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Lecture 2: Methods of Gathering Crime Statistics

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University of Ottawa
Sam Alvaro

Methods of Gathering Crime Statistics Criminological Research  Criminological knowledge is based on science, a logical organized method of obtaining information through direct, Systematic observation (as opposed to journalism). Scientific knowledge is based on empirical evidence, information that is directly verifiable  A research method is a strategy for systematically conducting research  Concepts, variables, and measurement o Concepts are mental constructs that represent some part of the world, inevitably in a simplified form (ex: violence) o Variables are concepts whose value changes from case to case o Operationalizing a variable is the process of developing the measure to be used in gauging a variable (ex: definition of violence) Measurement and relationships  Measurement requires reliability (the quality of consistent measurement) and validity (the quality of measuring precisely what one intends to measure)  Relationships among variables o Cause and effect is a relationship in which change of one variable causes change in another  Cause: independent variable  Effect: dependent variable  Requirements of causation  A --> B  Changes in both variables  No lurking variables o Law: if something happens often enough that it can be predicted o Correlation exists when two (or more) variables are related in some way Limitations of Scientific Research  Human behaviour is too complex to allow criminology to predict any individual's actions precisely  Because humans respond to their surroundings, the mere presence of researcher may affect the behaviour being studied  Social patterns change constantly; what is true in one time or place may not hold in another  Because criminologists are part of the social world they study, objectivity in social research is especially difficult  Subjective interpretation is always an important element in criminology analysis Types of research  Qualitative research o The nonnumeric examination and interpretation of observations for the purpose of discovering underlying meanings and patterns of relationships  Quantitative research o The numerical representation and manipulation of observations for the purpose of describing and explaining the phenomena that those observations represent  Survey research o Uses interviews and questionnaires o Is cross-sectional  Compares different groups at one point in time o Measures attitudes, opinions, beliefs, values and behaviours o Limitations  How do you find a representative sample?  Will people respond to your survey?  Will people tell the truth about their behaviours and opinions?  Longitudinal research o Studies the same group over a period of time o May use diaries, interviews, health and employment records o Time-consuming o Sample attrition  People may drop out of the research  Aggregate data research o Government stats, social indicators, uniform crime reports  Uniform crime reports (UCR)  Collected by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics  1962: aggregate data collected each month from all police forces  1984: revised UCR collects info about each crime, more detail, about half of police forces participate  Collecting the UCR  Incidence of crime  Actual reported and founded(through investigation  Percentage of change  From year to year  Crime rate  #of crimes / population x 100 000  Time/space problem  Clearance rate (by change or otherwise)  Crime funnel  Of all crimes around 40% are reported  15% are cleared  3% are obtained  About 10% of canadians have a criminal record  Accuracy of UCR  Reporting practices  Are people willing or able to call the police  Law enforcement practices  Are police cracking down on some crimes and not others  Zero tolerance policies  Legal definitions  Have the laws changed?  Ex: hacking, texting, etc.
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