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Pros and Cons of Interpol Data

Essay by   •  April 22, 2011  •  Case Study  •  1,154 Words (5 Pages)  •  4,249 Views

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Dr. Jan Van Dijk opposes the reliance cross-national crime researchers have with Interpol data. Van Dijk believes that this is not an effective way to measure how much crime there is in different countries for three reasons: the legal definitions of crime are too broad, the police may or may not record crime, and the public may or may not report crime. Basically, Dr. Jan Van Dijk is saying that there are too many discrepancies and biases in the Interpol data for it to be a dependable source of information.

On the other hand, we have Dr. Rosemary Barberet who has another view on the subject. She believes that there are advantages to the Interpol data. Firstly it is the oldest quantitative cross-national data source aside from very few other sources. "Interpol is one of the largest intergovernmental agencies in the world" [which] "provides information from a diverse collection of countries" (Barberet, 2009, 195). She also argues that police are given a set of guidelines and definitions to follow when recording crime as to lessen the room for error. Another point that is touched upon is that the countries chosen are diverse. Essentially, Dr. Rosemary Barbaret believes that Interpol data is a reliable because it is done annually and has been done for an extended period of time with procedures that are followed.

Dr. Van Dijk's first claim was that the legal definitions of crime are too broad for us to use comparatively. Van Dijk has compared the UN and Interpol questionnaires, and from these two sources alone has argues that the broad definitions of deviance give the crime statistics less significance. They may vary by the types of law that are enforced in each particular country, for example common law countries versus civil law countries. It is also possible that, in comparison to the Unites States, acts that we define as deviant may not be defined as such or may be more or less severe in other countries. The example that Dr. Van Dijk uses is burglary. In common law countries, burglary is the act of breaking and entering a premises with the intent to commit a serious crime. In civil law countries burglary is defined as the act of theft under aggravating circumstances (Van Dijk, 2008, 17).

The second argument is that police do not record all crimes. Van Dijk has used the British Crime Survey as his source of information. It has shown that police record only about half of the crimes reported to them. Amongst other studies done by the Dutch and Chinese, we can come to a conclusion that overall, only one third of all reports by victims were not officially recorded as crimes (Van Dijk, 2008, 17). The reason for this may be that the governments are trying to hide the fact that there is so much crime in their own countries. The law enforcement officials as well as the governments do not want to look bad.

The third argument is about victims and underreporting. The source of Van Dijk's information is crime victimization surveys, which started in the Netherlands and have continued to England, Wales, and other western European countries. From these surveys, it was found that less that half of conventional crimes are reported to police. Reasons are numerous and are wide ranging, but it is possible that the victims do not

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