CRJU 20423 Chapter 3: When Crime Waves: Chapter 3

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Texas Christian University
Criminal Justice
CRJU 20423

When Crime Waves by Sacco Chapter 3: Crime Waves by the Numbers I. Numerate and Innumerate Consumers a. The term innumeracy connotes a condition comparable in many ways to the more familiar concept of illiteracy; can take many forms 1. Number numbness widespread inability to make sense of the numbers that are very small or very large; can create problems when we attempt to make sense of crime levels without a proper context. II. The Statistics of Crime Waves a. Arguments about how crime changes over time b. Whether we think about crime rates as higher (or lower) depends on the comparison point III. Statistics in the Raw a. A relatively small number of very high visibility crimes can occur within a rather short period of time. If our observations are not grounded in broader perspective, it may appear that some problem is indeed rapidly deteriorating b. We discern clear patterns in randomly occurring events c. Create problems when converted to percentages; hide unimportant or random differences d. The crime clock is a method of data presentation that purports to show the frequency of crime in a way that takes the timing of the offences into account. e. Crime rates and crime clocks are not telling us the same thing; the size of the population is a variable, and as we calculate changes in the crime rates from year to year we are taking into account not only how the number of crimes changes, but also how the size of the population changes. f. The crime clock misleads us into thinking that we are seeing data in some way that standardizes these numbers, when in reality all we are seeing are raw numbers presented in a more rhetorically impressive manner. IV. Emergent Problems a. Sometimes it is useful to make a distinction between established and emergent crime problems (homicide old and cyber stalking new) b. One problem facing those who attempt to make the statistical case for new crime problems is that these compelling statistical data often do not exist. c. While guesses sometimes serve to give emergent problems statistical form, another approach is to reconfigure existing data in ways that provide the needed numbers. V. Statistical Record Keeping as a Social Process a. The collection of any kind of crime data can be understood as a social constructionist process. b. UCR data are gathered and collated by individual policing agencies according to a standardized set of reporting rules. The data are submitted to the FBI and made
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