Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The World of the Invisible Crime; A New Book Suggests the Number of Crimes Dealt with by Police Are Only the Tip of the Iceberg and That Far More Go Unreported. Sophie Doughty Takes a Look

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The World of the Invisible Crime; A New Book Suggests the Number of Crimes Dealt with by Police Are Only the Tip of the Iceberg and That Far More Go Unreported. Sophie Doughty Takes a Look

Article excerpt

EVERY day we bring you details of crimes across the North East on the pages of the Journal. The sources of our stories include police contacts, members of the public, reporting of court proceedings and accounts from victims themselves.

But can we ever present a true picture of the real scale of crime going on in our society, when so much of it remains hidden? Three North East academics are now arguing that the crime we know about is simply the tip of the iceberg, in a new book.

Invisible Crimes and Social Harms, which has been edited by Northumbria University academics Professor Peter Francis, Dr Pam Davies and Dr Tanya Wyatt, explores the notion that only a small minority of crimes actually come to the attention of the police, and even fewer ever make it to court.

Dr Davies said: "This is about the 'dark figure' of unreported crime. Criminality that comes to the attention of the police and the courts is only the tip of the iceberg, as it's only the very unsuccessful criminals that get found out.

"It is a real worry as we believe only a small proportion of crime ever comes to the attention of the police."

The criminologists say crimes that often go undetected include honour crimes, environmental crime, health and safety crime and the victimisation of older people.

The book explores these subjects, focusing on seven interacting features that help make crime invisible; lack of knowledge, statistics, theory, research, control, politics and panic.

The book also addresses the 'spaces' in which invisible crimes might take place, be it the home, the body, the street, the environment, the institution and the state.

Turn to Page 20 From Page 19 Dr Wyatt pointed out that for a crime to be visible there often has to be a 'victim' and that person has to know they have been a victim in order to report it.

This means that a large number of crimes against the environment, which happen in remote areas, will never be recorded.

And more disturbingly crimes against the elderly can often go the same way.

"There's an issue around knowing whether you are a victim or not," she said. "And having the ability to report it. And when it comes to environmental crime we ask; Is it a crime at all if there is no victim?" The book also examines health and safety crimes in the workplace, which often never come to light unless someone is seriously hurt or killed, and even then they are recorded more as 'breaches' than crimes. Dr Davies said: "Deaths at work are not part of the murder rate."

But with police forces already overstretched with the crimes that are reported and recorded, what can be done about those that never come to light, and who should be responsible? Drs Davies and Wyatt say the answer has to lie in society as a whole.

And we need to address the issues of power and control that make it possible for some crimes to exist behind closed doors, or those that go on in virtually untouchable institutions. …

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