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Lecture 3

CRIM 1650 Lecture 3: measurement of crime

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CRIM 1650
James Williams

MEASUREMENT OF CRIME (Week 3 – sept. 27) (TUT) SR710 – 10:30-11:30 objectives 1. Links between definition and measurement 2. Collection METHODS 3. Profile of crime (in Canada) 4. Use and abuse of crime stats 5. Politics of crime stats Links between definition & measurement  The definition of crime influences how it is measured o Activities that are not defined as crime won’t be measured 1. Ex. Complications from cosmetic surgery – death from a procedure 2. Misconduct, no charge/ conviction o The broader the definition of crime = the more crime is committed 1. More activities that fall within that category will count because there is no specifics regarding what is right vs. wrong/ what is a crim vs. what is not  Ex. Traffic offences becoming criminal offences lead to higher crime rates o The narrower the definition, the smaller the amount of crime is committed 1. More specific rules and regulations as to what a crime is lessens the chances of minor infractions/variations of the crime being convicted  Ex. (Bronx) Assault resulting in broken bones is an offence vs. a swollen lip/black eye, therefore assault crimes were decreasing  Uniform Crime Report (UCR) o Source of crime stats in Canada o Does not include traffic, drug, other federal statute, or youth offences (including youth crime) o CONS: all from the perspective of the police & police reports o Features: 1. Most commonly and widely reported crime stats 2. Combined by CCJS based on monthly reports from police records/forces across Canada 3. Includes crimes reported to police & the outcomes of police patrols, and investigations  Ex. Property theft with no suspects etc, is still counted 4. Crime rate = 100,000/population x # of incidents *calculates crime rate, NOT crime # 5. Crime severity index (2009)  Captures the larger volume of less serious offences, and undercounted serious offences bc the UCR is a measure of volume vs. severity *  Weighting system (serious crime have higher weights)  Each type of crime is assigned a specific/individual weight - individual incidents x the specific weight assigned to the crime, divided by the population which gives you a number  Includes drug, traffic and other federal statute offences  Crime rate vs. severity - # of specific crimes vs. how serious the offence is o Limitations: 1. UCR is sensitive to reporting practices (what is being reported/what isn’t being reported)  Crime isn’t always reported to the police (underreport) b/c “it’s not important enough”, personal matter, didn’t want the police involved  78% sexual assault not reported, domestic violence un reported, fraud unreported  the most reported: motor vehicle theft, property theft,  Homicide is underreported b/c the deaths are often ruled as suicide or an accident  Over reporting of crime: school violence 2. Law enforcement practices  Variation on how crimes are reported based on police interpretation  Police calls: 25% of calls receive police involvement  Call responds: police determine whether a crime is worth reporting (also depends what law enforcement is focusing on, ex. Focus on drugs = higher drug related crimes)  Level of discretion vs. the individual (officer 3. Sensitivity to changes in Legal definitions  Ex. 1983, Canada, definition of sexual assault broadened: no touching without consent, kissing, sex, or oral sex without consent  Ex. 1990, Arson: broadening of def of arson caused an increase in arson related offences  Ex. 1990’s, Men being charged for physical assault of their wives 4. Patterns of “Offender” behaviour  Changes in tendencies increased their exposure to *  Changes in scoring and packing practices (drugs)  Managerial pressure* Crime Statistics  Social construction of crime statistics o Statistics being subjective and scientific, is not necessarily true o Politics and society influence crime statistics  Considerable “dark figure” of crime o Criminal offences that are not reported to the police, and are not represented/considered in the statistics o Doesn’t give us an accurate ‘measurement’ of crime/ accurate statistics o Use of alternative methods recognizing alternative methods to capture “dark figure” crimes  Victimization surveys: o Phone administered questionnaires seeking info on victim experiences of individuals (over specific time period) *8 groups of crime o Experience, characteristics, circumstances are asked of the questionnaire, & reasons for reporting/not reporting the incident o Alternate data source independent of police and citizen reporting practices o Survey yields levels of crime higher than what’s reported in official statistics  Capturing more counts of violent crimes through victimization survey  Overall trends are consistent across both (victimization= more dark figure)  Limitation: o Over-reporting  Telescoping/ reporting crimes worse than they truly are (ex. “stolen”
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