A hyperreflexive blog focussing on critical sociology, infographics, Buddhism and extreme early retirement

Archive for the 'Crime and Deviance' Category

An Introduction to The Social Construction of Crime….

Posted by Realsociology on 5th March 2015


A nice illustration of the social construction of Terrorism – TB Explained further in class…

homeland security

Thanks to Don for providing this!

Related links:

The Great Immigration Debate of 1492 – A humorous look at the issue (not quite as political as the above picture!)

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Changing Patterns of Drug Use in the UK

Posted by Realsociology on 7th December 2014

Just a quick summary of changing patterns of drug use in the UK from the UK Government’s latest drug misuse survey.. I was going to do some analysis, but the pictures look so nice I’ll just leave it as it is for now….

The headline figure has to be the long term (20 year) decline in use of all drugs except for Cocaine for 16-24 year olds, while the overall trend in drug use for 16-59 year olds has remained stable at about 3% of the population.

Key Stat One – There has been an overall decline in drug use since the mid 1990s

  • Around 1 in 11 (8.8%) adults aged 16 to 59 had taken an illicit drug in the last year. However, this proportion more than doubles for 6 to 24 year olds (18.9%).
  • Around one-third of adults had taken drugs at some point during their lifetime. Of 16 to 59 year olds, 35.6% had reported ever using drugs.
  • There has been a long term decrease in drug use since 1996. During this period any Drug use within the last year for 16-59 year olds has decreased from about 11 to 9% of the population
  • There has been a marked decrease in drug use since 1996  amongst younger people. Any drug use within the last year for 16-24 year olds has decreased from about 30% of the population to 20% of the population.
  • Use of any class A drug within the last year for 16-59 year olds has remained stable at around 3% of the population.


Key Stat Two - The only significant counter trend to the above is the increasing use of Cocaine, although this peaked in 2008 and has been in general decline since…


Key Stat ThreeA significant proportion of drug users are frequent users

  • 50% of Cannabis users and 20% of Cocaine users can be classified as frequent drug users.
  • 3.1% of adults aged 16 to 59 can be defined as frequent drug users (having taken any illicit drug more than once a month on average in the last year).
  • The proportion of young adults aged 16 to 24 classed as frequent drug users was 6.6% in 2013/14 and represented a statistically significant increase compared with 2012/13 (5.1%).


Key Stat FOURMen are more than twice as likely to take drugs compared to women


Key Stat FIVE – Unsurprisingly pub and club goers are much more likely to take drugs…

  • Those who went to nightclubs or pubs more often were more likely to use drugs frequently.
  • Levels of use of any illicit drug more than once a month on average in the last year were higher among those who went to nightclubs four or more times in the last month (10.9%) compared with 2.3% of respondents who had not visited a nightclub in the past month.
  • A similar pattern was found among those visiting pubs more often.



Key Stat SIXDrug use is highest amongst those from mixed ethnic backgrounds


Key Stat SEVEN – Gay people are about three times more likely to take Cannabis or Cocaine compared to straight people


Key Stat Eight – Poor people are twice as likely to take drugs as rich people

No nice graphic for this but…

  • People living in deprived areas were more likely to be frequent drug users.
  • A larger proportion (4.5%) of respondents who lived in more deprived areas were frequent drug users compared with those who lived in the least deprived areas (2.3%).


Drug Misuse Survey

The Guardian – Useful summary of some of the data in the above survey…


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Social Class Inequality Visualisations

Posted by Realsociology on 1st October 2013

I had my classes exploring one of my ‘favourite’ topics today – The extent of and explanations for inequalities in life chances by social class, gender and ethnicity – Here a few visual updates and links which highlight the extent of class inequality in the UK today…

1. In Education… 3 year olds from the richest fifth of households are twice as likely to be ‘school ready’ than 3 year olds from the poorest fifth of households


2, by health – This is a nice, if dated article which reminds us that Based on 2007-2009 mortality rates, a man aged 65 could expect to live another 17.6 years and a woman aged 65 another 20.2 years. This graphic demonstrates that men and women from routine manual backgrounds are twice as likely to die before the age of 64 than those from professional backgrounds(my title is clearer than that in the picture!)



3. The chances of being a victim of violent crime (available from the ONS and the Home Office Annual crime stats reports)


4. Births outside of wedlock (not that I think the decline in marriage is a bad thing!, unlike the author of the post where I got the info!

The chart below shows the proportion of kids who are born outside marriage by social class in Britain. Its quite a short period of time, but you get the general idea. At the top, things haven’t changed much. At the bottom, having children inside marriage is not the norm, and increasingly rare.



More Sources to follow…


Posted in Crime and Deviance, Education, Infographics, social class, Wealth and Income Inequality | No Comments »

Why do young people binge drink?

Posted by Realsociology on 21st January 2013

This is a useful podcast from Thinking Allowed which explores the role and meaning of both alcohol and drugs in human life with three academics – Professors James Mills, Fiona Measham and Chris Hackley.

This post just focusses on one aspect of the research (there are many more covered!) – The topic of why young people drink excessively, with some interesting findings based on semi-structured interviews with 18-25 year olds (roughly 5 mins in)

What this method yielded were the respondents own stories about their binging and events relayed included such things as falling asleep at the table in a pub, blacking out, vomiting, and getting into fights.

One thing that surprised the researchers was the enthusiasm and energy with which the respondents conveyed stories even though they weren’t necessarily pleasurable, and sometimes even dangerous.

Interepretation by the researchers was that the ‘binge drinking ritual’ had the following functions – Most of which are not actually necessarily about enjoying yourself.

  • Firstly, drinking to excess transported the group of friends to a fantasy land of shared interest taking them away from the mundane tedium of daily life, providing an opportunity in which ordinary social norms could be transgressed more easily because of being drunk.
  • Secondly, the drinking enabled individuals to forget themselves for a while. The researchers argued this is implicit in the way binge drinking is talked about in which phrases such as ‘getting wasted’ or ‘getting annihilated’ are commonly used.
  • Thirdly there was quite often an element of risk present which necessitated looking out for eachother, which tested boundaries of friendship and facilitated group bonding .

This research also demonstrates the usefulness of the unstructured interview method to this particular topic – which is the only method that allows the researcher to observe things such as enthusiasm as the respondents tell their own stories. This wouldn’t be possible with more structured interviews or questionnaires, or even observations of the events.  What you get with this method is the sense that the respondents are very happy to reflect on these drinking events. They have a long memory, long after the drinking has taken place.

All in all this is a useful counterweight to moral panic reporting about increases in binge drinking amongst youth today, which suggests that rather than being an end in itself, much binge drinking today is merely part of youth culture with broader and temporary life-stage specific functions.

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Shard Hacking – Challenging Surveillance Society?

Posted by Realsociology on 10th April 2012

You may have noticed that three thrill seekers recently slipped past (quite literally!) security scaled The Shard , posting pictures of themselves on the Place Hacking Blog – run by Bradley L. Garret. The three are members of the “London Consolidation Crew”, comprising of mainly middle class professionals, who have gained access to more than 300 locations in 7 countries over the last years.

Garret, from Los Angeles  has recently complete a PhD on ‘Urban Exploration’ (urban exploration being the process of researching, exploring and discovering temporary, obsolete and abandoned spaces in the built environment)  in which he charts the rise of an ‘urban exploration crew’ between the years 2008 -11. He took an active part in the group during this time, so this is a great example of a local researcher (presently living in Clapham) doing a form of participant observation.

Garret defends trespass in this video by pointing out that the actions are benign, but also alludes to the fact that there is a more political motive to the acts – which is clearer if you read his thesis (OK – I only skim read bits of it -Time!) in which he posits that

‘group are one of many who react to increasing surveillance and control over urban space by undertaking embodied interventions that undermine clean spatio/ temporal narratives. ‘

(In other words, the group dislike surveillance and so, in response to this, engage in a kind of subversive political action by ‘breaking into’ places they are not supposed to go into at odd times of the day (or night). )

As he says in the video – There are increasing amounts of public space where you just can’t go into, and increasing amounts of public spaces where its not clear if you can go there or not, or where its unclear what you are allowed to do. The actions of physical trespass push those boundaries and possibly challenge notions of what ‘freedom’ in the context of urban living means.

Garret also says the group are engaging with ‘history in the making’ in a creative way by trespassing and effectively hurting no one, while challenging our ideas of the boundaries of public and private, which is much better than what most people do – which is passively accept the status quo. These people are, after all, more active than the average citizen.

Finally – they also remind us that it’s impossible to secure large sites – as security guards aren’t machines - because they are fallible – suggesting, maybe, that the ‘man’ can be resisted.

Personally, however, and I think Garret and the others might well agree (I’m sure the question is up for debate) – I’m not sure how much this has really got to do with politics and challenging notions of citizenship – it is also about identity – and ‘the rush’ – and a great example of edgework – breaking the law to gain an emotional thrill and status (and possibly expressing your masculinity?) in a post-modern age – (would this have happened before social networking allowed the posting of pictures?).

As a final note, whether its about identity or politics or both, this is a pretty cool hobby, and if I were 20 years younger I’d be on the next train to London Bridge!

Some (minor bits) of this blog was cut and past from the links above 

Posted in But what can I do?, Crime and Deviance, Things I like | No Comments »

Coffee really is bad for your health (and safety)

Posted by Realsociology on 10th March 2012

Two nice articles illustrating the madness of health and safety… both concerning coffee….

In Bournemouth, a bus driver ordered passengers off a bus after a woman spilled some coffee. One woman spilt a third of her cup of coffee while getting on the bus, and then a further ten people were told they couldn’t get on because specialist cleaners were needed to clear up the ‘dangerous liquid’. The bus was pulled to one side and a replacement vehicle ordered, leaving the ten passengers to wait in the rain.

Secondly, according to and item I found in The Week, “health and safety officials in Warwickshire have banned hot drinks at a mothers’ coffee morning. ‘Coffee and play’ sessions at the Children’s Centre in Stratford-upon-Avon have been renamed ‘baby play’ and parents now catch up over a (plastic) cup of squash or water. The council said its ‘hot drinks policy’ was to minimise the risk of scalding children. ”

These two cases together are a wonderful illustration of the far reaching effects of  ‘individualisation’ and ‘litigation culture’ working together to result in collective lunacy – Both cases involve local councils who are no doubt very aware of the potential of being sued for any ‘preventable accidents’ on their property – a situation which can only happen when the populace at large are highly individualised – feeling little sense of obligation to wider society, while feeling they have the right (in this goaded by claims lawyers) to cream as much out of society as they can when the opportunity arises.

Going a little deeper – I’d blame neoliberalism for this – a political economy that allows individuals the freedom to exploit and enrich themselves at the expense of others – this is the kind of logic that has lead to the emergence of ‘Fortress Cities’ – in which the rich defend themselves in gated communities and SUVs against the increasing numbers of urban poor.

I think its appropriate to view the above two cases as local councils adopting a ‘fortress city’ mentality – setting up rules that protect themselves against any selfish individual who might try to make money out of them by holding them responsible and suing them for those unfortunate accidents (slipping/ scalding) that are, in reality, just an unfortunate and it has to be said extremely rare part of modern life.

Although, the optimist in me sees an opportunity for collective action in this – On reflection I’m wondering if the first case isn’t part of a surreptitious ‘work to rule’ campaign on the part of a unionised bus driver, whose just had a pay freeze? – Maybe this raises the possibility of using health and safety as part of a campaign against public sector cuts….

So in the interests of health and safety I think all unionised teachers should cease doing all of the following – Any curricular activities involving physical activities, especially school trips; any teaching that involves teaching to tests, in fact we should drop all testing and examinations altogether, this causes way to much stress to our delicate children; and all marking and preparation outside of class – associated with numerous health problems such as RSI, eye strain, back pain and stress in general.

In fact, perhaps we could go further, in the interests of health and safety, maybe we should just stop doing anything, and just….. sit there, over coffee of course.

Posted in Childhood, Crime and Deviance, Sociological Theory | No Comments »

The Police may stop more black people – but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re racist

Posted by Realsociology on 7th January 2012

And some sensible questions about police racism…

Given the recent conviction of Gary Dobson and David Norris for the murder of Stephen Lawrence it seems a fitting moment to reflect on whether the police are any less racist now than they were in 1993 when they failed to prosecute the above two murderers, despite there being sufficient evidence for them to at least mount the prosecution at that time.

I’m in the middle of updating stuff – but I thought this worthy of posting on its own – the latest stop and search stats by ethnicity – taken from the statistics on the Race and Criminal Justice System 2010

Now I’d like to jump in at this point and start banging on about the fact that this seems to suggest that the police are biased against black people in particular and this bias is getting worse (and isn’t it rather worrying that the Home Office continues to use the broadest race categories, and even the word ‘race’ actually!) – but this isn’t the only possible interpretation –

When you look at the  statistics on Race and the Criminal Justice System 2010 the targetting of of black people can be justified – (NB I’m not saying does justify it!)  – these states reveal that –

  • Of the 2,007 homicides recorded between 2007/08 and 2009/10, a greater proportion of Black victims (53%) were killed by a sharp instrument than other groups (White 34%, Asian 43% and Other 37%).
  • The proportion of Black homicide victims who were killed by shooting (25%) compared with other ethnic groups (White 4%, Asian 7% and Other 10%).
  • A higher percentage of White homicide victims were killed by hitting or kicking (26%) compared with other ethnic groups (Black 7%, Asian 13%, and Other 19%).
  • These patterns are similar to those recorded in previous three-year periods.

OK these aren’t trends over time – but there’s enough evidence here to suggest that black people are much more likely to be the victims of deadly stabbings and shootings than other ethnic groups – so on the surface at least it could be used as justification of stopping and searching more black people – assuming that this is being done on the grounds of carrying a concealed weapon. Then again, this evidence could be used as a smokescreen – to justify racial profiling of your stop and search targets!

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Sandwich boards – In Vogue!

Posted by Realsociology on 8th December 2011

So I was just doing some surfing – looking up prices of Sandwich boards – (Honestly,  I’m organising a golf sale) and I came across this picture – from a few years back when a judge ordered this shoplifter to wear this sign

Anyway, I got to wondering what might be an appropriate slogan for the reverse?

1. It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things because Walmart’s yearly revenue is nearly half a trillion dollars

2.  Because 30 years of neoliberal rule has made me poor and desperate

3. This is nothing compared to the social harms meted out on society by Walmart

I’d welcome further suggestions…

Posted in But what can I do?, Crime and Deviance | No Comments »

‘Honour’ Killings and ‘Honour’ crime on the increase

Posted by Realsociology on 7th December 2011

Reflecting on these may make you a bit less sympathetic to to the moral relitivism of Postmodernism – and a bit more sympathetic with the idea that Feminism might just still be relevant in today’s society after all.

Honour killings typically involve a family killing daughters who ‘dishonour’ the family name – namely through having boyfriends they don’t approve or, or through failing to marry (typically arranged) a partner the family approves of.

In a recent high profile quadruple honour killing in Canada - in which Mohammad Shafia, his second wife and their 20-year-old son are being tried for  four murders – of Mohammad’s first wife and three daughters.

Following a wiretap, Mohammed was was recorded voicing his disgust with his “treacherous” daughters and saying he would kill them again even if they came back to life a hundred times…… “Even if they hoist us onto the gallows … we have not done anything bad,” he says in the recordings, calling his daughters “whores” for having boyfriends.

But it’s not just Honour killings that are the problem – For obvious reasons, families may not be prepared to kill dishonourable daughters – instead they just beat and imprison them and subject them to emotional abuse (which I guess happens automatically if you’re being beaten and abused?!) – as the following case study indicates –

Maya’s story

When I was 16 my mum came into my room one day and said I had to get married to my cousin in Pakistan. I was horrified: I wanted to go to college and get a job, and I didn’t even know him, how could I marry him? But when I said no, my mum slapped me across the face. After that I wasn’t allowed out. My family treated me with disgust, as if I had shamed them. My father, mother, even my young brother, beat me on a daily basis. My body was covered in bruises. I wasn’t given any food for days on end, and I tried to take an overdose on several occasions. I just used to sit on my bed from morning to night. Prison would have been a better place.

 Honour crimes are much more widespread in the UK than you might think –

Thanks to an FOI request from The Iranian and Kurdish women’s rights Organisation (IKWRO) – we now know that there were almost 3000 honour crimes in the UK last year – recorded by the police – but the data only comes from 39 out of 52 police forces, the other 13 either failing to collect or provide data on honour crimes.

Such cases include such things as threats, abduction, acid attacks, beatings, forced marriage, mutilation and murder. To add to these shocking findings – based on the 12 police force areas for which comparable data was available, reports went up by 47% in just a year.

IKWRO makes the case that the increase is due to the fact that more women are resisting the demands made on them by their families –

This example illustrates a lot of Sociological themes –

It’s a good example of the relevance of Feminism – without this Feminist organisation we wouldn’t have this information available too us – obviously the media pick up on honour killings, but much less so with honour crimes.

Secondly, a good e.g. of a crime that, even with police recorded crime, remains hidden – IKWRO estimate that the actual number of honour crimes may be 4 times higher.

There is also a global dimension to this – many of these honour crimes are done when girls resist demands to go abroad to marry cousins or family aquaintences, and of course there is the obvious culture clash between the patriarchal states of Iran, Kurdistan, and also Pakistan (also strongly associated with honour killings) – in that in these states this kid of daughter abuse is not illegal.

A final dimension is that the increase in honour crimes may be an indiciation of increasing liberation of Asian and Middle Eastern women – at least those living in diaspora communities – as the increase in recorded crime occurs not only because they are prepared to resist their parents unreasonable wishes but also because they feel more confident in coming forwards…

So I guess that’s a positive note to end on, oddly?

Posted in Crime and Deviance, Ethnicity, Gender | No Comments »

Berlusconi on Trial

Posted by Realsociology on 3rd December 2011

The end of Berlusconi’s political career is a huge loss to the Sociology of Crime and Deviance – he was probably the best living example of an elite criminal in Western Europe (obviously outdone by several premieres in Eastern Europe and Africa!) – and a terrific example of how elites can dodge prosecution for their (ok – alleged) criminal activity.

According to Wikipedia, (I know, lame, sorry!) during his time in office, Silvio Berlusconi picked up an extensive record of criminal allegations, including

  • Mafia collusion,
  • False accounting
  • tax fraud
  • Corruption and
  • Bribery of police officers and judges.
  • He also stands accused of paying a minor for sex at one of his ‘Bunga Bunga’ parties

Berlusconi has been tried in Italian courts in several cases. In three of these cases accusations were dropped by the judiciary because of laws passed by Berlusconi’s parliamentary majority shortening the time limit for prosecution of various offences and making false accounting illegal only if there is a specific damaged party reporting the fact to the authorities.

A few stats give an example on his colorful career

  • 789 prosecutors and magistrates took an interest in the politician Berlusconi from 1994 to 2006
  • He has had 577 visits by police and 2,500 court hearings
  • 174 million euros in lawyers’ bills – paid by him!

According to the Week, Berlusconi now faces back to back hearings until Christmas – as he now no longer enjoys the right to avoid trials as he did as PM It will be interesting to see in coming months if Berlusconi’s long overdue fall from political grace affects his ability to dodge prosecution into the New Year.

You might like these clips – Although I’m sure any allussions to Berlusconi are entirely coincidental….





humour aside, you also might like to think about the following – in the grand scheme of things what’s worse – The sum total of Berlusconi’s Crimes (one man committing crime) or what some might call the organised state crime of politicians voting in the Goldman Sach’s advisor (now stepped down, but I’m sure the ties remain) Mario Monti without the democratic consent of the Italian people

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