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The Oxford Handbook of Criminology

The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (7th edn)

Alison Liebling, Shadd Maruna, and Lesley McAra
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date: 02 December 2023

p. 994. The changing role of data in crime, criminal justice, and criminologylocked

p. 994. The changing role of data in crime, criminal justice, and criminologylocked

  • Ben Matthews
  •  and Susan McVie


Data has always been at the heart of criminological endeavours and underpins some of its most important theoretical and conceptual developments. Recent advances in technology, computer science, and data expansion have fundamentally re-shaped society and impacted significantly on various aspects of crime and justice. Such developments have posed challenges for traditional methods of defining and measuring crime, but also opened up novel sources of information such as citizen generated ‘counterdata’. The increasing availability of data has shaped the working practices and policies of criminal justice organizations, which use increasingly sophisticated approaches towards prevention and prediction on the one hand, and surveillance and social control on the other. And while new opportunities for criminology have increased in terms of methodological expansion and theoretical development, potential risks have emerged in terms of replicability, reputation and disciplinary integrity. In this chapter, we take a critical approach to examining the contemporary role of data in shaping crime, criminal justice and criminology, with specific reference to methodological innovations, conceptual debates, ethical controversies, and disciplinary dilemmas.

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