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Chapter Two: Measuring Crime & Criminal Behavior
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Chapter Two: Measuring Crime & Criminal Behavior

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  1. Chapter Two: Measuring Crime & Criminal Behavior

  2. 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 time. Chapter Summary

  3. After reading this chapter, students should be able to: Understand how crimes are categorized and measured. 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

  4. 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 trends. Chapter Summary

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

  6. The Uniform Crime Reports: Counting Crime Officially • 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 nation’s police and sheriff’s 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 participate.

  7. The UCR separates crimes into two categories: Part I offenses (or Index crimes) and Part II offenses. 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 Officially

  8. 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 fear. 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 Officially

  9. 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 Officially

  10. 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 Officially

  11. Determining Crime Rates The rate of a given crime is the actual number of reported crimes standardized by some unit of the population 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 Officially

  12. The FBI’s 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 Officially

  13. 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. The Uniform Crime Reports: Counting Crime Officially

  14. 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 Figure 2.1 The FBI's Crime Clock for 2004 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.

  15. 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 included. 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. Problems with the UCR

  16. The UCR under-reports crimes that are know to the police because of the FBI’s 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. The Uniform Crime Reports: Counting Crime Officially

  17. Table 2.1 Estimated Number of Arrests for Part I and Part II Crimes by Sex and Age in 2000 and 2004 MalesFemales

  18. 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.

  19. Figure 2.4 Highlights From the 2004 NCVS Survey Data Source: Catalano, S. (2005). Criminal victimization, 2004. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics.

  20. 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

  21. 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. NIBRS: The “New and Improved” UCR

  22. 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

  23. 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. Problems with the NCVS

  24. 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 categories. • Both agree on recent crime trends.

  25. 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 sources. • These surveys involve asking people to disclose their delinquent and criminal involvement on anonymous questionnaires or face-to-face interviews.

  26. 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.

  27. 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 truancy.

  28. 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 crimes. • Reporting honesty varies across race/ethnicity and gender

  29. 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.

  30. 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 best • If the interest is in drug offenses, self-reports are the preferable data source.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. Interpreting Crime Trends • There is no single cause of crime or criminality, there is no single cause that explains crime trends • 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.

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

  35. 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.

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

  37. 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 poverty.

  38. Interpreting Crime Trends • The Prison Boom: Advocates of “get tough” policies credit the increased numbers of offenders being imprisoned for the decrease in crime. • 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.

  39. 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.

  40. 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 permission.