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(p. 163) 7. Crime data and criminal statistics: a critical reflection 

(p. 163) 7. Crime data and criminal statistics: a critical reflection
(p. 163) 7. Crime data and criminal statistics: a critical reflection

Mike Maguire

and Susan McVie

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date: 25 January 2021

This chapter provides a critical reflection on the nature and measurement of crime levels, patterns, and trends. It covers empirical and methodological questions about how much crime there is and how this changes over time and considers the relationship between what crime data are collected and published and changes in perceptions of and responses to the crime problem as a result of developments in the politics of crime control. The chapter is divided into three sections. The first provides a critical overview of the development of the ‘official’ crime statistics in England and Wales, highlighting some of the key decisions that are made about how to present statistics to the public and how to respond to legal changes, new sources of data, and the emergence of new kinds of criminal behaviour. The second section examines, and explores the reasons behind, a rapid growth in demand for new kinds of information about crime which has been evident since the 1970s. The final section summarizes challenges, dilemmas, and recent debates about the future of national crime statistics, including questions about how to maintain public trust and how to balance competing demands of relevance, comprehensiveness, and robust measurement of trends.

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