Sociology Index

MEASURE OF CRIME

Crime Control Model, Crime Reduction

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 survey? Whatever the tool used for measure of crime, 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 Victimisation 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. On the other hand, the NCVS does not include the crime murder 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 was about 10 in 1990 with almost no change 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.

Getting the Measure of Crime. What practical problems does the criminologist face in going about his business?

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

In a separate measure of crime, 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. As with every measure of crime and crime statistic there are problems.

If there is a constant ratio between the actual amount of crime including the Dark figure of crime of unknown offenses and officially recorded crime, then the latter is "representative" of the former and acceptable as a measure of crime. During the nineteenth century researchers 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. But this approach gives equal weight to an admission of marijuana possession, stealing and assault with intent to kill.

Great Britain surprisingly did not acknowledge that crimes known to the police was a valid measure of crime until the mid-1930s even though these data was available since the mid-nineteenth century.

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 reasons.

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. The graded response model proves to be consistent with the data, and it provides results that address important substantive questions about self-report study measures.

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.
This primarily involved discussion of the definitions of crime and criminality and the meaning of the systemic and emperical approach. Specifically, we pointed out the behavioral and sociopolitical components of the definitions of crime and criminality and, by implication, their various 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 evaluating social control strategies.

"Offenses known to the police" has generally been considered the best source of official crime data. European countries that had developed national reporting systems of judicial statistics did not include police statistics and Great Britain did not acknowledge that crimes known to the police was a valid measure of crime until the mid-1930s.

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 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
It is argued that Chinese crime statistics are suspect as a measure of crime, more so than in Western countries, but that they can be quite useful when applied as a measure of crime of organizational processes reflecting social control.

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
The Scottish Crime and Victimisation Survey (SCVS) 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.