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Chapter 4

SOCI 225 Chapter 4: crime data textbook notes

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1. Dark Figure of Crime
The dark figure of crime is not so much a problem with validity as it is a problem with
understanding just how much crime is present in an area that is, the amount of crime
that is unreported, unrecorded, or unknown. Depending on the area and crime type, the
dark figure of crime can range from only a slight number to vast percentages.
Researchers use methods such as victimization surveys to mitigate these percentages.
2. Seriousness Rule
The seriousness rule comes into play when looking at crime statistics that have been
submitted to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics through the Uniform Crime
Reporting (UCR) system. The seriousness rule states that if several crimes are committed
in one incident, only the most serious crime is recorded. The local police service will still
record all of the offences that took place, but what is recorded with Statistics Canada is
only the most serious within that series of offences.
3. Police Interpretation
There are several ways in which the police themselves may influence crime statistics.
First, when the police respond to a call, they have to decide if a crime has actually
occurred. If they determine that a crime has not occurred when, in fact, it had they would
influence our crime data.
Second, some calls for service that come into the police are difficult to understand. That
is, a person may call 911 and simply ask for help. The police operator will not know the
quality of the call and label it as a “trouble not known” or something similar. Once the
police arrive they may ascertain that the call is a personal robbery or an assault. It is now
up to the responding officer to change the occurrence type to the correct one, but
sometimes, in the confusion, the call is left as a “trouble not known” that would
ultimately be recorded at Statistics Canada.
4. Gross Counts of Crime
This refers to the count of the total amount of crime in an area without any in-depth
analysis. For example, as your book points out, between 1901 and 1965, Canada saw an
alarming 2500% increase in total convictions for all criminal code offences. One might
draw from this that, in this 64-year period, Canada had become 2500% more crime prone
and possibly more violent. However, in-depth analysis revealed that 98% of this increase
was due to traffic offences because of the increased use of automobiles during this
period. Therefore, gross counts of crime would have recognized the 2500% increase, but
without in-depth analysis we may have not discovered the true cause of this increase.
5. Crime Categories
Not all crime data is destined for Statistics Canada. That is, Statistics Canada provides all
police agencies with crime categories for which they would like the agencies to report
numbers within. Some of these categories are combined for convenience sake. For
example, thefts and attempted thefts are combined, which may lead to a somewhat
misleading actual theft number.
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