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Lecture 3

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CRIM 1650
James Williams

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 processes. 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) Features 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. Limitations 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
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