WDW205H Chapter Three The Nature and Extent of Crime Notes

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University of Toronto St. George
Woodsworth College Courses
Breese Davies

September 22, 2012 Chapter 3 The Nature and Extent of Crime - Report-sensitive crimes: Crimes that are sensitive to victims reporting them – if a victim of sexual assault, for example, does not report it, then it is unlikely that police will know about it - Policing-sensitive crimes: crimes sensitive to law enforcement – drug crime, for example, is proactively investigated by police, otherwise many drug offences would not be detected - Definition-sensitive crimes: crimes sensitive to legislative activity – gambling, for example, has steadily been decriminalized by a loosening of criminal sanctions around gaming - Media-sensitive crimes: crime that is sensitive to media attention – youth crime, for example, when covered in the media increases public concern, which increases reports to police, which makes the news - Uniform Crime Report (UCR): an aggregate census that is based on reports from police forces across Canada; the official basis for criminological research in Canada - Incident-based data: compared with aggregate (UCR) crime data, incident-based data provides data on specific factors, such as the location of the offence and the relationship between the offender and the victim - Incidence: the number of crimes reported to the police in a given time period - Founded: those crimes reported to the police that are investigated and believed to be real; otherwise known as actual - Percentage change: the difference in the increase or decrease in crime rates over a period of years so that, for example, criminologists can tell whether society is becoming more dangerous - Crime rate: the number derived by calculating the ratio of crimes in the whole population expressed as per 100,000 people, providing the relative likelihood of crime occurring - Cleared: refers to crimes that are determined to be founded, which are then solved or cleared away by the police; cleared crimes do not necessarily result in charges or convictions - Attrition: the nature of cases to decrease as they make their way through the criminal justice system; the number of cases investigated by police that result in convictions is small percentage of total - Crime funnel: the phenomenon in which, as cases move farther into the justice system, the number of cases being dealt with gradually drops - Self-report survey: a research approach that requires subjects to reveal their own participation in delinquent or criminal acts - Instrumental crimes: illegal activities resorted to by those unable to obtain desired goods through conventional means; may include theft and other illegal activities, such as the sale of narcotics, to obtain such goods - Expressive crimes: illegal activities that have no purpose except to accomplish the behaviour at hand, such as shooting someone during the course of an argument - Aging out: the process by which individuals reduce the frequency of offending as they age; also known as spontaneous remission, aging out occurs among all groups of offenders September 22, 2012 - Desistance: the process by which crime rate declines with the perpetrator’s age; synonymous with the aging-out process - Early onset: description of people who are deviant at a very young age and who are most likely to persist in crime, if their criminal career begins early in life - Masculinity hypothesis: the view that women who commit crimes have biological and psychological traits similar to those of men - Chivalry hypothesis: the idea that low female crime and delinquency rates are a reflection of the leniency with which police treat female offenders - Androgens: male sex hormones, which some criminologists link to criminality - Liberal feminist theory: an approach that focuses attention on the social and economic roles of women in society and the relationships of those roles to female crime rates - Career Criminal: a person whose criminality is a career, who repeatedly violates the law; a person who devotes much of his or her life to criminality and commits a large portion of the total crime in a community - Chronic offender: the small percentage of those who are arrested five or more times before age 18, who will become adult criminals, and who are responsible for more than half of all serious crimes - Continuity of crime: the view that crime begins early in life and continues throughout the life course. Thus, the best predictor of future criminality is past criminality Crime rates are affected by five factors: 1. Some crimes are report-sensitive, which mean s that the willingness of the public to report the crime determines whether we know about it 2. Policing-sensitive crimes reflect the level of police enforcement 3. Crimes are definition-sensitive, so a change in the law changes the rate 4. Media-sensitive crimes cause a feedback loop when they are publicized, changing the perceptions of the public and their willingness to report 5. There are real trends in the number of crimes in society, which leads us to ask what causes crime The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) - The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS) has collected information on crime reported by the police every year since 1962 through the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) survey - This is based on reports from 1220 separate police detachments comprising 215 different police forces across Canada and represents crimes substantiated through police investigation - In 1984 the UCR was revised so that it could collect more detailed information such as accused and victim characteristics (i.e. age, sex, alcohol and drug consumption, victim- offender relationship, and level of injury) and incident characteristics (i.e. location, time, secondary violations, and weapons) - The revised version, the UCR2, gives the police and the public a more specific sense of how and why offences occur by using incident-based data - Strength: its measurement of homicides and arrests. It is a consistent, national sample - Weaknesses: its omission of crimes not reported to police, its omission of most drug usage, and its reporting errors September 22, 2012 Collecting the UCR - To compile the UCR, each month police agencies report to the CCJS the incidence, or number, of crimes known to them - The standard way to display the incidence of crime is to show all the crimes reported to the police that are felt to be founded – excluding false reports - Founded crimes are reported even if no one is arrested for the crime, if stolen property is recovered, or if a prosecution is undertaken - The UCR uses several terms to express crime data 1. The actual number of crimes reported to the police and arrests made are expressed as raw figures (i.e. 610 murders occurred in 2009) 2. The percentage change in the amount of crime between years is computed (i.e. homicide fell 1% over 2008, but rose 2% over 1999) 3. Crime rate per 100,000 people. Calculating the crime rate involves dividing the total crimes by the population, which enables changes in the population to be ignored when looking at changes in crime (i.e. when UCR indicates that the murder rate was 2 in 2009, it means that for every 100,000 people, 2 were murdered that year) a. Formula is crimes/population x 100,000 = rate - The incidence of violent crime is low compared with the incidence of property crime committed in Canada - Crime rates have increased moving from east to west across Canada o Hartnagel suggests that provinces and territories with a high rate of in-migration have higher rates of property and violent crime because geographic mobility produces weakened informal social control - When we look at the severity of crime, we see that the Atlantic provinces scored the lowest, on par with Ontario, followed by Quebec, the Prairies and then the northern territories - In 2009, the government began measuring crime using the Crime Severity Index (CSI) - The CSI was introduced to compensate for the overall crime rate being driven by high- volume, less-serious offences, such as minor thefts, mischief, and minor assaults - In calculating CSI, each offence is assigned a weight, which is based on sentences handed down by criminal courts o The more serious the average sentence, the higher the weight for that offence - Police agencies also report the total number of crimes that were cleared, which does not mean that a person was cleared of suspicion - Crimes are cleared in two ways: 1. When at least one person is arrested, charged, and turned over to the court for prosecution 2. Or when some element beyond police control precludes the physical arrest of an offender (i.e. when a suspect dies or leaves the country) - A case is considered to be “cleared otherwise” even if no charge is laid - The clearance rate for violent offences is usually higher than for property crimes - As we proceed through the system, the number of cases being dealt with gradually drops, this process is known as attrition or crime funnel, illustrating how the number of crimes punished by the criminal justice system is lower than those committed or reported September 22, 2012 o I.e. out of 100 crimes committed in 2004, only 34 were reported, 15 were solved, 5 went to court, 3 resulted in conviction, and 1 resulted in a prison sentence - Violent crimes are more likely to be solved because police devote more resources to them, and witnesses and the victim are more likely to be able to identify offenders because the victim and offender are usually previously acquainted The Accuracy of the UCR - Five main areas of concern: reporting practices, law enforcement practices, legal definitions, media practices, and methodological problems Reporting Practices - Reasons for not reporting crimes vary: o Some people do not have property insurance and therefore believe it is useless to report theft-related crimes o Victim may fear reprisals from the offender’s friends or family - The increase in levels of violence reported by women in recent years is probably due to an increase in the reporting of sexual assault and domestic violence. When the sexual assault law was changed in 1983, i.e., the report rate went up - Victimization surveys are used to measure the number of crimes not reported to the police - Victimization surveys are now used in many countries to complement UCR data o I.e. the 2006 British Crime Survey (BCS) showed three times as many crimes were reported by victims in the survey as were reported to the police Law Enforcement Practises - The ways in which police departments enforce and record criminal and delinquent activity also affect the validity of UCR statistics - Some crimes are police-sensitive - It might be appealing try to improve a police department’s public image by lowering the crime rate. But boosting police efficiency and professionalism may also increase crime rates - Higher crime rates may occur as departments adopt more sophisticated computer-aided technology and hire better-educated and better trained employees - Crime rates are also affected by the way law enforcement agencies process UCR data - As the number of unsworn (civilian) police employees assigned to dispatching, record keeping, and criminal incident reporting increased, so too did national crime rates o What appears to be a rising crime rate may be an artifact of improved police record-keeping ability - How law enforcement agencies interpret the definitions of crimes also affects crime rates o I.e. some departments may define crimes loose, such as not reporting a trespass as a burglary - In 2003 the CCJS noted that when the Toronto police implemented a new records management system, the transition had an effect on data quality - The way in which police enforce the law affects the crime rate o I.e. if police send more undercovers to arrest prostitutes rather than just sit and wait for someone to report the crime to them, more crimes will be known September 22, 2012 - Research shows that drug enforcement is higher in jurisdictions where forfeiture laws allow police to retain seized assets o Such laws were passed in the early 1980s in a conservative attempt to pay for the increased cost of enforcement and to deny criminals any benefit from the proceeds of crime o Legislation permitting police to keep seized assets raises drug arrests as a portion of total arrests by about 20% and raises drug arrest rates by about 18% o This finding illustrates how police discretion in determining the allocation of police resources is affected by the payoff Legal Definitions - Changes to the law also affects crime rates o I.e. amendments to the Criminal Code in 1990 broadened the definition of arson to include mischief or suspicious fires o In almost half of fires with losses of more than $500,000, the cause was cited as unknown, what counts as a suspicious fire has some latitude. The result was an increase in arson statistics - Another example of a definition-sensitive crime is sexual assault o Before 1983, a man could not be charged for sexually assaulting his wife; however, changes made to increase reporting also increased the number of men charged with the crime o Canada’s sexual assault legislation was amended in 1988 to better deal with child sexual abuse, and again in 1991 to include the concept of consent - Other legislative changes that have affected criminal justice statistics are the Young Offenders Act (1984); Dangerous and Impaired Operation (1985), which allowed the police to take breath and blood samples; Bill C-68 (1997) which requires firearm owners to be licensed and to register their guns - The CCC of 1921 made it illegal to have “care or control” of a vehicle while “intoxicated or under the influence of narcotic”. In 1969 Canada also introduced so-called breathalyzer legislation, which criminalized impaired driving when the driver registers a blood alcohol content limit of 80mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood o The law made it illegal to drive with more than the allowable limit, etc Media Practises - Media coverage sensitizes the public to fear crime, which then is transformed into police enforcement or legislative changes - The concern over youth crime shows that the public is being overexposed to a relatively infrequent type of crime - In 2007 the youth crime rate decreased 2%, the highest rates were in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Youth courts in Canada have heard fewer cases in recent years, evidenced by the overall caseload having declined 33% since 1991 - Five offences typically account for half of the overall youth court caseload: theft, failure to comply with a disposition under the YCJA, common assault, break and enter, and possession of stolen property - One way to explain the discrepancy between the reality of dropping rates of youth crime and the perception that youth crime is out of control is media coverage September 22, 2012 - Violent youth crime is overrepresented in media, while youth property crime is under- represented - The public gets the message that violent youth crime is a large problem. This message distorts perception, which in turn affects the reported rates of youth crime and the public’s willingness to press charges, eventually resulting in pressure on politicians to change the law Relationship between crime and the media Public learns about crime from the news  politicians feel pressure to do something  victims report to the police  the media selectively reports crime  public learns… - This cyclical relationship between reporting crime, public sensitivity, political pressure, and police action generates more reports, which the public reads - The CCJS Juristat series is an important source of data for the media because it presents complex information in a way that makes it appealing for the media to report without misrepresenting the facts - The media influence the timing and working of press releases, the types of statistics used, and the types of information presented Methodological Problems - Methodological issues also raise questions about the accuracy of the UCR: o The definition of a crime can change o Non-violent crimes are under-reported o Cases are screened as unfounded and founded o If an offender commits multiple crimes, only the most serious is recorded, etc - The changes made in the form of the Revised UCR will unable better analysis of incidents and the characteristics of accused persons and their relationships to victims Self-Report Surveys - Because official statistics don’t record the personality, attitudes, and behaviour of individual criminals, and under-report such victimless crimes as substance abuse, criminologists have used self-report surveys to supplement and expand official data - Self-report studies ask participants to reveal information about their law violations - Self-reports are viewed as another mechanism to get at the dark figures of crimes, those figures missed by official statistics - People can be interviewed, telephoned, or fill out anonymous surveys The Focus of Self-Reports - Most self-report studies have focused on juvenile delinquency and youth crime 1. The school setting makes it convenient to test thousands of subjects simultaneously, all of them have i.e. pens, desks, time to respond to a research questionnaire 2. Because school attendance is a universal, a school-based self-report survey is an estimate of the activities of a cross-section of the community - Self-reports are not restricted to youth crime and have been used to examine the offence histories of prison inmates, drug users, and other groups - Self-reports can assess the number and frequency of people who have committed illegal acts September 22, 2012 o They are particularly useful for assessing substance abuse - Because most surveys also contain items measuring subjects’ attitudes, values, personal characteristics, and behaviours, the data obtained from them can be used to test theories, measure attitudes toward crime, and measure the association between crime and family relations, educational attainment, and income - Self-reports provide a broader picture of the distribution of criminality than do official data because self-reports can estimate the number of criminal offenders unknown to the police, some of whom may even be serious or chronic offenders - Self-reports also allow for evaluation for evaluation of the distribution of criminal behaviour across racial, class, and gender lines to help determine whether official arrest data are truly representative of the offender population or whether they reflect bias, discrimination, or selective enforcement - Self-reports are not used very often - Weaknesses: the reliance on the honesty of offenders and their omission of offenders who refuse to, or are unable to, participate and who may be the most deviant The Accuracy of Self-Reports - Some people may exaggerate their criminal acts, forget the acts, may be confused about what is being ask… etc - We cannot be certain how valid self-report studies are because we have nothing reliable to measure them against - Correlation with official reports is low because the inadequacies of those reports were largely responsible for the development of self-reports in the first place - Official statistics can show a declining youth crime rate, while self-report and survey data show the opposite - Various techniques have been used to verify self-report data o The “known group” method compares incarcerated youths with “normal” groups to see whether the former report more delinquency o Peer informants can also verify a subject’s answers o Another approach first asks youths whether they have ever been arrested or convicted of a delinquent act and then checks the official record against their responses - Conclusions: 1. The problems of accuracy in self-reports are surmountable 2. Self-reports are more accurate than most criminologists believe 3. Self-reports and official statistics are quite compatible The “Missing Cases” Issue - Research suggests that the “missing cases” in self-reports may be more crime-prone than the general population o I.e. 10% of students refuse to take part in the survey, but they might make up a significant portion of the school’s population of persistent high-rate offenders - Self-reports are weakest in measuring substance abuse - Drug users may significantly under-report the frequency of their substance abuse o I.e. less than 1/3 of juvenile detainees who tested positive for marijuana by urinalysis reported using it September 22, 2012 - Self-reports accuracy is limited in determining the behaviour of chronic offenders and persistent drug abusers Victim Surveys - Ask whether people have been victims of crime - Another method of getting at the dark figures of crime - In Canada, telephone surveys are conducted to ask residents whether they have experienced crimes such as sexual assault, robbery, assault, break and enter, motor vehicle theft, household property theft, personal theft, and vandalism - They also examine the victim’s experience of crime, the reasons victims decide not to report crimes to the police, and victims’ perception of crime overall - Surveys on criminal victimization in Canada have been conducted as part of the General Social Survey (GSS) every five years between 1988 and 2009 o All respondents were asked about their experiences with criminal victimization and their opinions on a variety of justice-related topics o These topics included their fear of crime and their perceptions about the performance of the police, criminal courts, and prison and parole systems - Victimization surveys may suffer from some methodological problems, so their findings may be interpreted with caution. Among the potential problems are the following: o Overreporting owning to victims’ misinterpretation of events. For example, a lost wallet is reported as having been stole, or an open door is viewed as a burglary attempt o Victims think events happened more recently than they really did (telescoping events) o Under-reporting owing to embarrassment of reporting crime to interviewers, fear of getting in trouble, or simply forgetting an incident o Inability to record the personal criminal activity of those interviewed, such as drug use or gambling Are Crime Statistics Sources Compatible? - The UCR is carefully tallied and contains data on an extensive list of crimes, yet it omits the many crimes that victims choose not to report to the police - The GSS does contain unreported crime and important information on the personal characteristics of victims, but it relies on personal recollections that flesh out the official picture of crime - Self-report surveys can provide information on the personal characteristics of offenders that is unavailable from any other source, yet self-reports rely on the honesty of criminal offenders and drug users, a population not generally known for accuracy and integrity - However, the crime patterns and trends these data sources record are often quite similar Commissions of Inquiry - Commissions of inquiry are appointed by provincial, territorial, or federal governments - They are quasi-judicial, meaning they have broad-ranging powers of investigation similar to a court’s - They cannot establish individual criminal liability, but they have a broader mandate than a court trial September 22, 2012 - The information revealed in a commission of inquiry might have been undiscovered or not investigated by the police and might not have been disclosed to victims or publicized in the media - The commissions of inquiry did significantly to our knowledge of the treatment of aboriginal peoples and members of ethnic minority groups in the criminal justice system - Inquiries have contributed to our knowledge of institutional child abuse, i.e., in the Mount Cashel Orphanage Inquiry o The children in the orphanage, run by the Irish Christian Brothers, were wards of the welfare system and were subject to extreme physical and sexual abuse - Some notable examples are the Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal Justice System (1995); the Royal Commission on the Wrongful Incarceration of Donald Marshall Jr. (1989), etc - Commissions are a fertile source of information on crime that otherwise might not be brought to light Crisis Index for Justice - Another attempt to measure the rate and impact of crime was the report released by the Mennonite Central Committee in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1997 o The report is critical of a system that “responds to crime primarily by punishing offenders, yet virtually ignores the victims and communities hurt by crime”, and it argues that simply increasing the amount of money spent on corrections has had little effect on the crime rate - The crime index is based on four measurable areas of criminal justice: the crime rate, the incarceration rate, the spending on prisons, and the spending allocated to community corrections, as well as electronic monitoring, probation, services for victims and offenders, and alternative justice approaches - Saskatchewan spends 147% more than Nova Scotia on corrections and has a 94% higher rate of imprisonment - Canada has the second-highest incarceration rate among developed Western nations and annually spends four times more per prisoner than it does per university student - Prison accounts for 85% of the corrections budget in Ontario Explaining Crime Trends - Economist Steven Levitt says that crime dropped sharply and unexpectedly in the 1990s because of four major factors: increases in the number of police, increases in prison incarceration, and decline in the use of crack cocaine, and the legalization of abortion in the 1970s Age - The age distribution of the population has a great influence on violent crime trends - In general, young people are over-represented for both property crimes and violent crimes compared with the proportion of their age group in the population - So as a general rule, the crime rate follows the proportion of young males in the population - The post-war baby boom generation reached their teenage years in the 1960s, when the crime rate began a sharp increase. Because both the victims and the perpetrators of crime September 22, 2012 tend to fall into the 18-25 year old age category, the rise in crime reflected in the age structure of society - Because the number of juveniles is likely to increase over the next decade (baby-boom- echo babies), criminologists fear this increase in the number of youth will signal escalating crime rates - Rates of offending can also change for people at the same age but at different times o I.e. people born in the early 1960s had a difficult time entering the legitimate job market in the 1980s, resulting in a heavier and more persistent involvement in criminal activity - Increases in youth crime are also influenced by bureaucratic processes Race - No simple relationship exists between race and crime o Any relationship that does exist is most likely a product of various factors, including lack of social opportunity, discrimination, and selective reporting and surveillance by police - The Commission on Systemic Racism in the Ontario Criminal System examines whether criminal justice practices, procedures, and policies reflect systemic racism - Black people are 27 times more likely than are Caucasian people to be held in pretrial detention and 20 times more likely to be imprisoned when found guilty - Black people make up 3% of Ontario’s population but 15% of the prison population - Federal prison system statistics show that the percentage of the prison population that is black is up to three times higher than the percentage of black people in the population - Aboriginal offenders represent less than 3% of the adult population but comprise about 17% of the people incarcerated - Aboriginal offenders are more likely to be incarcerated, and the number of incarcerated aboriginal offenders is increasing - Aboriginal women are more likely to be incarcerated than aboriginal men - In Manitoba, aboriginal women comprise 14% of the provincial population but 80% of the female jail population Aboriginal People and Crime - In the 2001
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