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Chapter Two: Measuring Crime


Chapter Two: Measuring Crime & Criminal Behavior Chapter Summary Chapter Two introduces the students to the techniques used to collect data on crime in the United States. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Chapter Two: Measuring Crime

Chapter Two Measuring Crime Criminal Behavior
Chapter Summary
  • Chapter Two introduces the students to the
    techniques used to collect data on crime in the
    United States. The chapter covers the pros and
    cons of official statistics, victimization survey
    data, and self-reported data.
  • The second half of the chapter discusses the
    financial cost of crime, and how that cost is
    estimated. In the concluding section, the chapter
    highlights some of the major theories used to
    explain crime trends in the United States through

Chapter Summary
  • After reading this chapter, students should be
    able to
  • Understand how crimes are categorized and
  • Understand the concept of a crime rate.
  • Be able to describe the strengths and weaknesses
    of official crime statistics as measured by the
    Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).
  • Be able to describe the strengths and weaknesses
    of victimization crime statistics as measured by
    the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)..

Chapter Summary
  • Be able to describe the strengths and weaknesses
    of self-report data.
  • Understand the expected role of the National
    Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
  • Be able to describe the major areas of agreement
    among the various measures of crime.
  • Understand the difficulty of interpreting crime

Categorizing and Measuring Crime and Criminal
  • When attempting to understand, predict, and
    control any social problem, including the crime
    problem, the first step is to determine its
  • Three categories of major crime data sources in
    the United States
  • Official statistics
  • Victimization survey data
  • Self-reported data

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • The primary source of official crime statistics
    in the United States is the annual Uniform Crime
    Reports (UCR) compiled by the Federal Bureau of
    Investigation (FBI).
  • The UCR reports crimes known to the nations
    police and sheriffs departments and the number
    of arrests made by these agencies federal crimes
    are not included
  • Participation in the UCR reporting program is
    voluntary, and thus all agencies do not

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • The UCR separates crimes into two categories
    Part I offenses (or Index crimes) and Part II
  • Murder The willful (non-negligent) killing of
    one human being by another.
  • Forcible rape The carnal knowledge of a female
    forcibly and against her will.

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • Robbery The taking or attempted taking of
    anything of value from the care, custody, or
    control of a person or persons by force or threat
    of force or violence and/or putting the victim in
  • Aggravated assault An unlawful attack by one
    person upon another for the purpose of inflicting
    severe or aggravated bodily injury.

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • Burglary The unlawful entry of a structure to
    commit a felony or theft.
  • Larceny-Theft The unlawful taking, leading, or
    riding away from the possession or constructive
    possession of another.
  • Motor vehicle theft The theft or attempted theft
    of a motor vehicle.

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • Arson Any willful or malicious burning or
    attempting to burn, with or without intent to
    defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor
    vehicle or aircraft, personal property of
    another, etc.

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • Determining Crime Rates
  • The rate of a given crime is the actual number of
    reported crimes standardized by some unit of the
  • To obtain a crime rate we divide the number of
    reported crimes in a state by its population, and
    multiply the quotient by 100,000.

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • The FBIs famous crime clock provides estimates
    of the relative frequency with which each Part I
    Index crime (arson is omitted) is committed.
  • Part II offenses are treated as less serious
    offenses and are recorded based on arrests made
    rather than causes reported to the police.
  • Part II may not be true criminal offenses, or
    if they are, may not be particularly serious.

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • Cleared Offenses -If a person is arrested and
    charged for a Part I offense, the UCR records the
    crime as cleared by arrest..
  • A crime is also recorded as cleared by
    exceptional means, or the police have identified
    a suspect and have enough evidence to support
    arrest, but he or she could not be taken into
    custody immediately, or at all.

Figure 2.1 The FBI's Crime Clock for 2004
  • Every 23.1 seconds One Violent Crime
  • Every 32.6 minutes One Murder
  • Every 5.6 minutes One Forcible Rape
  • Every 1.3 minutes One Robbery
  • Every 36.9 seconds One Aggravated Assault
  • Every 3.1 seconds One Property Crime
  • Every 14.7 seconds One Burglary
  • Every 4.5 seconds One Larceny-theft
  • Every 25.5 seconds One Motor Vehicle Theft

Source Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2005).
Crime in the United States, 2004. Washington, DC
Government Printing Office. Note The crime
clock should be viewed with care. The most
aggregate representation of UCR data, it conveys
the annual reported crime experience by showing a
relative frequency of occurrence of Part I
offenses. It should not be taken to imply a
regularity in the commission of crime. The crime
clock represents the annual ratio of crime to
fixed time intervals.
Problems with the UCR
  • The UCR data significantly under-represents the
    actual number of criminal events in the United
    States each year.
  • Drug offenses and federal crimes are not
  • The voluntary nature of the UCR program means
    that the crimes committed in the jurisdictions of
    non-participating law enforcement agencies are
    not included in the data.
  • Crime data may be falsified by police departments
    for political reasons.

The Uniform Crime Reports Counting Crime
  • The UCR under-reports crimes that are know to the
    police because of the FBIs hierarchy rule, which
    requires police to report only the highest
    offense committed in a multiple-single incident
    to the FBI and to ignore others.
  • The most frequent criticism has been that these
    data are too easily affected by discretionary
    police policies to be considered reliable.

Table 2.1 Estimated Number of Arrests for Part
I and Part II Crimes by Sex and Age in 2000 and
2004 Males Females
Figure 2.2 Percentage of Crimes Cleared by
Arrest in 2004
Source Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2005).
Crime in the United States, 2004. Washington, DC
Government Printing Office.
(No Transcript)
Figure 2.4 Highlights From the 2004 NCVS
Survey Data
Source Catalano, S. (2005). Criminal
victimization, 2004. Washington, DC Bureau of
Justice Statistics.
NIBRS The New and Improved UCR
  • The National Incident-Based Reporting System
    (NIBRS) began in 1982, and is designed for the
    collection of more detailed and more
    comprehensive crime statistics
  • NIBRS collects data on 46 Group A offenses and
    11 Group B offenses
  • There is no hierarchy rule under the NIBRS system

NIBRS The New and Improved UCR
  • The NIBRS provides information about the
    circumstances of the offense and about victim and
    offender characteristics.
  • Although reliable, the NIBRS still generates
    concern over the dark figure of crime, which
    refers to all of the crimes committed that never
    come to official attention.

Problems with the NCVS
  • Crimes such as drug dealing and all victimless
    crimes are not revealed, as well as the serious
    crime of murder.
  • Crimes committed against commercial
    establishments are not included.
  • Victimization data do not have to meet any
    stringent legal or evidentiary standards in order
    to be reported as an offense.

Problems with the NCVS
  • Memory lapses, answering the way the respondent
    believes the interviewer wants to hear,
    forgetting an incident, embellishing an incident
    may occur.
  • Over-reporting may occur.

Areas of Agreement between the UCR and NCVS
  • Both the UCR and NCVS agree on the demographics
    of crime.
  • Males, the young, the poor, and African Americans
    are more likely to be perpetrators and victims of
    crime than are females, older persons, wealthier
    persons, and persons of other racial or ethnic
  • Both agree on recent crime trends.

Self-Reported Crime Surveys
  • Self-reported surveys of criminal offending are a
    way criminologists are able to collect data for
    themselves without having to rely on governmental
  • These surveys involve asking people to disclose
    their delinquent and criminal involvement on
    anonymous questionnaires or face-to-face

Self-Reported Crime Surveys
  • The greatest strength of self-report research is
    that researchers can correlate a variety of
    characteristics of respondents with their
    admitted offenses that go beyond the demographics
    of age, race, and gender.
  • Self-report crime measures provide largely
    accurate information about some forms of
    anti-social offending, and reveal that almost
    everyone has committed some sot of illegal act
    sometime in their life.

Problems with Self-Reported Crime Surveys
  • The great majority of self-reported studies
    survey convenience samples of high school and
    college students.
  • Self-report studies typically uncover only fairly
    trivial antisocial acts such as fighting,
    stealing items worth less than 5, smoking, and

Problems with Self-Reported Crime Surveys
  • Even though most people are forthright in
    revealing their peccadilloes, most people do not
    have a serious criminal history, and those who do
    have a distinct tendency to under-report their
  • Reporting honesty varies across race/ethnicity
    and gender

The Dark Figure of Crime Revisited
  • For official statistics, the dark figures are
    highly concentrated at the non-serious end of the
    crime seriousness spectrum.
  • Dark figures for victimization data are primarily
    concentrated in the non-serious end of the
    spectrum, although to a lesser degree than in the
    case of official data.
  • Most of the dark figures in the case of
    self-reports are concentrated in the upper end of
    the seriousness continuum.

(No Transcript)
What Can We Conclude about the Three Main
Measures of Crime in America?
  • UCR data is probably the best single source of
    data for studying serious crimes, especially
    murder rates and circumstances.
  • For studying less serious types of crimes, either
    victimization or self-report survey data are the
  • If the interest is in drug offenses, self-reports
    are the preferable data source.

The Financial Cost of Crime
  • Most estimates of the annual financial cost of
    crime focus on the costs of running the criminal
    justice system, which includes the salaries and
    benefits of the personnel, and the maintenance
    costs buildings and equipment. These costs are
    known as the direct costs of crime.

The Financial Cost of Crime
  • The indirect costs of crime include manner of
    surveillance and security devices, protective
    devices, and insurance costs, medical services,
    and the productivity and taxes lost of
    incarcerated individuals.

Interpreting Crime Trends
  • There is no single cause of crime or criminality,
    there is no single cause that explains crime
  • Possible reasons for crime rate fluctuations
    since the 1960s
  • Poverty Changes in the poverty rate can be
    accompanied by wither an increase or decrease in
    the crime rate, depending on what years we begin
    and end with and what other process are operating
    at the same time.

Interpreting Crime Trends
  • Affluence The affluent society
  • offers many targets for criminals to
  • aim at, as well as more goods available
  • to steal.

Interpreting Crime Trends
  • Moral Breakdown Societal Well-Being
  • Many think that a breakdown in the
  • general moral order that occurred in the
  • tumultuous 1960s may be the
  • explanation for the rise in crime
  • through the early 1990s.

Interpreting Crime Trends
  • The Family Problems of the family, such as
    divorce, can be expected to impact other areas of

Interpreting Crime Trends
  • Deindustrialization The workplace transition has
    impacted minorities and whites of low
    socioeconomic backgrounds most severely resulting
    in a lot of frustration and the hardening of

Interpreting Crime Trends
  • The Prison Boom Advocates of get tough
    policies credit the increased numbers of
    offenders being imprisoned for the decrease in
  • The Baby-Boomer Bubble When the first cohort
    of baby-boomers became teenagers in the early
    1960s, there would be a rather dramatic increase
    in crime.

Interpreting Crime Trends
  • Drug Market Stability Just as prohibition of the
    manufacture and sale of alcohol in the 1920s and
    1930s spawned large increases in violent crime as
    violent gangs vied for control of the alcohol
    market, the illicit drug market spawned huge
    increases in the violent crime in the 1980s.

Figure 2.6 Incarceration Rates for Selected
Countries in Mid-2004
Source Mauer, M. (2005). Comparative
international rates of incarceration An
examination of causes and trends. Washington, DC
The Sentencing Project. Reproduced with