Chapter Two: The Nature and Extent of Crime

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Uniform Crime Report (UCR)

Official records from law enforcement agencies and given to the FBI. These records include the number of crimes reported to police, and arrests reported as raw numbers; Crime rates per 100,000 people are computed; and changes in rate of crime over time are computed. The FBI receives and complies records from more than 17,000 police departments.

Part I Crimes

Murder and non negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, arson, and motor vehicle theft.

Part II Crimes

Sex crimes, drug trafficking, and vandalism.

Main Areas of Concern of the UCR

Reporting practices (40% of crimes are not reported); Law enforcement practices (police officials alter reported crimes to improve their department's public image); and Methodological problems - validity (no federal crimes are reported, reports are voluntary and vary in accuracy and completeness, not all police departments submit reports, and the FBI uses estimates in its total crime projections.

Hierarchy Rule

In a multiple-offense incident, only the most serious crime is counted.

(1) Each act is listed as a single offense for some crimes but not for others. (If a man robbed six people in a bar, the offense is listed as one robbery; but if he assaulted or murdered them, it would be listed as six assaults or murders.)

(2) Incomplete acts are lumped together with completed ones.

(3) Important differences exist between the FBI's definition of certain crimes and those used in a number of states.

National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS)

1982 - a five-year redesign effort was undertaken to provide more comprehensive and detailed crime statistics. The new program requires local police agencies to provide at least a brief account of each incident and arrest, including the incident, victim, and offender information.

NIBRS Requirements

Law enforcement authorities provide information to the FBI on each criminal incident involving one or more of 46 specific offenses, including the 8 Part I crimes, that occur in their jurisdiction; arrest information on the 46 offenses plus 11 lesser offenses.

Hopes of the NIBRS

More than 20 states have implemented their NIBRS program, and 12 others are in the process of finalizing their data. The NIBRS should bring about greater uniformity in cross-jurisdictional reporting and improve the accuracy or official crime data.

Sampling

Included in surveys, which refers to the process of selecting for study a limited number of subjects who are representative of entire groups sharing similar characteristics, called the population. (Prison inmates)

Cross-Sectional Survey

In some circumstances, criminologists may want the survey to be representative of all members of society. Cross-sectional surveys are a usual and cost-effective technique for measuring the characteristics of large numbers of people.

(1) Questions and methods are standardized.
(2) Carefully drawn samples enable researchers to generalize their findings from small groups to large populations.
(3) Surveys measure subjects at a single point in their life, but questions can elicit information on subjects' past behavior as well as expectations of future behaviors.

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

Because more than half of all victims do not report their experiences to the police, the UCR cannot measure all the annual criminal activity. To address the non reporting issue, the federal government's Bureau of Justice Statistics sponsors the Nation Crime Victimization Survey, a comprehensive, nationwide survey of victimization in the United States.

How the NCVS is Conducted

U.S. Census Bureau personnel interview household members in a nationally represented sample of approximately 38,000 households. People are interviewed twice a year, so that approximately 136,000 interviews of persons age 12 or older are conducted annually. Households stay in the sample of three years. New households are rotated into the sample on an ongoing basis. The NCVS collects information on crimes suffered by individuals and households, whether or not those crimes were reported to law enforcement. It estimates the proportion of each crime type reported to law enforcement, and it summarizes that reasons that victims give for reporting or not reporting.
The survey was redesigned in 1993 to provide detailed information on the frequency and nature of the crimes of rape, sexual assault, personal robbery, aggravated and simple assault, household burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft. The survey provides information about victims, offenders, and the crimes.

NCVS: Advantages and Problems

The greatest advantage of the NCVS over official data sources such as the UCR is that it can estimate the total amount of annual crimes and not only those that are reported to police.
As a result, the NCVS data provides a more complete picture of the nation's crime problem. Also, because some crimes are significantly under reported, the NCVS is an indispensable measure of their occurrence.

Methodological problems of the NCVS

- Over reporting due to victims' misinterpretation of events. A lost wallet may be reported as stolen, or an open door may be viewed as a burglary attempt.
- Under reporting due to the embarrassment of reporting crime to interviewers, fear of getting in trouble, or simply forgetting an incident.
-Inability to record the personal criminal activity of those interviewed, such as drug use or gambling; murder is also not included, for obvious reasons.
- Sampling errors, which produce a group of respondents who do not represent the nation as a whole.
- Inadequate question format that invalidates responses. Some groups, such as adolescents, may be particularly susceptible to error because of question format.

Future of the NCVS

Challenging: A recent analysis conducted by the National Research Council found that its effectiveness has been undermined by budget limitations.

Monitoring the Future (MTF)

A national survey conducted by researchers at ISR that involves more than 2,500 high school seniors. The MTF is considered the national standard to measure substance abuse trends among American teens.

The "missing cases" phenomenon

- If 90 percent of a school population voluntarily participates in a self- report study, the absent 10% can be most of the high-rate offenders.
- Self-reports may measure only non serious, occasional delinquents because the more serious criminals are institutionalized and unavailable for self-reports.
- Reporting accuracy differs among racial, ethnic, and gender groups.

Cohort Research

Observation of a group of people who share a like characteristic over time.

Retrospective Cohort Study

Because it is extremely difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to follow a cohort over time, another approach is to take an intact cohort from the past and collect data from their educational, family, police, and hospital records. This format is known as a retrospective cohort study.

Experimental Research

Controlled experiments that collect data on the causes of crime. They are extremely difficult and expensive. (Quasi-experimental design is a better method).

How to Conduct Experimental Research

Criminologists manipulate or intervene in the lives of their subjects to see the outcome or the effect of the intervention. True experiments usually have three elements:
(1) random selection of subjects
(2) a control or comparison group
(3) an experimental condition

Meta-Analysis

Involves gathering data from a number of previous studies. Compatible information and data are extracted and pooled together. When analyzed, the grouped data from several different studies provide a more powerful and valid indicator of relationships than the results provides from a single study.

Systematic Review

Involves collecting the findings from previously conducted scientific studies that address a particular problem, appraising and synthesizing the evidence, and using the collective evidence to address a particular scientific question.

Data Mining

Uses multiple advanced computational methods, including artificial intelligence to analyze large data sets usually involving one or more data sources. The goal is to identify significant and recognizable patterns, trends, and relationships that are not easily detected through traditional analytical techniques alone.
Criminologists use this to predict future events or behaviors.

Crime Mapping

Criminologists create graphic representations of the spatial geography of crime. Computerized crime maps allow criminologists to analyze and correlate a wide array of data to create immediate, detailed visuals of crime patterns.
More complex maps can be used to chart trends in criminal activity.

Hot Spots of Crime

Certain neighborhoods in a city have significantly higher crime rates than others.

Future of Crime

Technological developments such as e-commerce on the Internet have created new classes of crime that are not recorded by any of the traditional methods of crime measurement. It's possible that some crimes such as fraud, larceny, prostitution, obscenity, vandalism, stalking, and harassment have increased over the Internet while falling under the radar of official crime data.

Ecology of Crime

- Most reported crimes occur during the warm summer months of July and August. (Teenagers are out of school and more time to do stupid things).
- Murders and robberies frequently occur in December and January.
- Crime rates also may be higher on the first day of the month than at any other time.
- The availability of extra money may relate to behaviors associated with crime such as drinking, partying, gambling, and so on.

Temperature and Crime

Some research shows that a rising temperature will cause some crimes to continually increase (domestic assault), while others (rape) will decline after temperatures rise to an extremely high level.

Regional Differences and Crime

Large urban areas have by far the highest violence rates; rural areas have the lowest per capita crime rates. Exceptions to this trend are low population resort areas with large transient or seasonal populations.

Use of Firearms

- About two-thirds of all murders and 40% of robberies involve firearms. Most are handguns. (UCR)
- International criminologists Franklin Zimring and Gordon Hawkins believe the proliferation of handguns and the high rate of lethal violence they cause is the single most significant factor separating the crime problem in the United States from the rest of the developed world.

Age and Crime

Young people create more crime (ages 16-25). They eventually grow out of it in adulthood.

Gender and Crime

Male arrest rates are still considerably higher than female rates (males account for 80% of violent crimes), however female arrest rates seem to be increasing at a faster pace. It is possible they will eventually converge.

Race and Crime

Official crime data indicate that minority group members are involved in a disproportionate share of criminal activity.

Racial Threat Hypothesis

As the percentage of minorities in the population increases, so does the amount of social control that police direct at minority groups.

Cultural Bias

Some criminologists view black crime as a function of socialization in a society where the black family was torn apart and black culture destroyed in such a way that recovery has proven impossible.

Structural Bias

Economic and social disparity; Family dissolution; Is convergence possible?

Chronic Offenders/Criminal Careers

(Marvin Wolfgang, Robert Figlio, and Thornsten Sellin) Chronic offenders are involved in significant amounts of delinquent behavior and tend later to become adult criminals. Unlike most offenders, they do not age out of crime.

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