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Although accessing official data about common crimes in both countries has never been easier, what remains is the often complex and difficult challenge of understanding what the data represent about individuals who commit crime and the communities in which these crimes occur. First, it must be acknowledged that there is no single or simple definition of crime. For some scholars, crime ought to be unproblematic, best defined as acts which con- stitute a direct contravention of existing criminal laws and codes. For others, crime is an elusive concept often used as a catch-all term to describe a broader continuum of acts, of which only some are legally defined as crimes. As Sampson and Laub (2003) note, the key challenge for criminology is not the counting of crime but rather in deciding what ought to be counted, when, and how best to interpret this data in the absence of any clear definition of crime and criminality. Labelling theorists such as Becker ([1963] 1973, 8–9) also note that crime and deviance were not fixed categories, and that these labels are socially constructed: ‘Social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction creates deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labeling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by other of rules and sanctions to an “offender”. The deviant is one to whom that label has been successfully applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label’. What counts as crime is, therefore, not as straightforward as it might first appear, and these scholarly contributions act as important and timely reminders that crime is, at the very least, socially undesirable behaviour for which there is no perfect method of quantification.

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