Measuring Crime and Deviance: Sources of Information
Crime and Deviance
October 4, 2011
-Scared straight took kids and put them in a room with prisoners in order to have these guys scare them so much that it
will deter them from committing crime. Many other deterrence programs have sprung up. So deterrence is based on
certainty, severity, and celerity. Thus the goals of these shows appeal to people’s fear of the severity. Did it work? Maybe
in the moment, but not in the long run. People who went through scared straight programs actually had higher recidivism
Problems with Acquiring Crime and Deviance Data
1 Subject of inquiry is deliberately hidden
-It is a private phenomenon and people don’t usually advertise their criminality. Certain types of
deviance is public and expressive (like punks), but other types of crimes and deviance aren’t. So how
do you analyze something that’s hidden?
2 Deviants have little insight into the broader nature and extent of their behaviour
-How much do child molestors know about other child molesters? They may not know much about
one another. Thus, they aren’t able to give much insight about their crimes in general.
3 Access to deviants is costly, time consuming, and often only partial
-It costs a lot to do large scale projects. To try and get in to these group is tough as well.
4 Much deviance lies beyond the scope of research
-There are things beyond the scope of what you can reasonably expect to understand. For example:
The difference between a neutralization or rationalization/justification. When someone who commits a
crime gets caught, they usually have an excuse/reason. Did that reason happen before or after the
fact? Neutralizations are supposed to occur before (ex: denial of the victim in car thefts). If you steal
their car and get caught and talk about the pressure their friends put them under and such. That is an
excuse. So what happens first?
5 Sociologists are not able to pass effortlessly into every alien situation
-How does a white middle-class sociologist do an in-depth study of black gang culture? How will they
ever get in to that group and how will they ever know where to start. It is also difficult to gain rapport
with the group you are trying to study and without building rapport, you can’t build their trust and
6 Barriers exist within social worlds, even if access is gained
-Even if you do get into a particular group, there can be barriers, politics, and divisions within that
group. Moreover, the member getting you into the group may be marginal themselves.
6 Social worlds are not representative
-If you want to study robbery, you can easily go to prisons, but are those people representative of
armed robbers? No, because what about the people who haven’t gotten caught?
Sources of Data: Official Data
Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
• Standardized counts of crimes known to the police
• National statistics about crime rates
• Event/population size x 100,000
-The UCR is the primary form. They’re standardized accounts of crime known to the police.
• Also includes stats from other official sources - Competition Bureau (for corporate crime), hospitals (addictions),
institutions, CJS (court data, incarceration data, parole data, etc).
-The crime rate is mostly being driven by property crime. Why are break and enter rates problematic? The answer may be
because we have better security and better insurance. Violent crime rates have increased (both serious and common)
over time. Attempted murder and homicide have both been declining over time. Overall crime severity has been going
down (this is the actual severity of the crime). Violent crime severity has also been declining. Assaults and serious
assaults are driving the crime severity.
-Limitations of official data?
The Crime Funnel/Dark Figure of Crime.
-The idea is that we can never know how much crime is out there (actual level).
-Witnesses detect most crime (detected)?
-We, however, choose which ones to report, and not all get reported (reported). Lots of crimes don’t get
reported. Why might we not report it? Maybe because it is trivial, people are embarrassed, afraid, etc.
-When it does get reported, does it get recorded (recorded)? Sometimes trivial crimes do not get recorded.
Police have a level of discretion in terms of whether to lay a charge. Police attention can also come into play. If
you hire many new officers to work on a gang unit, they will pay more attention to gang activity and thus
recorded crimes of these natures will go out. Thus, if they have a vested interest in making something a crime
or concentrating on something, reported crime will reflect that. Does more police reduce crime? No.
-Will people get arrested (police clearance rates). These clearance rates are when they report a crime, and
develop the evidence to lay a charge. Murder has the highest clearance rate, but other crimes don’t. If you
report a sexual assault, police will report a clearance rate. However, the amount of actual sexual assaults that
happen, only a small fraction get reported. Thus, arrest rates can be lower in official data than the reality
-Most cases are plea bargained (as high as 90%), thus conviction rates are skewed (conviction). Also, only the
most serious offences will end up being charged in the first place (when you have multiple offences in one). On the flip side, other times the crown can stack charges to build their case.
-Community service, fines, probation, etc (noncustodial punishment).
-Prison is custodial punishment. Federal is 2+ years, and provincial is 2 years less a day.
The Crime Funnel