MEASURE OF CRIME
How do we measure crime? Do we rely on police records, do
we find the number of people incarcerated, or do we use a victimization questionnaire?
Whatever the tool or measurement one uses it must be asked:
Is this measurement reliable? Is it valid?
"Over the past 20 years one measure of crime (the
NCVS) has decreased by 26% and the other measure (the UCR) has increased about 47%, and
the imprisonment rate has increased by 200%."
HOW IS CRIME MEASURED?
Street crime is measured in two main ways in the U.S.
One is Uniform Crime Report (UCR): This is computed by
adding together the major crimes that are reported to the police who in turn report to the
F.B.I. who in turn publish the findings.
Another measure of crime comes from the National Crime
Victimization Survey (NCVS). About 20 years ago it became clear that only a proportion of
crimes are actually reported to the police and that if we wanted a more accurate count, we
would have to conduct scientific surveys of the population and ask people if they had been
victims of crime. This is what the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) does.
Since the UCR and the NCVS measure crime in different ways,
they present different views of crime. The UCR only contains crimes that are reported to
the police, by some estimates only 40% of the total. (In 1992 there were about 34,000,000
crimes reported to the NCVS and 13,000,000 to the UCR.)25 On the other hand, the NCVS does
not include the crime murder (since its victim can't report it) nor crimes for which there
is no reporting victim, like most drug-related crimes. Also not included are all white
collar crimes, like the savings and loan frauds, and much more.
Murder is the easiest to measure and thus is the crime we
know most about. About 25,000 people were murdered in the U.S. last year. The murder rate
in the U.S. was about 10 (per 100,000 population) in 1930 and about 10 in 1990 -- almost
no change at all in 60 years. Similarly, the murder rate in 1993 (9.3) was just about what
it was in 1973 (9.4).
Determining rates of crime (generally, per 1000 people or
100,000 people) requires that the number of offenses (the numerator) be divided by an
accurate count of the population (the denominator). The results of the decennial United
States Census are conventionally used as the sources of population data.
Metropolitan Structure and Violent Crime: Which Measure of
Crime?, by Robert M. O'Brien © 1983 American Sociological Association.
Getting the Measure of Crime. What practical problems does the criminologist face in going
about his business? - 123helpme.com/preview.asp?id=143897
The British Crime Survey is regarded as the most reliable
measure of crime by the Home Office. The stated aims of the BCS are as follows:
to provide an alternative measure of crime to that which is recorded by the police in the
form of official crime figures
to provide information on crime risks and inform crime prevention programmes
to record public attitudes to crime, fear of crime, and measures taken to avoid it
to record attitudes towards the criminal justice system
(The British Crime Survey, said the risk had risen one
percentage point to 24.3%.
In a separate measure, the number of crimes reported to police had fallen 3% in the third
quarter of 2006 compared with the same period the previous year.)
We need to assess the sensitivity of the findings when the
measure of crime is completely dependent on the survey.
Victim surveys as an alternative measure of crime - Doing Research on Crime and Justice By
Roy D. King,
"Crimes known to the police" has the most value of all official measures of
crime because it is closest procedurally to the actual crime committed, probably as close
as an official crime statistic will ever be. Even so, as with each and every measure and
crime statistic, there are problems regarding even this best of official crime statistics.
- (Thorsten Sellin)
If there is a constant ratio between the actual amount of
crime (including the dark figure of unknown offenses) and officially recorded crime,
whether recorded by arrest, prosecution, conviction, or imprisonment, then the latter is
"representative" of the former and acceptable as a measure of crime. During the
nineteenth century and through the first quarter of the twentieth century, scholars and
practitioners alike generally operated under this assumption in using and defending
judicial statistics as the true measure of crime in a society.
Statisticians use lists of reported offences as measure of crime. Respondents are asked to
check one or more offenses from a list of fifty that they might have committed over the
preceding year. But this approach gives equal weight to an admission of marijuana
possession, driving while drunk, stealing and assault with intent to kill.
European countries that had developed national reporting systems of judicial statistics
did not include police statistics, particularly crimes known, until the 1950s, and
ironically, Great Britain did not acknowledge that crimes known to the police was a valid
measure of crime until the mid-1930s, although these data had been collected since the
mid-nineteenth century (Sellin and Wolfgang).
There are drawbacks to using arrest data as a measure of crime. Arrest statistics do not
reflect the number of different people arrested each year because an unknown number of
people may be arrested more than once in a year. Arrests depend on various factors and
Analyzing Multiple-Item Measures of Crime and Deviance I: Item Response Theory Scaling -
Journal Journal of Quantitative Criminology
D. Wayne Osgood , Barbara J. McMorris and Maria T. Potenza
Abstract Multiple-item measures of self-reported offending typically provide the principal
outcome measures for individual level research on the causes of crime and deviance. This
article directs attention to the substantial problems presented by the task of forming
composite scores for these measures, and it presents a possible solution to those
problems. We consider scaling by means of the graded response model from item response
theory (IRT) as a potential means of overcoming the shortcomings of traditional summative
scaling and of obtaining valuable information about the strengths and weaknesses of our
measures. We illustrate this strategy through a scale analysis of a fourteen-item,
self-report measure of delinquency, using three years of data from the Monitoring the
Future study, an annual national survey of high school seniors. The graded response model
proves to be consistent with the data, and it provides results that address important
substantive questions about self-report measures. The findings are informative about the
strengths and weaknesses of alternative strategies for developing self-report instruments,
indicating that there is little to be gained by making fine distinctions in the frequency
of individual delinquent acts.
A review and analysis of Crime Control Strategies: An Introduction to the Study of Crime
- (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980) by Harold E. Pepinsky.
Journal Law and Human Behavior
In this review we have tried to formulate explicitly several important concepts presented
in Crime Control Strategies: An Introduction to the Study of Crime by Harold E. Pepinsky.
This primarily involved discussion of the definitions of crime and criminality and the
meaning of the systems approach. Specifically, we pointed out the behavioral and
sociopolitical components of the definitions of crime and criminality and, by implication,
their various measures. The systems approach has been proposed as a rigorous method for
decomposing these measures. We have argued that empirical models or systems can be
developed to disaggregate measures of crime and criminality into their causal components
toward the end of rationally devising, administering and evaluating social control
"Offenses known to the police" has generally been considered the best source of
official crime data. However, most of the European countries that had developed national
reporting systems of judicial statistics did not include police statistics, particularly
crimes known, until the 1950s, and ironically, Great Britain did not acknowledge that
crimes known to the police was a valid measure of crime until the mid-1930s, although
these data had been collected since the mid-nineteenth century (Sellin and Wolfgang).
Murder stats no measure of crime
NALINEE SEELAL Wednesday, November 15 2006
MINISTER in the Ministry of National Security Fitzgerald Hinds yesterday said the murder
rate (which as of yesterday stood at 328) will not be used as a yardstick to determine if
crime is on the increase or decrease.
Social Production of Crime Data: A Critical Examination of
Chinese Crime Statistics
Ni He, Ineke H. Marshall
The primary focus of this article is a critical examination of Chinese crime statistics.
The problems related to the production as well as the comparative use of Chinese national
crime statistics are tackled by means of an organizing framework that includes macro-level
characteristics of Chinese society, factors that affect the quality and quantity of
Chinese crime statistics, and specific problems related to the comparative use of Chinese
crime statistics. It is argued that Chinese crime statistics are suspect as a measure of
criminal misconduct, more so than in Western countries, but that they nevertheless can be
quite useful when applied as a measure of organizational processes reflecting social
Re-examining social disorganization theory using calls to the police as a measure of crime
Warner, B.D., Pierce, G.L., Journal:Criminology
Scottish Crime Survey, 2000
Abstract: The Scottish Crime Survey (SCS) (from 2004, the Scottish Crime and Victimisation
Survey (SCVS) - see below) is a repeat cross-sectional survey measuring the incidence and
prevalence of victimisation among the Scottish population. The survey aims to provide an
alternative measure of crime to the police recorded crime statistics, examine trends in
the level and nature of crime over time, assess varying crime risks and collect
information on a range of other crime-related issues, e.g. concern about crime; attitudes
to the police; drug misuse and domestic violence. The name of the survey was changed in
2004 to better reflect its content.
Crime surveys have been carried out in Scotland since the early 1980s. In 1982 and 1988,
the SCS formed part of the British Crime Survey (BCS) (see below for data availability).
In 1993, however, the first independent SCS was run in Scotland and was repeated in 1996,
2000 and 2003. The SCS is referred to by the year in which data were collected rather than
the year to which the data refer.
In June 2004, the Scottish Executive commissioned the Scottish Crime and Victimisation
Survey (SCVS), a new survey of victimisation in Scotland. In two distinct ways the SCVS
was significantly different from previous sweeps of the SCS that had been undertaken in
Scotland since 1993. First, the sample size was increased from 5,000 interviews every
three years to an annual sample of 27,000 with continuous interviewing. More importantly,
the survey method was changed from a face-to-face survey to a telephone survey. These
changes were the outcome of a fundamental review of the SCS undertaken in 2003 and the
change of data collection method represented the potential for change in the data series
established by the SCS. Reflecting this, the Scottish Executive commissioned MORI Scotland
and TNS Social to undertake a parallel face-to-face survey designed as a repeat of the
previous waves of the SCS, although with a smaller sample of 3,000 interviews, to provide
a measure of victimisation against which the telephone survey could be compared. In
addition to the 3,000 full SCS interviews, 2,000 additional short interviews were
conducted to bring the total number of adults providing the self-completion data that had
been a feature of the previous SCS up to 5,000. Although there have been changes to the
design of the survey over time, the wording of the questions that are asked to elicit
victimisation experiences has been held constant throughout the life of the SCVS.
The 2006 SCVS reverted to a face-to-face data collection method. Interviewing ran from
June to December 2006 with the reference period for crime incidents being 1 April 2005 to
the interview date. However, when calculating victimisation rates, only those crimes
experienced between 1 April 2005 and 31 March 2006 were included, meaning that the survey
has the same reference period as the 2005-2006 British Crime Survey (BCS) (held at the UK
Data Archive under SN 5543), conducted in England and Wales. The 2006 survey was conducted
by BMRB Social Research.
Data availability for the 1982 and 1988 SCS (BCS):
The Scottish data from the 1982 and 1988 BCS are held separately at the UK Data Archive
under SNs 4368 and 4599, as they have different access conditions to the main BCS. The
Scottish part of the 1988 BCS was also known as the Scottish Areas Crime Survey.
The 2000 SCS was the fifth such survey to be carried out in Scotland. It included an
ethnic minority booster sample, which aimed to measure the issues central to the survey
series in relation to Scotland's ethnic minority population.
The information from the SCS is contained within the following files:
Coreinfo - common questions from Main A and Main B questionnaires, asked of all
respondents, including views on social issues, fear of crime, experience of victimisation
since 1st January of the survey year and demographics;
MainA - follow-up questions from Main A on contact with the police, views of the police,
sentencing and the role of prisons;
MainB - follow-up questions from Main B on fear of crime, use of home, personal and
vehicle security measures, experience of harassment, violence at work and views of
Victim1 - details from the Victim Forms of incidents of victimisation occurring in
Scotland in the relevant survey year (i.e. 1st January-31st December 1999), financial and
emotional costs of incident(s), contact with the police and other agencies in relation to
the incident, evaluation of such involvement and assessment of desired punishment for
offender. This version of the victim form information is used to calculate victimisation
and prevalence rates;
Victim2 - details from the Victim Forms of incidents of victimisation occurring in
Scotland since the beginning of the relevant survey year (i.e. 1st January until the time
of interview - around Feb/Mar 2000), covering the same topics as Victim1. This version of
the victim form information is used for offence-oriented analysis;
Self - data from the Adult Self-Completion Form containing views of respondents aged
between 16-59 on knowledge and use of illegal drugs, experience of domestic violence; and,
Young - data from the Young Persons Self-Completion Form containing views of respondents
aged 12-15 on parental control, leisure time activities, experience of victimisation,
contact with and views of the police, self-reported offending, truancy, knowledge of
Core data is obtained from the identical relevant sections of the main questionnaires and
after victimisation rates are calculated and the weighting process is complete, this data
is added into each of the above files. Therefore all files contain the coreinfo data,
although within the Victim1, Victim2 and Young datasets, there may be duplicated lines of
coreinfo data relating to a number of questionnaires originating from the same household.
In addition to the datasets from the main survey, a further set of datasets exists
containing information from ethnic minority (EM) respondents (these datasets have the same
names as those from the main sample but each filename is suffixed with an E - e.g.
CoreinfoE). This data originates from either the main survey (responses from EM
respondents were copied into these datasets) or the EM Booster sample (a separate sample
derived from the electoral register). Differences in the origin of cases can be revealed
by examining the area and address codes.
The study incorporated some Likert scales.