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Chapter 2. The Nature and Extent of Crime. How Criminologists Study Crime. Survey Research Self-report surveys and interviews Victimization surveys Sampling (selection process) Population (sharing of similar characteristics) Cross-sectional research (representative of all society).

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The nature and extent of crime

Chapter 2

The Nature and Extent of Crime

How criminologists study crime
How Criminologists Study Crime

  • Survey Research

    • Self-report surveys and interviews

    • Victimization surveys

    • Sampling (selection process)

    • Population (sharing of similar characteristics)

    • Cross-sectional research (representative of all society)

How criminologists study crime1
How Criminologists Study Crime

  • Cohort Research: Longitudinal and retrospective

    • Cohort involves observing a group of people who share similar characteristics

    • Following cohorts is expensive and time consuming

    • Examination of school, police, and courts records

How criminologists study crime2
How Criminologists Study Crime

  • Official Record Research

    • Criminologists use the records of government agencies to study crime

    • The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) data is collected by local law enforcement agencies and published yearly by the FBI

    • Census Bureau data used for information about income

How criminologists study crime3
How Criminologists Study Crime

  • Weblink:

How criminologists study crime4
How Criminologists Study Crime

  • Experimental Research

    • Manipulation and intervention techniques

    • Three elements: (1) random selection, (2) control group, and (3) experimental condition

    • Criminological experiments are rare due to expense and ethical concerns

How criminologists study crime5
How Criminologists Study Crime

  • Observational and Interview Research

    • Commonly focuses on a few subjects for study

    • In-depth interviews to gain insight into a behavior

    • Field participation (Whyte’s Street Corner Society)

How criminologists study crime6
How Criminologists Study Crime

  • Meta-Analysis and Systematic Review

    • Meta-analysis involves gathering data from previous studies

    • Grouped data provides powerful indication of relationships between variables

    • Systematic review involves collecting and synthesizing evidence to address a particular scientific question (street lighting and crime)

Measuring crime trends and rates
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Official Data: The Uniform Crime Report (UCR)

    • More than 17,000 police agencies contribute records

    • Index Crimes (Part I)

      • Murder

      • Non-negligent manslaughter

      • Forcible rape

      • Robbery

      • Aggravated assault

      • Burglary

      • Larceny

      • Arson

      • Motor vehicle theft

    • Non-Index Crime (Part II)

      • All other crimes

      • Does not include traffic offenses

Measuring crime trends and rates1
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Compiling the Uniform Crime Report

    • Each month law enforcement agencies report index crimes

    • Unfounded or false reports are to be eliminated from the actual count

    • Each month law enforcement agencies report the number of crimes cleared (by arrest or exceptional means)

    • Slightly more than 20 percent of all reported index crimes are cleared by arrest each year

    • Victim crimes are more likely to be solved than property

Measuring crime trends and rates2
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Uniform Crime Reports Validity

    • Reporting practices:

      • Some victims do not report serious crimes

      • Some victims do not trust police

      • Some thinks it is useless to report crime

      • Victims may fear reprisals

    • Less than 40 percent of all crime is reported to police

Measuring crime trends and rates3
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Law enforcement practices:

    • Departments may loosely define crimes (trespass and burglary)

    • Arrests may only be counted after formal booking

    • Deliberate alterations due to image concerns

    • Better record keeping processes can artificially inflate crime rates

Measuring crime trends and rates4
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Methodological Issues:

    • No federal crimes are reported

    • Reports are voluntary

    • Not all departments submit reports

    • The FBI uses estimates in its total projections

    • Multiple crime offenders are frequently counted as one crime

    • Each act is listed as a single offense (robbing of six people in one incident)

    • Incomplete acts are lumped together will completed ones

    • Differences in definitions of crime between FBI and states

Measuring crime trends and rates5
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)

    • Result of a five-year redesign effort

    • Collects data on each reported incident

    • Expands the categories of UCR to 46 specific offenses

    • Currently, 22 states have implemented NIBRS

Measuring crime trends and rates6
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Victim Surveys: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

    • Attempts to measure crime unreported to police by surveying victims

    • Utilizes at large nationally representative sample

    • People are asked to report their victimization experiences

    • In 2002, the NCVS estimates about 247,000 rapes or attempted rapes occurred compared to about 90,000 per UCR estimates

Measuring crime trends and rates7
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Validity of the NCVS

    • Overreporting due to victim’s misinterpretations

    • Underreporting due to embarrassment

    • Inability to record the criminal activity of those interviewed

    • Sampling errors

    • Inadequate question formats

Measuring crime trends and rates8
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Self Report Surveys

    • Attempts to measure the “dark figures” of crime

    • Most focus on youth crime due to school setting

    • Self-reports suggest the number of people who break the law is greater than projected by official statistics

    • Self-reports dispute the notion that people specialize in one type of crime

    • Most common offenses are truancy, alcohol abuse, shoplifting, larceny under $50, fighting, marijuana use, and property damage

Measuring crime trends and rates9
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Validity of Self-Reports

    • People may exaggerate or forget their criminal acts

    • Some surveys may contain an overabundance of trivial offenses

    • Missing cases is also a concern when students refuse to participate in the survey

    • Institutionalized youth are generally not included in self-report surveys

    • Reporting differences may exist between racial, ethnic, and gender groups

Measuring crime trends and rates10
Measuring Crime Trends and Rates

  • Evaluating Crime Data Sources

    • Each source has its strengths and weaknesses

    • The FBI survey contains number and characteristics of people arrested

    • The NCVS includes unreported crimes and personal characteristics of victims

    • Self-report surveys provide information about offenders

    • The crime patterns of each are often quite similar in their tallies of crime

Crime trends
Crime Trends

  • Overall crime rates have been declining since 1991

    • In 2003 about 11.8 million crimes were reported to police

    • Teenage criminality has also been in decline during this period

Crime trends1
Crime Trends

  • Trends in Violent Crime

    • Violent crime rates have decreased about 11 percent between 1997 and 2002

    • Preliminary data indicates another 3 percent decline between 2002 and 2003

    • Homicide rates peaked around 1930, then held steady at about 5 per 100,000 population from 1950 through the mid-1960s, then rose to 10.2 per 100,000 population in 1991

    • Between 1991 and 2000 homicide rates dropped to about 5.5 per 100,000 population

    • New York reported a decline of more than 50 percent in their murder rates

Crime trends2
Crime Trends

  • Trends in Property Crime

    • In 2002, about 10.4 million property crimes were reported at a rate of 3,650 per 100,000 population

    • Property crime rates have decreased, though not as dramatic as violent crime rates

    • Between 1992 and 2002 the property crime rate declined about 26 percent

Crime trends3
Crime Trends

  • Trends in Victimization Data (NCVS Findings)

    • According to the NCVS, in 2002 about 23 million U.S. residents experienced violent and property victimizations

    • The downward trend represents the lowest number of criminal victimizations since 1973

    • Between 1993 and 2002 the violent crime rate has decreased 54 percent and the property crime rate decreased 50 percent

Crime trends4
Crime Trends

  • Self-Report Findings

    • The use drugs and alcohol increased markedly in the 1970s, leveled off in the 1980s, began to increase in the mid-1990s and began to decline after 1997

    • Self report surveys suggest the crime problem with teenagers could be greater than the FBI data reveals

    • Crimes of theft and violence may be more stable than the trends reported in the UCR arrest data Slide-30

Crime trends5
Crime Trends

  • What the Future Holds

    • James A. Fox predicts a significant increase in teen violence due to the age makeup of the population

    • Steven Levitt argues that keeping large numbers of people in prison and adding more police will reduce crime rates

    • Darrell Steffensmeier and Miles Harper suggest a more moderate increase in crime due to “baby boomers”

Crime patterns
Crime Patterns

  • The Ecology of Crime

    • Day, season, and climate:

      • Most crime occurs during warm months since people spend more time outdoors and teenagers are out of school

      • Murder and robbery tend to occur more during December and January

      • Crime rates are higher on the first day of the month due to arrival of subsidy and retirement checks

    • Temperature:

      • Rising temperatures increase crime rates to a point (about 85 degrees)

    • Regional differences:

      • Large urban areas experience more violence than rural areas

      • The West and South consistently have higher crime rates than the Midwest or Northeast

Crime patterns1
Crime Patterns

  • Use of Firearms

    • Involved in about 20 percent of robberies. 10 percent of assaults, and 5 percent of rapes, according to the NCVS

    • In 2002, UCRs report about two-thirds of all murder involved firearms

    • Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins contend the use of handguns is the single most factor that separates the crime problem from the rest of the developed world

    • By contrast, Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz suggest handguns may be a deterrent to crime

Crime patterns2
Crime Patterns

  • Social Class and Crime

    • Crime is thought to be a lower-class phenomenon

    • Instrumental crimes refer to those designed to improve the financial or social position of the criminal

    • Expressive crimes refer to criminal acts committed due to anger, frustration, or rage

    • Victimization rates are higher for those in inner-city, high-poverty areas than those in suburban and wealthier areas

Crime patterns3
Crime Patterns

  • Class and Self-Reports

    • Early self-report studies did not find a direct relationship between social class and crime

    • Official processing was determined by socioeconomic class

    • Some criminologists challenge the contention that crime in primarily a lower-class phenomenon

Crime patterns4
Crime Patterns

  • The Crime-Class Controversy

    • The associate between class and crime is complex

    • Class may affect some groups more than others (women and African Americans)

    • The true crime-class relationship may be obscured because its impact varies within and between groups

Crime patterns5
Crime Patterns

  • Does Class Matter?

    • Recent evidence suggest crime is more prevalent among the lower classes

    • Income inequality, poverty, and resource deprivation are all associated with the most serious violent crimes

    • Deprived residents may turn to criminal behavior to relieve their frustrations

Crime patterns6
Crime Patterns

  • Age and Crime

    • Age is inversely related to crime

    • Younger people commit more crime than older people

    • Youth ages 13 to 17 account for about 25 percent of all index crime arrests and about 17 percent of arrests for all crimes

    • Generally, 16 is the peak age for property crimes and 18 is the peak age for violent crimes

Crime patterns7
Crime Patterns

  • Aging Out of Crime

    • People commit less crime as they age

      • Peak in adolescent criminal activity can be linked to:

      • Reduction in supervision

      • An increase in social and academic demands

      • Participation in a larger, more diverse social world

      • An increased desire for adult privileges

      • A reduced ability of cope in a legitimate manner and increased incentives to solve problems in a criminal manner

    • Younger people tend to discount the future

    • Marriage may be a desisting factor in criminality

Crime patterns8
Crime Patterns

  • Gender and Crime

    • Males commit more crime than females

    • Overall, 3.5 males to 1 female

    • For serious offenses; 5 males to 1 female

    • For murder; 8 males to 1 female

Crime patterns9
Crime Patterns

  • Traits and Temperament

    • Lombroso explained gender differences through the masculinity hypothesis suggesting a few females commit the majority of crimes by women

    • Chivalry hypothesis suggests the culture is protective of women and masks the true criminality of women

    • Some criminologists have linked differences in crime rates to hormonal changes between men and women

Crime patterns10
Crime Patterns

  • Socialization and Development

    • Some suggest females are socialized into criminality through alienation at home

    • Females are more closely guarded than boys

    • Some contend girls have cognitive traits that shield them from criminal behaviors

Crime patterns11
Crime Patterns

  • Feminist View

    • Feminist argue that women experience lower crime rates reflected in a “second class” position controlled largely by males

    • Some suggested crime rates of males and females would converge

    • Is convergence likely?

      • Some argue the emancipation of women has little effect on female crime rates

      • Many females come from a socioeconomic class least affected by the women’s movement

      • Offense patterns of women are still quite different than those of men

Crime patterns12
Crime Patterns

  • Race and Crime

    • Minority group members are involved in a disproportionate amount of crime

    • African Americans account for about 38 percent of violent crime arrests and 30 percent of property crime arrests, while making up about 12 percent of the population

    • Self-reports contend minorities are more likely to be arrested and not necessarily more prone to crime than Whites

Crime patterns13
Crime Patterns

  • Racism and Discrimination

    • Criminologists suggest Black crime is a function of socialization

    • Institutional racism results in African American males being treated more harshly by the criminal justice system (social dynamite)

    • African Americans experience higher unemployment rates and lower incomes than Whites

    • Blacks are exposed to more violence than Whites

    • Family dissolution his higher among African Americans than Whites

Crime patterns14
Crime Patterns

  • Criminal Careers

    • A small group of criminal offenders account for a majority of all criminal offenses

    • Delinquency in a Birth Cohort by Wolfgang, Figlio, and Sellin, 1972

    • The cohort data indicated that 54 percent were repeat offenders

    • 6 percent of the repeat offenders were chronic and responsible for over 51 percent of all the crime committed by the cohort group

    • Children exposed to a variety of personal and social problems at an early age are the most at risk to repeat offending

Crime patterns15
Crime Patterns

  • Persistence: The Continuity of Crime

    • Those who start a delinquent career early are more likely to persist as adults

    • Youthful offenders are more likely to abuse alcohol, have lower aspirations, get divorced, and have a weak employment record

    • Apprehension and punishment have little effect on chronic youth offenders

    • Implications of chronic offending suggest individuals may possess a trait which is responsible for their behavior

    • Chronic offenders have become a central focus of crime policy (three-strikes and mandatory sentences)