Sociology Index


What is 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 survey? Whatever the tool used in the measure of crime, it must be asked: Is this measurement reliable? Is this measure of crime valid? Over the past decades one measure of crime, National Crime Victimisation Survey has decreased by 26% and the other measure, Uniform Crime Report has increased about 47%, and the imprisonment rate has increased by 200%.

Since the 'Uniform Crime Report' and the 'National Crime Victimization Survey' measure crime in different ways, they present different views of crime. The Uniform Crime Report only contains crimes that are reported to the police, by some estimates only 40% of the total. On the other hand, the National Crime Victimization Survey does not include 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.

How is crime measured?

Street crime is measured in two main ways in the U.S. One is Uniform Crime Report: 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. Determining rates of crime (generally, per 1000 people or 100,000 people) requires that the number of offenses be divided by an accurate count of the population.

We need to assess the sensitivity of the findings when the measure of crime is completely dependent on the survey. 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, 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.

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 British Crime Survey 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, and to record attitudes towards the criminal justice system.

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).

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 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. 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 - by Harold E. Pepinsky.
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 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.

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 strategies.

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
It is argued that Chinese crime statistics are suspect as a measure of crime, more so than in Western countries, but that they nevertheless 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
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.