Measurement of Crime
Links between Definition and Measurement:
How crime is defined will invariably influence how it is measured.
1) Activities that are not defined as crimes will not be measured
-Many white collar crimes aren’t in the criminal code and as such aren't measured as
-Death from cosmetic surgeries
-(ex: one individual died as a result of complication of a liposuction in 2007; the
cosmetic surgeon was not charged with crime but did lose her licence.)
2) The broader the definitions, the greater the amount of crime
-The more you classify as a crime the more is viewed as criminal
3) The narrower the definition, the smaller the amount of crime
Uniform Crime report (UCR)
1) Most commonly and widely reported crime statistic.
2) Compiled by Canadian Centre for Juice Statistics based on monthly reports from police
forces across Canada.
3) Includes both crimes reported to the police, and the outcomes of police patrols and
-Drugs are not in the criminal code, they have their own act and thus not included in
these statistics. Youth crime is included in UCR
4) Crime Rate = 100,000/Population x Number of Incidents.
5) CRIME Severity Index (2009)
developed in 1960s, which is why usually all crime rate changes are recorded
each individual police force collects up their crime incidents and forwards them to
the stats centers (compile them)
police must determine that an incident that is reported to them is indeed defined as
a crime (this is distinct fr. Charges) ex: something can be reported as crime but no
charges will be laid (an example of a case where no charges are laid is homicide)
not included in UCR : youth crime, traffic offences, military offences, crime
committed by police officers (although debate exists if it would be considered a
crime or just police axn), drug offences.
crime severity index: captures more serious forms of crime and therefore develops
alternative measures. It is a weighting system so that more srs. Crimes carry higher
rate. Includes: federal statutes (Incarceration Rate x Average Weight of Prison
(he showed a crime severity index vs. Traditional crime rate graph)
1) Reporting Practices(UMO)
-Estimated that 4 /10 crimes will be reported to police
-Highly reported crimes include: homicide, abduction, theft over $5000 this raises the question whether individuals have been victimized but simply did not
report it to the police for reasons such as: it is not urgent, it could have been a small
crime that is not worth reporting, it could be pride (you don’t want ppl to know you
were victimized) or you are hesitant to report individuals to the police, not
important enough, police couldn’t do anything, crimes have been perceived as a
personal matter that don’t need to be reported.
Under-reporting is actually a severe issue and sexual assault (75-80%), domestic
violence and fraud are the most under-reported.
Most reported: motor vehicle theft, household property, breaking & entering (ppl
want to report for insurance purposes) (insurance claims)
crimes like homicide and suicide tend to be under-reported. (misclassified)
issues with over reporting (best ex: crimes involving younger ppl and crimes
happening in school; teachers report a lot of incidents ( like school-yard fights,
weapons being brought in school)
2) Law Enforcement Practices (DFODPEP)
Discretion; Whether its qualified for a crime
911 -> huge amount of discretion (discussions on whether calls are legitimate;
only 25% of 911
calls are legit)
Belief that conviction is unlikely, not reported by officer
Filtering before officers are even involved
there are a number of diff. ways how police employ their resources that could
increase crime rates
Organizational Objectives; police are sensitive to crime statistics.
In New York, they tried to manipulate crime rate by downgrading crimes.
(Assault only counted if it resulted in broken bones.)
Police may simply not report an incident
discussion on how police respond to calls
police may decide incident is not a crime and is too trivial and unimportant , this
becomes a huge problem with things like sexual assault.
There are also incidents involving the question of whether conviction would be
given, in other words why bother with the crime?
Enforcement and deployment of personality
crimes that are most sensitive to deployment practices are : drugs (even though
drugs are not in the UCR), gang operations, violence against women, prostitution-
related offences (who’s gonna call the police, theres no victim involved)
Pressures brought upon police deppts. To demonstrate police is doing a good job and
can be manipulating through downgrading. To lower crime statistics
US and NYC – COMSTAT (designed to give popo a management tool to produce rates on
diff. types of offences) Re-classifying a crime
3) Sensitivity to changes in legal definitions.
-Mischief fires began to count as Arson, higher arson rates. (1991-1992)
- sexual assault was given a new definition to make it more specific and as a result crime rates
4) Patterns of “Offender” behaviour.
-Offenders change their tactics
-Theft, robbery (change in types of crimes committed)
1) Social construction of crime statistics
-”Statistical facts are not merely the result of science and proper methodology. They
are also a human, bureaucratic, organizational, and political achievement” (Haggerty.
2) Considerable “dark figure” of crime.
-Total number of criminal offences that are unknown or unreported to the police &
appear as part of the official crime rate.
- It is significant b/c it suggests that UCR is limited in measuring crime
3) Use of alternative methods to better capture these dark figures of crime
- criminologists have developed many ways such that they could capture the incidents that
are not reported by the police
1) Phone surveys seeking info on victimization experiences of individuals
over specific time periods
2) Questions relate to the incidence and characteristics of victimization
experiences, as well as reason for reporting / not reporting the incident, fear
of crime, and attitudes towards the police.
3) Alternate data source independent of police and citizen reporting
4) Surveys typically yield levels of crime higher than those reported in
-the time period is usually over the past 12 months (typically you have to be
15+ yrs old), you would get a call by phone and be asked if you were
victimized by the following crimes : sexual assault, breaking and entering
yadda yadda ...
-they would also ask why they didn’t report it to police
-this is valuable information because they provide an alternative data source
that the police department exercises.
-typically survey higher levels of crimes
-higher reporting rate started to occur
-UCR is useful as a trend over time
there are incidents that crime will be defined as a crime but is actually not (example,
reporting a wallet stolen when it isn’t actually)