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Chapter Four: An Introduction to Alternative Data-Gathering and the Special Case of Uniform Crime Reports. Alternative Data-Gathering Strategies. The experiment as a method of data gathering is by no means the best strategy, despite its obvious strengths.

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Chapter Four: An Introduction to Alternative Data-Gathering and the Special Case of Uniform Crime Reports

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Chapter Four: An Introduction to Alternative Data-Gathering and the Special Case of Uniform Crime Reports

alternative data gathering strategies
Alternative Data-Gathering Strategies
  • The experiment as a method of data gathering is by no means the best strategy, despite its obvious strengths.
  • No all topics lend themselves to experiments.
  • Experiments have weaknesses that other data gathering strategies do not have.
alternative data gathering strategies3
Alternative Data-Gathering Strategies
  • There are other types of data gathering strategies which have better external validity and are NOT characterized by their artificiality.
  • Examples of alternative data-gathering strategies: social surveys, participant observation, case studies, unobtrusive measures.
social surveys
Social surveys
  • A means of data gathering in which a segment of the population reports their attitudes and/or behavior.
  • IE: (questionnaires, interviews, telephone contact)
  • Can be powerful tools for obtaining quantitative data for statistical analysis; Statistics can control for RCF’s
participant observation
Participant Observation
  • Occurs when a researcher observes a group by participating, to varying degrees, in the activities of the group.
  • Favorite tool of anthropologists.
  • For some subjects participant observation may be the only visible data-gathering strategy.
case studies
Case Studies
  • Case studies- In-depth analysis of one or a few cases.
  • Represent a commitment to a qualitative or sensitizing strategy.
  • Provide a micro-criminological or in-depth close-up of only a few subjects
  • IE: Edwin Sutherland’s The Professional Thief (1937), Clifford Shaw’s “Brothers in Crime”
life histories
Life Histories
  • Generally involve the analysis of diaries, letters, biographies, and autobiographies.
  • IE: Clifford Shaw’s “The Jack-roller” (1930)
  • Oral histories are “recounts of events by participants.”
unobtrusive measures
Unobtrusive Measures
  • Non-reactive methods of data gathering.
  • Any methods of gathering data in which the subjects are NOT aware of being analyzed.
  • IE: Analysis of existing data, UCR data, trace analysis
  • Usually an inexpensive alternative to data gathering.
the special case of uniform crime reports
The Special Case of Uniform Crime Reports
  • Traditionally the most widely used measure of crime in the United States.
  • Began in 1930 by U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Compilation of national crime statistics. Law enforcement agencies send statistics to DOJ.
the special case of uniform crime reports10
The Special Case of Uniform Crime Reports
  • The UCR comprises crimes known to, and recorded by, local police departments.
  • These statistics do not take into account the “dark figure of crime.”
  • In the 1980’s about 98% of metropolitan police agencies reported its crimes to the FBI.
the crime index
The Crime Index
  • The UCR is divided into Part 1 and Part 2 crimes.
  • Part 1 consists of index crimes which are MAJOR felonies reported to the police:
  • Murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, arson
the crime index12
The Crime Index
  • Part 2 crimes are non-index crimes:
  • Includes minor offenses, such as, simple assault, vandalism, gambling, and drunkenness
  • The FBI can not vouch for the validity of reports, but it examines them for accuracy, eliminates and makes special inquiries for crass errors
crime rate
Crime Rate
  • The crime rate is expressed as the number of crimes per unit of population size.
  • Permits a fair comparison of different size units.
  • Crime rate = # of index crimes X 100.000


calculating the crime rate
Calculating the Crime Rate
  • This is very important. Newspapers are sold and jobs are won and lost depending on what the crime rate is.
  • Question: If the City of Houston has a population of 4,900,000 with 506 homicides a year. How would you calculate the homicide rate?
limitations of ucr data
Limitations of UCR Data
  • Recorded statistics represent only a portion of the true crime rate. (Probably 2x as much).
  • Citizens’ tendency to report crime may change because of a general change in public morality(barroom brawls)
limitations of ucr data16
Limitations of UCR Data
  • Most victimless crimes and white collar crimes are not contained in the UCR
  • Changes in a police department’s statistical tabulating process may affect how the crime rate is recorded.
  • Political pressure to lie.
limitations of ucr data17
Limitations of UCR Data
  • Hierarchy rule - Only the most serious crime is reported in any single incident.
  • The crime index is an un-weighted index - all crimes count the same; IE: A murder counts the same as a bicycle theft.
limitations of ucr data18
Limitations of UCR Data
  • Crime index may cause police agencies to concentrate on these crimes at the expense of other crimes.
  • Larceny and arson should not be included as an index crime.
  • In cases of arson it can be hard to tell whether or not intentional.
crime dip
Crime dip
  • Stabilization or decline in crime.
  • Demographic shifts may provide some explanation for rapidly rising or falling crime rates.
  • Criminologists using UCR data were able to forecast the crime dip in the 1980’s.
ucr redesign
UCR Redesign
  • Beginning in 1977, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National Sheriffs Association called for a major redesign of the UCR system
  • Today the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is replacing the UCR.
national incident based reporting system
National Incident-Based Reporting System
  • NIBRS uses fifty-two data elements to describe: victims, offenders, offenders, and circumstances of crimes.
  • 1st overhaul of UCR in 50 yrs
  • NIBRS includes many different types of crimes, such as, bribery, pornography, fraud, and non-forcible sex offenses.
national incident based reporting system22
National Incident-Based Reporting System
  • NIBRS will eventually replace the UCR as the official source of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies.
  • Represents a new way of thinking about crime.
  • Illustrates close partnership among BJS, FBI, and over 17,000 law enforcement agencies
nibrs versus ucr
NIBRS versus UCR
  • 1.) Incident-Based v. Summary Reporting: NIBRS reports include fifty-two data elements describing victims, offenders, and circumstances of the crime.
  • 2.) NIBRS includes more possible types of crimes: UCR has 8 Part I Crimes, NIBRS has 46 Group A
nibrs versus ucr24
NIBRS versus UCR
  • 3.) NIBRS, unlike UCR, makes a distinction between attempted and completed crimes.
  • 4.) Elimination of the “hierarchy rule” (under UCR). Cites all offenses within the same incident.
  • 5.) Designation of “Computer Crimes”
nibrs versus ucr25
NIBRS versus UCR
  • 6.) Better statistical analysis: Greater opportunities for examining interrelationships between many variables such as offenses, property, victims, offenders, and arrestees.
  • 7.) NIBRS includes “Crimes Against Society” - ie: prostitution, drug offenses, gambling, pornography.
nibrs versus ucr26
NIBRS versus UCR
  • 8.) Greater specificity of data: Because NIBRS collects more specific information, which can lead to better criminal profiling. IE: NIBRS tells a researcher whether or not drugs/alcohol were involved; injuries sustained; types of weapons; relationship between victim and offender; location. A plethora of information.
interpol united nations world health organizations
Interpol, United Nations, World Health Organizations
  • The above organizations represent an international effort with respect to crime statistics.
  • IE: Interpol puts out its crime statistics.
  • This type of data may give insight into crimes in other countries and provide a basis for comparison.
interpol united nations world health organizations28
Interpol, United Nations, World Health Organizations
  • CAUTION: Some of the same problems in analyzing international data are the same as those affecting the UCR.
  • Problems: Varying definitions of crime across countries, differences in law, differences in recording practices, different urban/rural, economic structures, political factors