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The Nature and Extent of Crime


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Title: The Nature and Extent of Crime

Chapter 3
  • The Nature and Extent of Crime

Factors which effect crime rates?
  • Reporting-sensitive
  • Is the public willing to call police?
  • Policing-sensitive
  • What are police looking for?
  • Definition-sensitive
  • Has the law changed?
  • Media-sensitive
  • What are the media publicizing? Eg. Table 3.2
  • Real change
  • Is behaviour changing?

Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
  • Collected by the Canadian Centre for Justice
  • 1962 aggregate (summary) data collected each
    month from all police forces
  • Incidence of crime
  • actual (reported) and founded (through
  • Percentage change
  • from year to year
  • Crime rate
  • of crimes / population x 100,000
  • Clearance rate (by charge or otherwise)
  • Can the police identify a suspect?

Crime Funnel Attrition through the Justice System
Update out of a hundred crimes committed in
2004, 34 were reported, 15 were solved, 5 went to
court, 3 resulted in a conviction, and 1 resulted
in a prison sentence
Accuracy of the UCR
  • Reporting practices
  • Are people willing/able to call the police?
  • e.g. sexual assault
  • Law enforcement practices
  • Are police cracking down on some crimes and not
  • e.g. zero tolerance policies
  • Legal Definitions
  • Have the laws changed?
  • e.g. prostitution

Accuracy of the UCR
  • Media practices
  • Do news stories encourage citizens to report more
  • Do news reports encourage police to crack down?
  • Methodological practices
  • How are the crimes counted?
  • How do police decide if a crime is founded?

Self-report Surveys
  • People report their criminal activities
  • Used with captive audience
  • e.g. students, prisoners.
  • Problems with accuracy
  • Lying, forgetting, bragging
  • Emphasis is on minor offences
  • e.g. drug and alcohol use
  • Are the most deviant least likely to respond?
  • e.g. truants
  • Self-reports seem to be surprisingly accurate

Victim Surveys
  • US since 1966 Canada since 1988
  • Mainly through telephone interviews
  • Canadian Urban Victimization Survey (CUVS)
  • General Social Survey (GSS)
  • Violence Against Women Survey (VAWS)
  • Includes questions about fear of crime
  • Survey findings

Problems with Victim Surveys
  • Overreporting
  • Loss is reported as theft
  • Telescoping
  • Identifying past victimization as recent
  • Underreporting
  • Forgetting, embarrassment, fear
  • Doesnt include personal criminal activity
  • Sampling problems
  • Excludes people without phones, underage victims
  • Question format
  • Poor format may invalidate answers

Are Crime Statistics Sources Compatible?
  • No
  • Measure different things
  • Survey rates are higher than reported rates
  • Self-report depends on honesty, accuracy, and
    integrity of criminals
  • Yes
  • Are complementary
  • Often show similar trends and patterns
  • Agree on personal characteristics of serious
    crime and criminals
  • Agree on location and time of crime

Alternative Sources of Information
  • Commissions of Inquiry
  • Both federal and provincial
  • e.g.
  • Native justice
  • Sexual abuse in religious and government
  • Doping in sports
  • The federal sponsorship program

Official Crime Trends in Canada
  • General trends and patterns
  • Increases in property and violent crime from 1960
    to 1990
  • Decreases in violent and property crime since
    early 1990 to 2003
  • See Figure 3.6, with homicide decreasing
  • Disguises interprovincial differences

Explaining Crime Trendsas they change over time
1 Age
  • Aging of the population
  • The greying of society
  • Proportionately smaller youth population
  • --small absolute changes create large relative
    variations (p.66)
  • Fluctuations may reflect changing procedures

Source Statistics Canada.
2 Race
  • Blacks and aboriginals are over-represented in
    the criminal justice system.
  • Self-report surveys show less difference.
  • Ethnic and racial minorities are underrepresented
    in white-collar crimes.
  • See Comparative Criminology exhibit 3.1
  • Minorities are also more likely to be victims
  • Have less confidence in police and justice system
  • e.g. Racial profiling

The Politics of Race Statistics
  • Collecting information on race is controversial
  • Crimes committed by minorities are more likely to
    be reported to police.
  • How do you measure race or ethnicity in a
    multi-cultural society?
  • Statistics on race and ethnicity may be used to
    justify further discrimination.

3 Economy
  • Economic cycle mixed effects of unemployment
  • May lower crime rates due to more supervision,
    fewer consumer goods worth stealing, etc.
  • Sustained economic weakness affects violence,
    arson, insurance fraud
  • Economic disparity
  • Increased number of poor, youth without
    opportunities for jobs

4 Social Malaise
  • Family problems
  • Teen pregnancy and illegitimacy
  • Divorce
  • Single-parent families
  • Dropout rates
  • Drug abuse
  • Invest in social capital?

5 Culture
  • Individualism vs. collectivism
  • Materialism vs. honour
  • Achievement vs. tradition
  • Cooperation vs. competition
  • Homogenous vs. heterogeneous society
  • e.g. Japan.
  • Crime is more likely to be organized

6 Guns
  • Bill C-68 for registration of firearms
  • Firearms are used in
  • 26 of homicides, 28 of attempted murders, 13
    of robberies, 2 of crimes against the person.
  • See figure 3.8 for interprovincial differences

Source Environics Research Group, Press release,
February 21, 2003.
7 Drugs
  • Table 3.3 on relationship between drugs and
  • Urban drug trade recruits juveniles
  • Cheap labour
  • Immune from heavy penalties
  • Willing to take risks
  • Increased use of weapons and violence
  • Particularly in large US cities
  • Canada, 1 in 13 homicides is gang-related
  • One-third of which are drug-related

See Table 3.4
8 Justice Policy
  • Broken windows approach
  • Get tough on minor offences (e.g. panhandling) to
    deter more serious offences
  • May encourage reporting of crime
  • May reduce overall criminal behaviour

Future Prospects
  • Predictions are primarily based on age structure
    of the population
  • Increase in youth gangs and youth violence
  • Canadian Police Survey of Youth Gangs, 2002
    --youth gang problem growing
  • Predictions for increased drug offences in 2003
    were not realized (8 decline)Continued crime
    rate declines predicted for the first half of the
    21st century
  • Carrington, 2001

Explaining Crime Patternsat any point in
time,by looking at in/dependent variables
1 Ecology
  • Time, weather, season affect opportunity and
    motivation for crime
  • Population density affects violent crime and
  • Region-crime increases from east to west
  • And north to south in US

Source Statistics Canada. The Daily. July 21,
2 Social Class
  • Higher official rates among lower class
  • Both instrumental (property) and expressive
    (violent) crimes
  • Behaviour differences or police practices?
  • Street crimes or white-collar crimes?
  • Minor or serious offences?
  • How do we measure social class?

3 Age
  • Youth is consistently related to higher crime
  • Desistance (aging out)
  • Crime decreases with age
  • Chronic offending
  • Is related to early onset, criminal specialties

Source Statistics Canada
Why Does Aging Out Occur?
  • Function of natural history of human life cycle
  • Teens
  • Need money, get peer support, have less
    supervision, more opportunity for crime
  • Adults
  • More able to delay gratification, more ties to
    conventional society
  • Other influences
  • Interpersonal relationships, crime is just too

4 Gender
  • Females have lower crime rates in most crimes
  • males have higher rates why?
  • Biosocial explanations
  • Masculinity hypothesis (Lombroso)
  • Chivalry hypothesis (Pollack)

  • Socialization
  • --females are more supervised, protected from
    competition. Socialized to internalize anger
  • Liberal feminist approach
  • --convergence theory
  • --as social status changes, womens crime rates
    will catch up
  • Radical feminist theory
  • --violence part of masculine repertoire

Criminal Careers
  • Chronic offender research

Chronic Offender.
  • Birth cohort studies (Wolfgang et al.)
  • Definition
  • Arrested 5 or more times
  • About 6 of the boys
  • Responsible for the vast majority of offences,
    particularly serious offences
  • Early onset (age 5 or 6)
  • Continuity of crime
  • Little response to punishment

Background Characteristics.
  • History of troublesomeness
  • Admiration of daring behaviour
  • Delinquent siblings
  • Convicted parent
  • Behavioural and learning problems
  • Can be identified by age 10
  • As adults
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Divorce, unemployment
  • Problems in military service
  • Similar findings in U.S., Canada, Sweden, Great