Social Class Differences in Crime Patterns

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Introduction

Looking at the crime rate statistics, it is evident that the working class commits most of the crimes in the United Kingdom. The available statistics indicate that in 2016, the police recorded about 4.7 million offenses. Out of all the suspects arrested about various crimes, 41% of the suspects were largely male from the skilled manual and the unskilled jobs (National Statistics, 2017). The statistics indicate how the police in the UK prioritise street crimes over white collar crimes. The topic of the sociological explanation of crime patterns is significant because it presents an opportunity to explore and understand the trend of crimes about the social classes.

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The pattern in crime seems to be replicated across all the other western nations. Due to this kind of pattern, there is a need for sociological explanations to help and elaborate on why the trend in crime rates depicts the working social class of individuals to be engaged in most crimes (Jensen & Akers, 2017). The pattern is specifically true when looked at from the Functionalist perspective because the Functionalists utilize the statistics in their scholarly works. For instance, Merton’s Strain Theory describes the crime as the outcome of the incapability of the working class individuals to attain cultural objectives through genuine means (Stinchcombe, 2017). Similarly, Cohen’s theory of Status Frustration describes the crime as a way in which individuals from the working class often reimbursed for their low social status (Jensen & Akers, 2017). After having failed to attain high academic grades that would guarantee them better positions in the society, individuals in the middle class engage in crime to advance their status.

According to the crime rate statistics both in Wales and England, it is evident that the common types of crime are vehicle theft and handling of stolen property. For instance, in the UK, vehicle theft comprises 25.6% of crimes committed in major cities followed by 8.6% of burglaries and 10.2% of violent crimes. In Wales, 17.3% of crimes are vehicle theft, and violent crimes account for 7.1% (“National Statistics, 2017). The crimes coincide with what is committed by both male and women from the working class in the UK society (National Statistics, 2017). However, it is important to note that other social classes are not left out in committing similar crimes. Over the years, sociologists have tried to come up with various theories to help in explaining the nature of the crime and other deviance in the society (Brantingham, 2016). Examples of the common theories include the Labeling Theory, Realist Theory, and the Subculture Theory. Nonetheless, it is vital to note that all the theories on crime patterns are centered on the working class with little attention being paid to the middle-class social group.

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The first sociological theory that can be used to explain the nature of crime patterns is the right realism theory by Murray. The right realism ideology highlights that the underclass lacks the desire for formal remuneration, they live off benefits, and parents lack responsibility for their offspring. As a result, children grow with little interest in the important values of the society which compels them to commit crimes without caring how the society perceives them because of the deviant behavior (Matza & Blomberg, 2017). On the contrary, the Functionalism theory depicts that the working class is more likely to commit crime compared to other social classes. The working class is believed to be associated with deviant cultures regarding crime as well as conflicts (Matza & Blomberg, 2017). Moreover, the working class individuals are often socialised into different principle concerns regarding roughness, strictness, and trouble which means that when the children become adults, they are more likely to become deviant. Also, the status frustration associated with the working class compels individuals to commit more crimes since they were unable to obtain high academic credentials and they lack any other means to acquire the higher social status.

According to Marxist theory, a majority of crimes in the developed societies are often committed by companies which cause more harm to the lower social class leading. The outcome of discrimination by the ruling class is the escalation of to the street crimes since there is less attention from the people as well as the authorities. From a Marxist point of view, the industrialised societies tend to depict the working class as criminal oriented to sway the public away for the reality of the discrimination in the society caused by the ruling class (Sutherland, 2017). The Marxist theory highlights the standard categories of crime such as theft, robbery, and burglary which relate to the street crime by the working class while the corporate or white collar crime is rarely recorded leave alone handling. As a result, the white collar crimes are never recorded, leaving statistics of the street crimes.

Marxists argue that the working class does not commit most of the crimes as the statistics make it appear. Instead, they debate that the high level of criminal activities by the working class is due to the rebellion from the discriminatory nature of the society. For instance, Hebgige argues that deviant behaviour and crimes committed by the working class are a response towards the ruling class which is profit oriented without care for the communities the communities (Sutherland, 2017). Conversely, the critics of the Marxist theory argue that blaming the ruling class for the crimes committed by the working class is an attempt to justify the deviant criminal behavior.

Hypothesis

There is a relationship between social classes and crime rates in the United Kingdom.

Aims

  1. To determine the various sociological theories on the crime patterns in the United Kingdom
  2. To determine why the working class is associated with most crimes committed in the society
  3. To highlight the appropriate best theory in explanation of the crime patterns
  4. To recruit participants for the research
  5. To collect data on views from the research participants about the trends in crime rates
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Method

The research will be based on the qualitative research approach. The approach is exploratory which makes it suitable to comprehend and explain the theories and the underlying reasons for the crime patterns. The method gives insight into the problem and helps in the establishment of hypothesis for the research. Qualitative methods are also used to discover the trends and give deeper comprehension of the problem. It allows the use of smaller sample size through individual interviews and observations. Specifically, for this research, the best qualitative research method is focus groups that allow the use of data to understand the cultural behaviours of a group and helps to create the overviews on the issued being studied about the respective cultural group. The research encompassed 24 participants randomly selected from Manchester. Majority of the participants belonged to the working class as skilled and unskilled laborers. Some of the questions asked include opinions of the participants about the crime rate trends, the reasons why the working class is believed to commit more crimes and whether they witnessed or participated in any form of crime. The information obtained from the participants was recorded for analysis.

Problem

The problem for the research is that there is statistical evidence indicating that the working-class commits most crimes registered in the United Kingdom. Hence it is crucial to elaborate why the trend in crime rates depicts the working class to be more deviant than other social classes in the same social setting.

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Outcomes of the research

The data obtained from the study was categorized based on the set of questions that were asked. Since the study involved three focus groups of 8 participants in each group, the data was classified for each group. From the questions asked, 80% of the participants agreed that to the notion that the working class commits most of the crimes in the United Kingdom. 60% of the participants cited the high cost of living and low wages as the reason why the working class is involved in crimes such as theft. The results from the research coincide with the national statistics which puts crimes such as vehicle theft as the highest type of crime committed by the working class.

Problems encountered in the study

The first problem encountered was finding the willing participants for the research. Since the research was based on the focus group approach, it required recruitment of participants from the various social groups.

The other problem was inadequate capital to facilitate conducting the study in a different location. Most of the participants selected were from different location hence it was expensive to bring them together for the research.

Conclusion

The research found out that various theories are explaining the difference in crime rates by the social classes. Statistics indicate that the working class commits most of the crimes. The study also found out that the best theory to explain the crime rates by the different social classes is the Marxist theory. It is evident that the working class commits most of the crimes in the United Kingdom and the pattern seems to be replicated across all the other industrialised societies. The pattern is specifically true when looked at from the Functionalist perspective which highlights that the working class is composed of individuals brought up through roughness and on top of that they do not have the necessary academic qualifications to help them advance their social status leaving them frustrated.

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  1. Brantingham, P. J., & Brantingham, P. L. (2016). Notes on the geometry of crime. In Principles of Geographical Offender Profiling (pp. 97-124). Routledge.
  2. Jensen, G. F., & Akers, R. L. (2017). The empirical status of social learning theory of crime and deviance: The past, present, and future. In Taking Stock (pp. 45-84). Routledge.
  3. Matza, D., & Blomberg, T. G. (2017). Becoming Deviant. Routledge.
  4. National Statistics. (2017).Crime in England and Wales: year ending Sept 2016. https://www.ons.gov.uk/…/crimeandjustice/…/crimeinenglandandwales/june2017/pdf
  5. Stinchcombe, A. L. (2017). Merton’s theory of social structure. In The idea of social structure (pp. 11-33). Routledge.
  6. Sutherland, E. H. (2017). White-collar criminality. In White-collar Criminal (pp. 3-19). Routledge.
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