What is crime? How is crime defined?
Consensus approach- collective morality
Constructionist approach- frame of reference is social interaction, process of claims making,
immediate action is taken
Conflict approach- frame of reference is power, conflict & inequality
Limitations to the conflict approach-
1) instrumental view of law: there is an assumption that law is a direct reflection of the
interests of those who occupy the positions of power. It represents a tool that people
at the top of the political economic cycle can use. The powerless can achieve
significant victories through these laws.
Exclusive focus on class: points of conflict also include gender,
1911- laws were being passed to regulate safety and the workplace.
2) Neglect through the process through behaviour is criminalized: constructionists will
examine the practices leading to the formation of law. Leading to the criminalization
of a specific practice. The conflict approach is less orientated towards those
You should have an understanding of how crime is a social phenomenon. Crime is
fundamentally socially defined. It is subjective, reflects values, claims, conflicts. etc. Rather than
being objectively given.
Forms of inequality include class, gender race, sexuality, etc.
There is contextuality to crime. Laws emerge and disappear. Laws from the past can be very
different from the present.
Mythmakers are media, politicians, and interest groups. Mythmaker is another term for claims
maker. It helps us understand how individuals and groups help play an important role in
mobilizing the definition of crime.
This way of thinking about law is a very different view of looking in law from the traditional view.
The constructionist: developing and applying labels to who is a criminal. It could be advocating
for tougher laws.
Measurement of Crime
1. Links between definition and measurement
2. Collection methods
3. Profile of crime in Canada 4. The use and abuse of crime statistics
5. Conclusion: the politics of crime statistics
Links between definition and measurement
How crime is defined will invariably influence how it is measured
1. Activities that are not defined by as crime will not be measured
2. The broader the definition, the greater amount of crime. :
3. The narrower the definition, the smaller the amount of crime. : When you have a change
in definition that includes activities that were previously included. Increase of crime can
occur to changes in definition and also amount of crime.
Uniform Crime Report (UCR)
1. Most commonly and widely reported crime statistic
2. Compiled by Candia Centre for Justice 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
investigations (public and the police are the key people here) police discretion is an
important part of this process. Incidents reported under the UCR are distinct under
charges. Offences thar excluded from the UCR include: drugs (Controlled Drugs &
Substances act is responsible for this), traffic offences, & other federal statutes, youth
crime (Youth Criminal Justice Act is responsible for this).
4. Crime rate = 100,000/Population x Number of Incidents : our understanding of crime will
be more accurate by population in certain areas instead of entire population.
5. Crime Severity Index (2009): There will be a very large number of misdemeanors &
larger numbers of aggravated assaults. It assigns weight to each of the different types of
crimes. Serious crimes will have greater weights. Weights will then be reflected in
scores. Weights are quite arbitrary. 1) Incarceration of certain offences 2) average length
of prison sentences are two things they look at when they give this weight. This really
looks closer at prison sentences than anything. They take the number of incidents, they
multiply it by the weight and then it is scored out of 100.At the end of the day; we don’t
know how useful the Crime Severity Index is compared to the traditional crime rate.
1) Reporting practices: Less than 4/10 are actually reported to the police. 70% of assaults,
50% of robberies are not reported. Reasons include, not important enough, didn’t want
police involved, personal matter, etc. Cases of sexual assault to 75%-80%, domestic violence, & fraud are not reported. Most reported crimes are break enter, motor vehicle
theft, because people can get insurance claims through police reports. Homicides are
misclassified as accident or suicide quite often, therefore they are underreported.
Underreporting is more significant. Over reporting a crime that is sensitive to media
coverage is popular. In the late 1980s-19990s, there was attention given to crimes in
schools. This has had a powerful impact in cases of reporting things that are non-
criminal as criminal.
2) Law Enforcement Practices: Crimes statistics can be influenced by a number of different
things such as police discretion. 911 people only screen a number of calls to a different
agency or are terminated. Only 25% of calls are forwarded to officers. Police may decide
at a scene not to lay charges or count the crime for reasons such as it can be a trivial
matter, the person was complicent, and conviction is unlikely. Policing involves a lot of
paperwork, so limiting that paper work is easier for them. Discretion is important.
Enforcement and deployment practices: statistics will be sensitive to and how to deploy
police officers. More crimes will be reported with an area with more police officers in it.
Deployment is important in victimless crimes because there are no victims, so there is
no reporting. Includes prostitution or drug cases. Organizational objectives: in the 1980s,
they wanted to lower crime rates. This leads to pressure to change the way crime is
reported. This may include downgrading a crime such as a burglar being reported as
vandalism, etc. This affects the rates of vandalism and burglary. Police may simply fail to
report some cases. In the 1980s, New York City was known for their high crime rate
which brought down tourism, etc. They established a comstat (it broke down rates of
crime according to the different areas of NYC). It made the officers in charge of that area
highly accountable for the crime rate in their areas. It created an incredible amount of
pressure where monthly meetings were held where they were grilled regarding why