SOCI 225 Lecture 7: soci225 l7
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Controversies over counting crime: how should one collect data? Different methodologies for study
have developed and validity and reliability are most important
Validity: do the collected count purport what it claims to account
-crime rates: criminologists calculate crime rates by dividing the amount of crime by the population size
and multiplying it by 100000. This produces the standard rate per 100000
-even though police departments are supposed to follow uniform rules for reporting, they in fact can
-as reliability increases, validity frequently decreases: while the police may not catch every crime
(reliability) their method provides a better idea of crime (validity) than court convictions or prisoner
The system acts as a funnel—many crimes may occur but fewer result in police record, and even
fewer result in court sentencing/jail time
System is biased also in the sense that some crimes are more likely to be reported, and some
criminals more likely to be charged. Prison populations provide an idea of what crimes society sees as
most serious but not a valid measure of crime.
-criminologists have often acknowledged the problems, but then when they needed data, used statistics
ayay.Kaplas la of haer:if you gie a hild a hammer, everything will need pounding; likewise
social scientists accused of letting the data available dictate their theories (very limited view)
Ex: many criminologists used criminals in jail to study the difference between criminals and
noncriminals. This leaes out the issue of ho likely soe are to e harged. I the 0’s ad 0’s
criminologists began to reassess their theories; new theories suggest that the system operates to create
crime and criminals. Arrest and charge is a formal labelling process; a ceremony of degradation.
Social reaction theories: why are some people more often selected to be charged, and what
consequences do they face?
-some criminologists have returned to the original style of studying; accepting the bias and focus
on explaining crime for the purpose of controlling it (conservative criminology)
-see statistics as part of gvmt control mechanism; a reflection of more structural inequalities
-theory: a set of concepts and nominal definitions about the relationship between concepts and
-ideology: a linked set of ideas and beliefs that acts to uphold and justify an existing or desired situation
in society (facts without theory)
-numerology: statistical facts without theory
-theorists and policymakers have often been guilty of using statistics to their own ideological ends; ie
using crime counts to show we are going through a crime wave. We live in an age where we rely on
numbers to convince us.
-Polsky argues that our understanding of crime will never advance if we rely on statistics because it does
ot allo us to uderstad the riial; he eouraged a liig aog the ad field researh ut
few have embraced his method.
Stats on the criminal justice system: the criminal justice system produces an enormous amount of raw
data including administrative records: a collection of information about individual cases
-administrative records are not statistics
-statistics use aggregation: they are concerned with commonalities of aggregation; levels of
aggregation: how data is combined—ie do we want a provincial/municipal or national data
4 issues: a)unit of count (consensus): ie counting convictions or number of police responses are very
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