt, many of the groups who claim responsibility for these attacks are responding to global dynamics and see themselves as part of a global network, so they are a response to globalisation.

How has globalisation affected crime in contemporary society?

This is one of the more complex questions we can ask in A-level sociology, and there are several possible ways we can break down our analysis, and a lot of interconnecting ideas where ever we start.

Below I’ve started with the concept of globalisation and considered how economic and cultural globalisation have opened up more opportunities for people and organisations to engage in certain types of crime and how the nature and extent of crime has changed as a result.

Economic globalisation and global crime

Economic globalisation refers to increasing amounts of global trade and money, the increasing role of Transnational Corporations, the spread of an international division of labour, and (importantly from a broadly Marxist point of view) increasing amounts of inequality between rich and poor regions around the world.

Increasing amounts of trade of goods across international borders and the fact that some countries tax certain goods, such as alcohol and cigarettes, have lead to increasing amounts of smuggling of such highly taxed products -organised criminal networks have emerged (e.g. think of the Mafia) who smuggle cigarettes and alcohol from countries where they are produced very cheaply to countries where they are taxed very highly, such as the UK – this is simple demand and supply, albeit illegal, and very common: there are plenty of poor people in the UK (for example) who want cheaper booze and fags, and plenty of poor people in developing countries who are willing to risk jail time to traffic non-taxed booze and fags to countries such as the UK.

The above also applies to the illegal trade in counterfeit goods, from clothes to electronics – all of these goods (as well as fags and booze) may present themselves as genuine, but in reality they are fake – but when there are so many containers of goods moving around the world (global trade is massive) there is significant opportunity for organised criminal networks to smuggle their cheaper counterfeit/ untaxed goods into shipping containers and get them to willing and often unwitting consumers in their destination countries.

Marxists are keen to point out that it’s not just criminal networks involved in global economic crime – so are many Transnational Corporations -it’s a bit more difficult to analyse the role of these in global crime as they are more likely to engage in ‘law evasion’ rather than actual crime – for example Shell extracting oil in Nigeria and taking advantage of the laxer pollution laws in that country, committing effectively no ‘crime’ by Nigerian standards, but an environmental crime nonetheless.

TNCs also engage in tax evasion as do many wealthy individuals by stashing their wealth in tax havens, again, not technically illegal, but harmful due to lost tax revenue.

Another way in which economic globalisation might fuel global crime is through increasing inequality – one rather horrible aspect of this is sex trafficking – there are plenty of men in developed countries looking for cheap prostitutes prepared to travel to countries such those in Eastern Europe to get what they want – and the young women they find there may well have been trafficked into sex-work on the promise of something else by organised criminal gangs – one of the darker sides of the global economy.

The supply of drugs from poorer countries to richer countries is another aspect of inequality fuelling this global trade.

Cultural globalisation and global crime

The increasing communications between cultures may have lead to more cultural clashes the world over, more ‘ordinary people’ coming into conflict with their more traditional political orders.

An obvious example of this is ‘liberated’ women in Iran posting pictures of themselves on Instagram and the State ‘cracking down on them‘, but there’s much more to it than this – radical interpretations of Islam have made their way to Britain and other European countries, shared and circulated online and contributed to various terror attacks over the last couple of decades.

However, it’s important not to exaggerate the extent to which exposure to new ideas results in ‘violent cultural clashes’, it’s quite possible that for the most part people online are just stuck in their bubbles (their social media bubbles, not meant here in the Pandemic sense of the word) and for the most part not inclined to criminal behaviour!

We could also point to the emergence of a set of ‘global human right’s outlined by the United Nations which proclaim that Nation States (governments) are not permitted to breach certain rights of individual citizens – making illegal at a global level things such as genocide, which opens up the possibilities of governments being held accountable as criminals, which couldn’t have happened before the UN HUMAN RIGHTS CONVENTION immediately after World War Two.

The Internet and Global Cyber Crime

The instantaneous connectivity through the internet deserves special mention in its own right in relation to global crime.

This probably more than ANYTHING else has changed the nature of crime across societies as it creates so many more opportunities for people anywhere in the world to commit crime and for people to be unwitting victims of crime.

It’s possible for one individual to send out literally millions of phishing emails or comments to millions of people in a single day in attempt to get them to click on a link which will (variably) try to elicit their personal information from them or get them to download some dodgy software which will collect their data from their computer.

The Deep Web and Dark Web also make it easier for people to trade in illegal goods and services online and to network and have conversations which may result in very serious criminal activities – think terrorist cells and child abuse rings – all made easier to maintain via the Dark Web.

What are the consequences of global crimes for individuals and society?

Here we really need to take a global development perspective and think of winners and losers at a global level.

Certainly global crime has created many losers from developing countries – anyone trafficked into the sex industry or any drug mules caught and sent to jail, and several migrants who have paid their life savings to then NOT be transported successfully to their destination countries.

But then again, you could see this as an opportunity – drugs are part of global trade – and there is more money to made in growing Cocaine than Coffee for some farmers in Colombia – possibly opening up better opportunities than ‘free trade as usual’ – NB not to say this will always be the case as being involved in the global drugs market probably isn’t that SAFE.

And it’s not necessarily the case that the consumers in the west are the winners – they may also be victims, of poor quality fags and booze for example.

Where cyber crime is concerned it’s more hidden – there are probably more victims alive today that DON’T know about it than ever before in human history.

Finally, global crime is a problem for governments – it takes a lot of resources and co-ordination to combat global crime, especially when so much of it is online and thus not visible.

And where some of more heinous crimes are concerned, this increases our sense of fear and vulnerability and uncertainty – such as with global terrorism.

Why has global crime increased?

It’s easy (lazy?) to see the increase of crime as an ‘inevitable’ response to Globalisation – with more flows of goods and people and ideas, SOME of that is going to be illegal.

There’s also an underlying technological change we need to consider – the internent does make crime easier.

But to answer this question with any analytical depth, you need to be able to apply the perspectives.

From a Marxist point of view this is due to the spread of Global Capitalism – creating more inequalities which results in inequities in supply and demand – plenty of poor people who can’t make decent money growing coffee would rather risk growing Cocaine, for example.

Another aspect of a Marxist analysis is the spread of TNCs engaged in law evasion and also tax evasion by elites.

Misha Glenny has researched the role of Organised criminal networks in facilitating the rise of Global Crime (the McMafia as he calls them) pointing out that the collapse of Communism in the late 1980s resulted in a massive increase in organised crime in countries such as Bulgaria – trafficking a lot of goods to Western Europe – here it’s not so much ‘legal capitalism’ which is the problem, rather criminal gangs operating outside the law in several countries.

You can also apply Feminism in order to help understand sex trafficking in particular.

Interactionism is also relevant because changes in international law, and national laws can criminalise acts and thus ‘increase’ global crime overnight – the United Nations Human Rights Conventions did this with State crimes, for example. And the same thing is happening with many green or enviromental crimes.

Not to say that these legal changes are bad, but they do increase the amount of crime simply by making acts illegal that previously were not, such as genocide and several forms of pollution.

Sociological Research on Life Imprisonment

A life sentence in jail is the most severe form of punishment the English Criminal Justice System can hand out, and the number of people serving life imprisonment in England and Wales has increased in the last few decades, but how do those sentenced to a Life-term in jail cope?

This recent Thinking Allowed Podcast features Ben Crewe, Deputy Director of the Prison Research Centre at the University of Cambridge, who recently published some research on this topic.

NB – A ‘life sentence’ doesn’t mean someone will spend their life in jail, they get a very long term (say 15 years) and then spend their life ‘on license’ meaning (as I understand it) they could be put back inside if they return to crime.

Why are there more people serving Life?

Crewe argues that there is no evidence that an underlying increase in very serious crimes (namely murder) is the cause, rather it is changes to the law and sentencing policy which has resulted in more people being sent to jail for life.

The 2003 Criminal Justice Act and a subsequent amendment changed the minimum jail tariff judges were able to give out for someone convicted for murder – as a result the average starting jail sentence when up from 12.5 years in 2003 to 21 years by 2016.

Jail terms for murder also increased because of the the introduction of ‘joint enterprise’, which means an individual can be convicted of someone else’s crime if the jury believe they believed the perpetrator was going to commit it.

So if there’s a group of three with two people watching the third person murdering someone else, the other two can also be convicted of murder.

Research Methods….

The researchers interviewed people who were convicted at 25 years of age or younger and had received sentences of 15 years or more.

They visited 25 prisons overall and interviewed 126 men and 21 women and issued surveys to more than another 300 inmates

They tried to get a spread of people near the beginning of their sentences, those in the middle, and those at the end or who had recently been released.

There were only 27 women who fit the above criteria, so they set out to interview all of them, a rare example of an attempt to achieve a ‘total sample’ of a research population.

Differences between Lifers from the 1970s and Lifers today

Today’s inmates serving Life terms are more likely to have been convicted younger, more likely to be from ethnic minority backgrounds and less likely to be ‘professional criminals’.

They typically come from chaotic backgrounds and weren’t expecting to be put inside for such a long time, and so they were in shock on being put inside, angry at themselves and at the Criminal Justice System.

There is a difference between male and female prisoners

The women’s live’s were typically saturated with abuse, often starting within the nuclear family and partners

Women experineced the problems of imprisonment much more accutely than men in nearly all areas

How did the prisoners construct a life while in custody?

How did the life term prisoners build a new life inside having left behind their life outside?

During the early years they were in survival mode – existing rather than living, drowning, with a feeling of having no control with very little hope or meaning.

They tried to suppress their experience of incarceration by sleeping a lot or drugs or suicide, with almost everyone considering suicide (so escape) and a lot of denial. Sounds very much like they were in a state of Anomie!

Those in the middle of their jail terms had found ways to construct a life – faith, education and therapy were ways in which they found purpose in the present, but also of making sense of the deep existential crisis they found themselves in, to help them deal with deep feelings of shame and guilt at what they had done.

Self improvement was also seen as a a way of making amends, and many had intentions to give something back to other prisoners or society. It was also important to them that they try to be good people going forwards.

How did they cope with outside relationships?

Very few had long term relationships outside, but those who did terminated them themselves pretty quickly and the women realised their previous relationships had been toxic, so there was a different dynamic between men and women in this regard.

Many men said they had improved their relationships with their parents, for women most had been abandoned, but those who had children lost them, which understandably was terrible.

How they coped with TIME

Those near the beginning of their sentences ignored time and just took it one day at a time – to think of all the time ahead in jail gave them a sort of ‘temporal vertigo’.

Eventually, those further into their sentences found more constructive uses of their time.

Ben Crewe says that this made them more mature in some ways but more damaged in others – distorted in some ways by the institution, lacking social connections in the ordinary sense of the word, and many switched off their emotions to cope, which doesn’t bode well for their ability to form ‘normal’ relationships.

It makes sense to have shorter minimal sentences

Because you can release early those who have shown themselves to be a minimal risk to society! And you can always put them back in if necessary!

Relevance to A-level Sociology

This is of clear relevance to the Crime and Deviance module, especially punishment and crime control, and useful for gender differences in the way women experience life more harshly than men, and a handy link to anomie as well.

There’s also a link to Interactionism and crime – it’s the change in the law that’s lead to more lifers, not the underlying seriousness of what they’ve done!

It’s also a great example of ‘researching the underdog’ as well – giving a voice to those normally forgotten!

Sociological Perspectives on America’s Tough Love Teen Boot Camps

Paris Hilton’s 2020 Documentary revealed how she had been the victim of parental and systemic abuse – following a somewhat chaotic adolescence in which she partied a lot her parents arranged for her to be kidnapped in the middle of the night and shipped off against her will to a ‘tough love bootcamp’ in the middle of the American wilderness.

Paris Hilton claims here experience has done her permanent psychological damage – she feels like it made her unable to trust anyone, and there are many adults who are now coming out and speaking out about how the teen bootcamp industry damaged them.

You can read some pretty damning accounts at this BBC news article – there is even one case of someone dying on a hike because the organisers failed to provide adequate medical attention in a suitable time period, and entirely preventable death. Paris Hilton herself claims to have been beaten for trying to run away from one camp.

I imagine they’ve changed in nature in recent years, but these camps are quite an industry in the United States, if you do a Google search for ‘American troubled teens bootcamps’ you get a lot of links to companies that run various camps for teenagers who parents think are a little out of control and in need of an emotional reset.

They vary in nature, but common themes at these camps include their bing out in the middle of nowhere, the teens doing mainly outdoor physical work, restrictions on social media access and mobile phone usage and probably these days therapy sessions.

This rather bleak topic oozes with sociological relevance – it’s relevant to the family module and crime and deviance (social control) especially, also research methods as this is a tricky one to research for all sorts of reasons.

Below are just a few thoughts on some of the sociological perspectives and concepts you might apply to analyse Teen boot camps….

Right Realism

This is probably the perspective those who run the boot camps are the most closely aligned to – the idea is that you need to be ‘tough’ on ‘wayward teens’ and make them take responsibility for their wayward behaviour.

Functionalism – Social Regulation and Anomie

Certainly from the perspective of the parents sending their kids are possibly experiencing anomie – as are they – they don’t know what to do – and the ‘fix’ is to farm out the social regulation function to boot camps

Privatisation of education/ social control

These bootcamps tend to be private companies which parents have to pay for, so it’s an example of the privatisation of education and the social control function

Power and labelling theory

From the teen’s perspective they are just powerless here – possibly the victims of labelling by their parents and years of being labelled as underachievers or ‘problems’ by the system.

Victimology

For the many thousands of teens who have gone through these in the 1990s/ 2000s they are hidden victims of crime, we are only just getting to hear their stories!

Final thoughts/ other concepts

If you can think of other relevant concepts (there are more!) drop them in the comments!

You can watch the entire Paris Hilton documentary below, although be warned, it’s VERY self indulgent, but what else would you expect!

Critiques might say this is a great example of an over-indulged self-obsessed attention seeker just wanting ‘more more more’ attention please, using her ’emotional baggage’ to get more of that.

Poverty is the Main ‘Cause’ of Youth Violent Crime in London……

A recent 2019 study into the causes of violent crime in London found that the proportion of children under 20 living in poverty was the main factor correlated with levels youth violent crime in London Boroughs.

This is an important update for the A-level Sociology Crime and Deviance module.

The study was conducted in 2019 by the Greater London Authority, and it took a public health approach to analysing the ’causes’ of increasing levels of youth violence in London from 2013-2017.

Defining and measuring violent crime

The study took a broad, multi agency approach to defining and measuring violent crime. ‘mapping’ their definitions of violent crimes here:

They also used many different sources to identify the upward trend in violent crime, such as hospital admissions for knife attacks, given that so many of these go unreported…

If you know anything about London, it’s already obvious from this chart that it’s the poorest areas such as Hackney and Croydon with the highest rates of youth violence, and the richest areas such as Chelsea with the lowest…

The main ’causes’ of youth violence

The study did a borough wide analysis, as the stats for violent crime were by borough, and found that all of the boroughs in the top ten for youth violent crime also had above average amounts of under 20 year olds living in poverty.

The main factors correlated with youth violence, in order of importance were as follows:

Relevance to A-level sociology

This is a useful update for social class and crime: poverty may only be one aspect of social class, but this study does suggest that more violent crime is committed by the working classes.

This study seems to offer broad support for Left Realism – deprivation and marginalisation register as being highly correlated with levels of youth violence.

Limitations of this study

  • Already, two years on, the data is four years old, as it only goes up 2019. In this online age, this should have been organised via an Artificial Intelligence so the data is updating automatically!
  • This only focuses on Youth violence, not crime more generally, so it is not representative of all crime.
  • Marxists might criticise the study as having narrow definitions of violence, focussing only on street violence and domestic violence, rather than the state-sponsored military violence instigated from the borough of Westminster.
  • This study might be a little biased – it seems to be coming from a Left Realist Perspective on crime, and (funnily enough) supports a Left Realist view of crime!

References

You can read the full report here: Progressing a Public Health Approach to Reducing Violence, 2019.

Teenage girls think there’s a lot of sexual harassment in schools, but is there?!?

A recent OFSTED report on sexual harassment in schools and colleges examined the extent of sexual harassment in schools, but to my mind it tells us very little about the actual extent of sexual harassment in schools.

The researchers visited 32 schools and colleges and interviewed 900 students about their experiences of sexual harassment, and at first glance the results look pretty bleak, but you need to be VERY CAREFUL with what these results tell us.

They tell us the perception of sexual harassment, not the actual rates of sexual harassment.

Girls’ perception of sexual harassment in schools

The following types of sexual harassment were reported as happening ‘a lot’ or ‘sometimes’ to ‘people my age’

  • sexist name-calling (92%)
  • rumours about their sexual activity (81%)
  • unwanted or inappropriate comments of a sexual nature (80%)
  • sexual assault of any kind (79%)
  • feeling pressured to do sexual things that they did not want to (68%)
  • unwanted touching (64%)

Girls’ Perception of Sexual harassment online

And the perceived extent of sexual harassment online…

  • being sent pictures or videos they did not want to see (88%)
  • being put under pressure to provide sexual images of themselves (80%)
  • having pictures or videos that they sent being shared more widely without their knowledge or consent (73%)
  • being photographed or videoed without their knowledge or consent (59%)
  • having pictures or videos of themselves that they did not know about being circulated (51%)

The problem is in the wording of the questions….

Students were basically asked ‘how bad is sexual harassment among all people my age’ and, for example 88% of girls say that ‘being sent pictures they don’t want to see is common among people my age’.

This isn’t the same as ‘88% of female students have received pictures they didn’t want’.

All this research tells us is about teenage girls’ perceptions of sexual harassment among their peers, not the actual rate of sexual harassment.

The report also found that many girls think schools are completely ineffective at dealing with cases of sexual harassment.

So teenage girls think there’s a lot of sexual harassment, but is there?

It is worth knowing that teenage girls THINK there’s a lot of sexual harassment going on, but is there?

But having read the report i’m left wanting to know the ACTUAL extent of sexual harassment, which is much more difficult to measure of course.

I guess ethics got in the way of OFSTED doing real research

I get it, asking young people about their ACTUAL PERSONAL EXPERIENCES of sexual harassment isn’t something you can do just by rocking up for a day or two and doing a few interviews.

So instead OFSTED have got around this by generalising the questions.

The problem is ‘90% of girls thinking that sexual harassment of some kind occurs in their school’ – that really tells us NOTHING about the extent of the problem.

It’s a bleak topic, matched by the bleak pointlessness of this research.