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Copy of Tutorial 2: What and how do we know about crime?

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Elisa Mezzetti

on 9 December 2014

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Transcript of Copy of Tutorial 2: What and how do we know about crime?

TUTORIAL 2: WHAT, AND HOW, DO WE KNOW ABOUT CRIME?
We need to think in terms of 'ologies'.
Ontology
This is 'a theory of the nature of social entities' (Bryman 2008: 696)
It involves asking questions about what kinds of things exist in the world and in what form
So for instance, is 'crime' an
objective
thing which exists independently of us as social actors...
...or (following what Nils Christie says) is 'crime' merely the outcome of a complex process of
social construction
and 'meaning-making'?
Is crime a 'thing'?
'Crime does not exist. Crime is created. First there are acts. Then follows a long process of giving meaning to those acts.'
Methodology
This is concerned with the study of description of the
methods
that we use to collect knowledge and is (to a large extent) dependent upon our
ontologica
l and
epistemological
stance.
So, if we think that crime is a 'real' and 'objective' existence (that is, independent of us as social actors) we might be more interested in trying to quantify or measure it (in surveys or questionnaires that collect numerical data)...
...or, if we think of 'crime' as the product of complex processes of interpretation and 'meaning-making' by social actors then we might conduct interviews where participants are free to describe what they think about crime and how they 'make sense' of it.
Epistemology
This is the 'theory of knowledge' (Bryman 2008: 693)
It involves asking questions about what different 'ways of knowing' about social phenomena there might be.
So, if we treat crime as an objective phenomena we might adopt what are called
positivist epistemologies
which advocates using methods found in the natural sciences (e.g. observation, measurement and experimentation)...
...if, on the other hand, we treat crime as a social construction we might adopt more
interpretivist epistemologies
which require us to grasp the subjective meaning of social action (e.g. in language/discourse).
Nils Christie,
in 'Crime Control as Industry' (1993: 22)
Using crime statistics
Working in groups of three or four, use your knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of the Crime Survey for England and Wales (formerly the British Crime Survey) and police recorded crime (PRC) to choose which of the two data sets (or neither!) you would refer to for the more accurate measure of the following types of offending. Explain why.

Burglary of business premises
Criminal damage to property
Drug dealing
Racially motivated assault
Child sexual abuse
Benefit fraud
Theft of a motor vehicle
Rape in a marriage
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