The social construction of crime

For labelling theorists, no act is deviant in itself: deviance is simply a social construct. According to Becker, social groups create deviance by creating rules and applying them to particular people whom they believe is an outsider. Thus an act of a person only becomes deviant when labelled by others as deviant.

Differential Enforcement

Labelling theorist argues that social control agencies tend to label certain groups as criminal. Police decisions to arrest were based on stereotypical ideas about manner, gender, class, ethnicity, time and place.


Cicourel argues that police use typifications of the typical delinquent. Individuals fitting the typification are more likely to be stopped, arrested and charged. WC/EM more likely to be arrested as they fit the stereotype more compared to MC as their parents have negotiating power and less likely to be charged.

The social construction of crime statistics.

WC people fit the police stereotype so police patrol WC areas more, resulting in more WC arrests. This does not give a valid picture of crime patterns. Cicourel argues that we cannot take statistics at face value and instead treat them as a topic and investigate the processes by which they are constructed. This leads to a Dark figure of crime which is the difference between the official statistic and the real state of crime due to unreported and undetected crimes. Some sociologists therefore use victim survey or self-report studies to gain a more accurate view.