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Ethnicity Minorities Tend to Commit More Crimes. Discuss

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Submitted By rachelcockney123
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It is quite difficult to discover whether differences between ethnic groups are a result of their ethnic identity, or because of differences in age, social class and the areas in which they live. For example, compared to white people, minority ethnic groups tend to have higher proportions of young people, those suffering social deprivation and those living in deprived urban communities. Higher crime rates therefore might reflect these factors rather than greater criminality arising from ethnicity itself.

The evidence on ethnicity and crime
In 2008, the Ministry of Justice reported that, compared to white people, black people were:
(1) More likely to be arrested for robbery
(2) Three times more likely to be cautioned by the police
(3) Three and a half times more likely to be arrested
(4) More likely, to be found guilty, or receive custodial sentence
(5) Five times more likely to be in prison
Asians compared to white people were:
(1) Twice as likely to be stopped and searched
(2) More likely to be charged and face court proceedings than to receive a caution
(3) More likely to receive custodial sentence if found guilty
(4) More likely to be arrested for fraud and forgery

Sociological explanations of black criminality

Neo Marxist Approach:
Gilroy argues that crime by black people, was a form of political action (1970s), representing a culture of resistance to oppressors in the form of police racism and harassment.
He denies there was greater criminality among black people than whites, suggesting this was a myth created by negative stereotyping by the police, who saw ethnic minorities as untrustworthy.
Lea and Young pointed out that most crimes are reported by the public, not uncovered by the police.
The fact that Asian crime rates are, in general, similar to those of whites suggests that police racism is rather inconsistent, which is unlikely.

The crisis of hegemony and the creation of the ‘black mugger’
Hall et al, argue that Britain was facing a crisis at the time (1970s). Unemployment was very high, there was war in Northern Ireland, students were constantly protesting about a wide range of social and political issues, and there were very high number of strikes.
Hall et al, argued that this led to a crisis of hegemony, or a threat to the dominance of ruling-class ideology in society.
At the same time there was a growing conflict between the police and the African Caribbean community. This was fuelled by selective publication of crime statistics showing black youth involvement in particular offences, including street robbery.
The media picked up on this, and promoted the idea that black people were more prone to criminality than whites, and the media image of the black ‘mugger’ was born.
Hall et al argued that there had not been a real increase in street robbery, but the moral panic was used to justify the use of force by the state, such as a more aggressive style of policing, which was then also used as a range of other groups, like trade unionists fighting unemployment.
Difficulty of this theory is that, while it might have been a plausible explanation in the late 1970s, the conflicts between minority ethnic groups, the criminal justice agencies and negative media stereotypes still exist, but the ‘crisis of hegemony’ does not, suggesting that the explanation is inadequate.

Left Realism
Lea and Young accept that black crime, for some offences, is higher than for the white population. Lea and Young argue that we need to consider three elements in order to understand crime in relation to ethnic minorities:
(1) Marginality- some minority ethnic groups are pushed to the edges of mainstream society by underachievement in education, lack of employment or low pay, and lack of legitimate opportunities to influence events.
(2) Relative deprivation- refers to a sense of lacking things compared to others, such as not being able to possess the sorts of consumer goods that others have.
(3) Subculture- marginality and relative deprivation can combine to develop subcultures in deprived communities, which provide a form of support for those, particularly young black males, who aspire to the same things as the rest of society, but find legitimate or approved means of achieving them blocked.

Poverty, social exclusion and the search for identity
Bowling and Phillips, suggest that higher levels of robbery by black people could be linked to poverty and social exclusion, which black communities are more likely to suffer from, and such activities can generate both peer-group status and a sense of a powerful black identity otherwise denied.

Labelling, stereotyping and racism in the criminal justice system
Many sociologists have argued that the criminal statistics in general, and on ethnicity in particular, are socially constructed. They are not a valid record of ethnicity and offending, but are created as a result of discrimination towards blacks and Asians by the police and other criminal justice agencies.
Reiner, points to a racist ‘canteen culture’ among the police, which includes suspicion, macho values and racism and this encourages racist stereotypes and a mistrust of those from non-white backgrounds.
Bowling and Phillip suggest that higher levels of robbery among blacks could be a product of labelling that arises from the use of regular stop-and-search procedures by the police which in turn leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy, as young black males act in accordance with the labels and stereotypes the police have of them.

Ethnicity and the pattern of crime shown in self-report studies
It is generally accepted that self-report studies provide far greater insights into the real pattern of offending in society than official statistics do, as they cover offences regardless of whether they have come to the attention of anyone at all.
The 2003 ‘offending, crime and justice survey’ is a self-report survey that found considerable variation between ethnic groups in lifetime offending;
(1) White people had the highest rate of offending
(2) Black people were significantly less likely to offend than white respondents
(3) For violent offending and drug-selling, the rate for white respondents was higher than the average, and that for Asians lower than the average…...

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