Official statistics do show that men and women from African-Caribbean backgrounds are disproportionately over-represented in terms of arrest, prosecution and imprisonment. Reflecting this picture, Left realism argues that the typical offender is a young, black, working-class male. This suggests at face value that the UK has a problem with black criminality. However, crime statistics can be misleading. This is the position adopted by the statistical artefact approach, which suggests that apparently high levels of offending by young, black males have more to do with their demographic and social-class profiles than their ethnicity. Labelling theorists would add that there is a problem with the police operating according to stereotypes fuelled by a canteen culture that helps to turn the prejudice of black criminality into a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This is quite a long introduction. However, it is packed with ideas that will be explored in the main body of the essay. Note that the first sentence makes a significant gender point: that we should not overlook black women in this answer, even though there is little in textbooks about them.
Many black sociologists, such as Hall and Gilroy, argue that the image of black criminality stems from the biased and prejudicial treatment they receive at the hands of the criminal justice system. For example, Home Office statistics show that in London black males are stopped and searched eight times more than white males. Critics of the idea of black criminality argue that the police operate within the norms and values of a ‘canteen culture’ whereby a stereotypical view is reinforced and shared within the police community. This results in the labelling and arresting of young black males, which then serves to reinforce and justify the values of the police: a self-fulfilling prophecy.
This point about police labelling is the major argument for why official crime statistics may give a misleading impression of high levels of black offending. The depth of content is raised by reference to Hall and Gilroy (although these are getting a little dated) and the concept of ‘canteen culture’. A weakness of this paragraph is that it contains limited AO2 content.
Fitzgerald et al. set out a range of factors that account for the disproportionately high offending rate of young black males. The first is that they are overwhelmingly located in the working class. Not only this, but they often grow up in the most deprived working-class neighbourhoods where crime is highest. This reinforces the work of the Chicago School, as well as Cloward and Ohlin, who identified a correlation between areas of deprivation with a high population turnover and criminal gangs. Nightingale and Bourgois have also made a link between deprivation and black crime in the USA.
Examiners will reward comparisons between sociological perspectives. Comparing and contrasting is a useful way of acquiring AO2 marks. The content is now shifting towards what is known as the artefact explanation — that analysis of statistics shows that it is not necessarily their ethnicity as such, but social locations (locality, age, social class etc.) that explains high levels of apparent offending.
Many young black males grow up in lone-mother-headed, single-parent families. The New Right and Charles Murray in particular have reinforced the idea that such families are feckless and dysfunctional, resulting in fatherless children becoming delinquent. However, Walker criticises Murray for relying solely on innuendos, anecdotes and stories. The evidence shows that while there is a statistical link between higher crime levels and lone-parent families, this is probably more to do with the deprivation of such families rather than their structure and shape.
This is a detailed paragraph on lone-mother families. Murray’s condemnation of them is followed first by a critique by Alan Walker and then by a balanced consideration of the evidence.
An approach known as the ‘statistical artefact approach’ has an interesting theory to explain the higher engagement of young males from the Caribbean community in criminal behaviour. Fitzgerald et al. argue that since evidence shows that young males commit most crime, it follows that an ethnic group with a demographic profile that is disproportionately young will present a distorted picture in crime statistics. In other words, it will appear that males from that ethnic group commit more crimes. Therefore it is to be expected that young black males will be viewed as prominent offenders, because of the age profile of their ethnic group. However, Left realists would argue that other factors lie behind black offending, such as subculture and feelings of marginalisation and the relative deprivation they experience.
This paragraph covers an interesting explanation associated with Fitzgerald et al. that the motivations of black offenders are the same as white offenders, but black males appear to be more involved in crime through their demographic profile of being disproportionately young as an ethnic group. The paragraph ends with an AO2 point using Left realist ideas to argue that there may be specific factors associated with the black male community that drives criminal activity.
Many sociologists have identified firstly subculture and secondly educational underperformance as key factors in explaining particularly juvenile crime. Young, black males are particularly associated with underachievement and are three times more likely to be excluded from school as white boys. There is a logical link between exclusion and juvenile delinquency. However, it is worth pointing out that the poorest performing educational group is white, working-class males.
A useful link is made to levels of offending by young blacks and educational underachievement and exclusions. Remember that this unit is synoptic so any link back to other topics will be rewarded, as would the reference to families above.
In conclusion, the over-representation of young, black males does not result from a ‘black criminality’ as such but has far more to do with their social location in the deprived sections of the working class and their demographic profile of being over-represented in the youthful category in which most offending takes place.
This is a clear and focused conclusion that comes down firmly on one side of the argument based on the evidence in the answer above.
Topic 3 Globalisation and crime in contemporary society
Global crime, human rights and state crimes
1 Cybercrime is the targeting or use of computers for the purpose of committing illegal acts. Because of the nature of the internet, it is often global in nature with attacks coming from criminals located in other nations. Examples include the spreading of viruses, using computers to commit traditional crimes such as fraud or illegal gambling, or using computers to store illegal or stolen information.
2 Globalisation can be defined in many ways but explanations commonly use terms like ‘growing interdependence’ and how the growth of communications and transport is ‘shrinking’ the world in terms of time and space. Many crimes are now viewed as increasingly global. Examples include corporate crime where money, goods or environmental waste are moved around the world in order to avoid prosecution.
3 Interpol (International Criminal Police Organisation) is an international police agency, based in Lyon, France, that liaises between the police forces of 188 countries. Europol is the European Union law enforcement agency that handles criminal intelligence between the police forces of member states. Both Interpol and Europol aim to prevent and combat serious international organised crime such as money laundering, arms smuggling, drugs and people trafficking and, increasingly, terrorism.
4 Because the offender may be in a different country from the victim. A nation will not have the power to arrest an offender in another sovereign state. In addition, nations will need to cooperate with each other over extradition arrangements so that offenders can be tried in the country where the offence took place.
5 It was estimated by Tony Blair when he was Prime Minister that 50% of crime in Britain is related to drugs in some way. Therefore, given that most ‘hard’ drugs and a significant proportion of ‘soft’ drugs are imported illegally into Britain, they indirectly drive significant levels of domestic crime. For example, individuals will mug and burgle in order to finance their drug addictions.
6 Money laundering is processing stolen or illegal currency in a way that makes it look respectable and therefore beyond the reach of law-enforcement agencies. Money laundering is typically an international operation whereby money is moved around the world electronically, often in and out of tax havens where the origin and dubious authenticity of money can go unchecked and unquestioned.
7 With the exception of Marxists, sociologists tended to ignore the role of the state except perhaps to view it as the guardian of citizenship rights and upholder of order through the criminal justice system. However, the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights through the Human Rights Act of 1998 not only enshrined rights but identified new areas where people became protected by the law. Sociologists now consider the issue of human rights through crimes such as child slavery, trafficking and adult slavery, genocide, terrorism and the use of force by agents of the state.
8 State crime is defined by Green and Ward as ‘crimes committed by, or with the complicity of, government and its agents’. It includes actions by one country against another, such as the illegal invasion or declaration of war against United Nations resolutions. State crime can often involve the illegal activities of a state’s officials or agents, such as politicians or senior civil servants allocating contracts in return for bribes, favours or donations to political parties. State crime can also apply to the activities of agents like the police. Thus the killing of the suspected terrorist, Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes, on a London Underground train could be regarded as a state crime.
9 The starting point with regard to any Marxist analysis of crime is that laws reflect the interests of the rich and powerful, namely the ruling class. Given that Marxists see the state as representing ruling-class interests, it follows that when deemed necessary in order to do this, the state will break international laws and even its own domestic laws. State crime is therefore to be expected if ruling-class interests (e.g. as owners of major capitalist industries) are threatened directly or indirectly.