The Role Of Statistical Data In Criminology

Criminology and statistics have been a part of the criminal justice system for many years. Criminology and criminological theories have had many critics throughout its history. Although through all the critics it has still managed to survive, if not thrive within the criminal justice system. Criminological theories have come a long way since the beginning of their time, when many theories were based on unbelievable factors, compared to how these theories are formed today. In today’s criminology field, statistical data plays a large role aiding criminologists in supporting or refuting a particular criminological theory.

Statistical data is essential as a means of support for any criminological theory. The use of statistical data ensures that the theory is not based solely on an individual person’s opinion. For the implementation of a theory to be effective, it must be derived from facts. Criminological theories are meant as a means of being able to understand crime, why it exists and who of all people are most likely to become criminals. Theories based on personal opinions instead of statistical data where it has been charted and followed are likely to have inaccurate results.

The social disorganization theory states that a person’s location plays a large role as a determining factor as to whether they will become a criminal or not. In other words, social disorganization breeds criminals. According to “Vulnerable Youth and the Transition to Adulthood” (2009), “One in five youth from low-income families (20 percent) are charged with an adult crime by the age of 24, which is higher than the number of youth from middle- and high-income families (16 and 12 percent, respectively)”. This theory has statistical data to support it, showing that there is a connection between poverty and criminal activity.

Having support from statistical data enables researchers and law enforcement officials to pinpoint areas where crime is going to be more continuous. The statistical data is also helpful accurate information that can help solve the repetitive problems. When it can be proven that certain attributes directly affect a certain kind of crime or crime in general, those attributes can be considered. Change can be addressed for the better because of this.

Statistical data can also be used to refute against criminological theory. Not all statistics will be in favor of every single theory that is presented. An example of a theory that has be refuted because of statistics is biological positivism. Biological Positivism theory that states that certain traits, biological and mental, that are present at birth indicate those who are more apt to become criminals. It was hypothesized that certain characteristics such as the shape of one’s ears or the distance between one’s eyes could determine the likelihood of that person becoming a criminal. However, according to Siegel (2015), “Early biological determinism has been discredited because it is methodologically flawed; most studies did not use control groups from the general population to compare results, a violation of the scientific method”. This theory did not have statistical data to support the claims. Therefore, it did not survive long. Although some studies did show that there was a link between certain physical attributes it was determined that those features could be caused by environmental factors as well. This meant that the environmental factors might be the cause for the increased chance of becoming a criminal and not the physical appearance of a person.

There are pros and cons when using statistical data as a means of support for a criminological theory. Having to provide statistics that are in support of a theory may be hard to do, causing researchers to dismiss the theory as invalid. Not having statistical data to support a theory does not necessarily mean that the theory is irrelevant. It may just take a few more chances to run through the concept to find a few studies to support the original theory. This could mean that some extremely valid theories could have been overlooked by just skipping a simple step within the process. It could also have meant there was a misunderstanding in the middle of a potential theory. However, the pros of using statistical data when supporting a criminological theory more than outweigh the cons. It ensures that a theory has relative information and basis. This enables the support that is needed to proceed. It allows officers to focus on areas that they can make a change and show a difference.


  1. Siegel, L. (2015). Criminology: Theories, Patterns, and Typologies (12th ed. ). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
  2. Vulnerable Youth and the Transition to Adulthood. (2009). Retrieved from http://aspe. hhs. gov/basic-report/vulnerable-youth-and-transition-adulthood-youth-low-income-families
31 October 2020
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