CONCEPTS OF CRIME, LAW, AND CRIMINOLOGY

 

 

 

 

THE STUDY OF CRIMINOLGY

Criminology developed from a concern about crime and the need to develop effective measures to control criminal behavior.

                        - Devoted to developing valid and reliable information that addresses the causes of crime as well as crime patterns and trends

 

Criminologists  use scientific methods to study the nature, extent, cause, and control of criminal behavior.

                        - Remain objective as they study crime and its consequences

 

WHAT IS CRIMINOLOGY?

*  The scientific approach to studying criminal behavior

*  Sutherland and Cressy’s classic definition of criminology as a body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomena, includes the most important areas of interest to criminologists:

1.      The development of criminal law and its use to define crime;

2.      the cause of law violations;

3.      the methods used to control criminal behavior

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF CRIMINOLOGY

*  The scientific study of crime is a relatively recent development

*  Written criminal codes have existed for thousands of years

*  Were restricted to defining crime and setting punishments

*  What motivated people to violate the law remained a matter of conjecture

*  During the Middle Ages (1200-1600) superstition and fear of satanic possession dominated thinking

*  People who violated norms were believed to be witches or possessed by demons

*  Prescribed method for dealing with the possessed was burning at stake (a practice that survived into the 17th century)

*  Common practice to use cruel torture to extract confessions and those convicted of violent or theft crimes suffered extremely harsh penalties, including whipping, branding, maiming, and execution

 

Classical Criminology

*  Mid 18th century, social philosophers began to rethink the prevailing concepts of law and justice

*  Argued for more rational approach to punishment, stressing that the relationship between crimes and their punishment should be fair and balanced

*  Rather than cruel public executions designed to frighten people into obedience or punish those the law failed to deter, reformers called for a more moderate and just approach to penal sanctions

*  Cesare Beccaria was the most famous reformer and his writings described both a motive for committing crime and methods for its control

*  Believed that people want to achieve pleasure and avoid pain

*  Concluded that crimes must provide some pleasure to the criminal

*  To deter crime, one must administer pain in an appropriate amount to counterbalance the pleasure obtained from crime.

*  Writings formed the core of Classical Criminology theory which had several basic elements:

1.      In every society, people have free will to choose criminal or lawful solutions to meet their needs or settle their problems;

2.      Criminal solutions may be more attractive than lawful ones because they usually require less work for a greater payoff;

3.      A person’s choice of criminal solutions may be controlled by his or her fear of punishment;

4.      The more severe, certain, and swift the punishment, the better able it is to control criminal behavior.

*  Prisons began to be used as a form of punishment with sentences geared proportionately to the seriousness of the crime.

*  Executions were still used, but only for more serious crimes

*  “Let the punishment fit the crime.”

Nineteenth-Century Positivism

*  The scientific method beginning to take hold with careful observation and analysis of natural phenomena being undertaken to explain how world worked

*  Positivism has two main elements:

1.      The belief that human behavior is a function of external forces that are beyond individual control

2.      The embrace of the scientific method to solve problems relying strictly on empirical methods to test hypotheses

*  Positivist Criminology – the earliest “scientific” studies examining human behavior were biologically oriented

*  Physiognomists – studied facial features of criminals to determine whether the shape of ears, nose, and eyes and the distances between them were associated with anti-social behavior.

*  Phrenologists – studied the shape of the skull and bumps on the head to determine whether these physical attributes were linked to criminal behavior

*  Psychopathic personality – abnormality in the human mind that was linked to criminal behavior patterns

*  Biological Determinism – Lombroso believed that serious offenders were born criminals who suffer from atavistic abnormalities where they, physically, are throwbacks to more primitive times when people were savages

 

The Foundations of Sociological Criminology

*  Quetelet instigated the use of data and statistics in performing criminological research

*  Began cartographic school of criminology that used social statistics that were being developed in Europe in the early 19th century

*  Statistical data provided important demographic information on the population, including density, gender, religious affiliation, and wealth

*  Investigated influences of social factors on the propensity to commit crime

*  Found a strong influence of age and sex on crime, also evidence that season, climate, population composition, and poverty related to criminality

*  Found crime rates were greatest in the summer, in southern areas, among heterogeneous populations, and among the poor and uneducated

*  Also found crime rates to be influenced by drinking habits

*  Identified many of the relationships between crime and social phenomena that still serve as a basis for criminology today

*  Durkheim’s social positivism stated:

1.      crime is part of human nature;

2.      crime is normal;

3.      the inevitability of crime is linked to the differences (heterogeneity) within society;

4.      crime can be useful and occasionally healthful for society because it paves the way for social change and that the social structure is not rigid or inflexible;

5.      crime calls attention to social ills, therefore rising crime rates signal a need for social change and promotes programs designed to relieve human suffering.

*  Anomie is the consequence of the shift from mechanical to organic types of society

*  Anomie consists of norm or role confusion which describes the chaos and disarray accompanying the loss of traditional values in modern society

 

The Chicago School and Beyond

*  Sociological positivism in the 20th century took place at the University of Chicago by Robert Ezra Park, Ernest W. Burgess, and Louis Wirth

*  The urban sociologists pioneered research on the social ecology of the city

*  Social forces operating in urban areas create criminal interactions; some neighborhoods become “natural areas” for crime

*  These urban neighborhoods maintain such a high level of poverty that critical social institutions break down

*  Resulting disorganization reduces the ability of social institutions to control behavior, causing high crime rates

*  Argued that criminal behavior is not a function of personal traits or characteristics, but rather a reaction to an environment that was inadequate for proper human relations and development.

*  During the 1930s and 1940s another group of sociologists, who were strong believers in a social psychological link to criminal behavior concluded that the individual’s relationship to important social processes was the key to understanding human behavior.

*  Edwin Sutherland championed the position that people learn criminal attitudes from older, more experienced law violators

*  Walter Reckless developed the view that crime occurs when children develop an inadequate self-image, which renders them incapable of controlling their own misbehavior.

*  Both linked criminality to the failure of socialization – the interactions people have with the various individuals, organizations, institutions, and processes of society that help them mature and develop

 

Conflict Criminology – analyzes social conditions that promote class conflict and crime

 

Criminology Today

*  Classical theory has evolved into rational choice and deterrence theories

*  Choice theorists argue that criminals are rational and use available information to decide if crime is worthwhile

*  Deterrence theory holds that this choice is structured by the fear of punishment

*  Theories tracing back to Quetelet and Durkheim maintains that individual’s lifestyles and living conditions directly control their criminal behavior

*  Those at the bottom of the social structure cannot achieve success and thus experience anomie, strain, failure, and frustration.

*  Crime causation from a social psychological perspective find that individual’s learning experience and socialization directly control their behavior by children learning to commit crime by interacting with and modeling their behavior after others

 

CRIMINOLOGY AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE

*  The Distinction Between Criminology and Criminal Justice – criminology explains the origin, extent, and nature of crime in society, criminal justice refers to the agencies of social control that handle criminal offenders

*  The Distinction Between Criminology and Deviance – deviant behavior refers to any action that departs from social norms ranging from the most socially harmful to the relatively inoffensive

*  To understand the nature and purpose of law, criminologists study the process by which crimes are created from behaviors that previously were considered merely deviant:

1.      How do deviant behaviors become crime?

2.      When should crimes be legalized?

 

WHAT CRIMINOLOGISTS DO:  THE CRIMINOLOGICAL ENTERPRISE

*  Criminal Statistics – involves measuring the amount and trends of criminal activity.  How much crime occurs annually?  Who commits it?  When and where does it occur?  Which crimes are the most serious?

*  Sociology of Law – concerned with the role social forces play in shaping criminal law and concomitantly, the role of criminal law in shaping society.

*  Theory Construction – focus on predicting individual behavior and understanding the cause of crime rates and trends

*  Criminal Behavior Systems – focus on determining the nature and cause of specific crime patterns, such as violence, theft, organized, white-collar, and public order crimes

*  Penology – involves the correction and control of known criminal offenders

*  Victimology – interested in using victim surveys to measure the nature and extent of criminal behavior; calculating the actual costs of crime to victims; creating probabilities of victimization risk; studying victim culpability or precipitation of crime; and designing services for crime victims, such as counseling and compensation programs

 

HOW CRIMINOLOGISTS VIEW CRIME

*  The Consensus View of Crime – crimes are behaviors believed to be repugnant to all elements of society; implies general agreement among a majority of citizens on what behaviors should be prohibited by criminal law and viewed as crimes; function of beliefs, morality, and rules established by the existing legal power structure; laws apply to all citizens equally

*  The Conflict View of Crime – the definition of crime is controlled by wealth, power, and position; crime is a political concept designed to protect the power and position of the upper classes at the expense of the poor.

*  The Interactionist View of Crime – the definition of crime reflects the preferences and opinions of people who hold social power in a particular legal jurisdiction; these people use their influence to impose their definition of right and wrong on the rest of the population; criminals are individuals that society labels as outcasts or deviants because they have violated social rules.

*  See criminal law as conforming to the beliefs of “moral crusaders” or moral entrepreneurs who use their influence to shape the legal process as they see fit

*  Concerned with shifting moral and legal standards

*  Crime has no meaning unless people react to it

 

 

 

 

 

CRIMINOLOGY RESEARCH METHODS

*  Survey Research – measures the attitudes, beliefs, values, personality traits, and behavior of participants

*  Survey data gathered using techniques such as self-report surveys and interviews

*  Involves sampling, which refers to the process of selecting for study a limited number of subjects who represent entire groups sharing similar characteristics, called populations

*  Self-report surveys ask participants to describe in detail their recent and lifetime criminal activity

*  Attitude surveys measure the attitudes, beliefs, and values of different groups

*  Among the most widely used research method

*  Are an excellent and cost-effective technique for measuring the characteristics of large numbers of people

*  Because questions and methods are standardized for all subjects, uniformity is unaffected by the perceptions or biases of the person gathering the data

*  Are of limited value in showing how subjects change over time

*  Assume all subjects will be honest and forthright

*  Are limited when the area of study involves the way people interact with one another or other topics an individual my not be able to judge personally

*  Cohort Research – involves observing a group of people who share a like characteristic (cohort) over time

*  Is extremely difficult, expensive, and time-consuming to follow a cohort over time

*  Can do a retrospective cohort study where an intact cohort is studied by looking back into their early life experiences by checking their educational, family, police, and hospital records

*  Aggregate Data Research – can tell us about the effect of social trends and patterns on the crime rate

*  Most important of these sources is the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) compiled by the FBI

*  UCR annually reveals the number of crimes reported by citizens to local police departments and the number of arrests made by police agencies in a given year

*  Aggregate data can be used to focus on the social forces that affect crime

*  Experimental Research – can show the direct effect of one factor on another

*  True experiments have three elements:  (1)  random selection of subjects; (2)  a control or comparison group; and (3)  an experimental condition

*  Criminological experiments are relatively rare because they are difficult and expensive to conduct; they involve manipulating subjects’ lives, which can cause some ethical and legal roadblocks; and they require long follow-up periods to verify results

*  Observational and Interview Research – focus their research on relatively few subjects, interviewing them in depth or observing them as they go about their activities

*  Often results in the kind of in-depth data absent in large surveys

*  Another common criminological method is to observe criminals firsthand in order to gain insight into their motives and activities

*  Some observers conduct field studies but remain in the background, observing but not being part of the ongoing activity

 

ETHICAL ISSUES IN CRIMINOLOGY

*  A potential conflict of interest may arise when the institution funding research is itself one of the principal subjects of the research project.

*  A second major ethical issue concerns who will be the subject of inquiries and study.

*  Ethics are once again questioned when subjects are misled about the purpose of research

 

 

 

 

CRIMINAL LAW AND THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF CRIME

 

 

*      Criminal law dictates what constitutes a crime and how criminal acts are defined.  Today’s criminal law incorporates historical traditions, moral beliefs, and social values, as well as political and economic developments and conditions.

*       Criminal law is a living concept, constantly changing to keep pace with society.

 

THE ORIGIN OF LAW

*       In preliterate societies, common custom and tradition were the equivalents of law.  Each group had its own set of customs which were created to deal with daily situations.

*       In some cases, customs had become such an integral part of the way a culture functioned that eventually they became formal or written law.

*       The first legal codes were developed in about 2000 B.C. and its content was later adopted and became known as the set of written laws called the Code of Hammurabi. 

*       The code establishes crimes and their correction.

*       Punishment was based on physical retaliation or lex talionis “an eye for an eye”

 

Early Crime, Punishment, and Law In Chaos

*       The early formal legal codes were lost during the Dark Ages.

*       During the early feudal period some attempts were made at regulating the definition and punishment of crime.

*       Those that still exist feature monetary payments as punishments for crimes.

*       Guilt was determined by two methods:  compurgation (swearing innocence while being backed up) and ordeal (based on the principle of divine intervention and the belief that divine forces would not allow an innocent person to be harmed

*       The lords of the great manors , who tried cases according to local custom and rule, controlled the law

*       Although people usually agreed which acts constituted crimes, the penalties were often arbitrary, discretionary, and cruel.  Punishments included public flogging, branding, beheading, and burning.

 

Origins of Common Law - After the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, common law developed, which helped standardize law and justice

 

Compensation for Crime – to a great degree, criminal law was designed to provide equitable solutions to what were previously considered private disputes; medieval criminal law was similar to modern civil law where victims are compensated for their loss and suffering by the party that harmed them.  If payment was not made, the victims’ families would attempt to forcibly collect damages or seek revenge.

 

The Norman Conquest – after the conquest, the church courts handled acts that might be considered sinful and the local hundred or manorial courts dealt with most secular violations; royal courts dealt with the most serious breaches of the peace.

*       Royal courts had a system in which they traveled in a circuit throughout the land, holding court in each county several times a year.

*       The royal judge would decide what to do in each case using local custom and rules of conduct as his guide.  This system, known today as stare decisis “to stand by decided cases” was how the early courts determined the outcome of future cases.

*       Courts were bound to follow the law established in previous cases unless higher authority, the king or the pope, overruled the law.

 

COMMON LAW

*       The present English system of law came into existence during the reign of Henry II (1154-1189).

*       He used traveling judges, better known as circuit judges, who heard cases that previously had been under the jurisdiction of local courts.

*       Professional jurists could be found in three central royal courts  - The Exchequer, King’s Bench, and Common Pleas – and their judges developed a reputation for fairness and the ability to systematize the law across the land.

*       Juries began to develop about this time

*       Royal prosecutors were established as key players in the court proceedings

*       Few formal procedures existed at this time and both the judge and the prosecutor felt free to intimidate witnesses and jurors when they considered it necessary

*       Common law refers to a law applied to all subjects of the land without regard for geographic or social differences

*       As best they could, the judges began to apply a national law instead of  the law that held sway only in local jurisdictions.

*       As time went on, judicial decisions began to be written and published, allowing judicial precedents to be established and more concrete examples of common law decisions to emerge

*       Cases and decisions eventually produced a fixed body of legal rules and principles, or case law.

 

Common Law and Statutory Law – when the situation required it , the English Parliament enacted legislation to supplement the judge-made common law.  Violations of these laws are referred to as statutory crimes.

*       Statutory laws usually reflect existing social conditions.

*       Other statutory laws dealt with issues of morality.

 

Common Law and Statutory Law in America – after the colonies acquired their independence, they adapted and changed English law to fit their needs. 

*       State legislatures standardized common-law crimes by putting them into statutory form in criminal codes.

*       Conversion to statutory law allowed common-law principles to be modified and modernized

 

CLASSIFICATION OF LAW

*       Crimes and Torts – two broad categories of law are criminal and civil with civil law covering all law other than criminal law, including property law, contract law, and tort law.

*       Tort is a civil action in which an individual asks to be compensated for personal harm, either physical or mental

*       The standard of evidence for a finding is less in civil cases, where proof is a mere preponderance of the evidence as opposed to beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases

*       Because some torts are similar to some criminal acts, a person can possibly be held both criminally and civilly liable for one action.

*       Both criminal and civil law attempt to control people’s behavior by setting limits on what acts are permissible; and both accomplish this through state-imposed sanctions.

*       The main purpose of criminal law is to give the state the power to protect the public from harm by punishing individuals whose actions threaten the social order;  the main concern of tort law is to compensate victims for harm that others have inflicted upon them.

*       In a criminal action, the state initiates the legal proceedings by bringing charges and prosecuting the violator; the state can impose punishment of imprisonment, probation, which is community supervision by the court; or a fine payable to the state.

*       In a civil action, the injured party files the action and if the action is successful, the injured individual usually receives financial compensation for the harm done.

 

*       Felonies and Misdemeanors – further classification of criminal law by the seriousness of the offense

*       Felony – is a serious offense punishable by death or imprisonment for more than a year in a state prison

*       Misdemeanor – a minor or petty crime punished by less than one year in a local county facility, a jail or house of correction

*       Mala in Se and Mala Prohibitum

*       Mala in se crimes are rooted in the core values inherent in Western civilization, which are referred to as natural law.  These values are designed to control behaviors that have traditionally been considered violations of morals.

*       Mala prohibitum crimes are statutory crimes that violate laws that reflect current public opinion and social values.  These crimes are acts that conflict with contemporary standards of morality

 

FUNCTIONS OF CRIMINAL LAW

*       Enforcing Social Control – The primary purpose of criminal law is to control the behavior of people within its jurisdiction.

*       Criminal law is a written statement of rules to which people must conform – the universally followed behavior is referred to as the mores or serious norms

*       The folkways are the unwritten rules of conduct, such as customs and conventions

*       Those in political power rely on criminal law to formally prohibit behaviors believed to either threaten societal well-being or challenge their own authority.

*       Discouraging Revenge – By delegating enforcement to others, criminal law controls an individual’s need to seek revenge or vengeance against those who violated his or her rights.

*       Expressing Public Opinion and Morality – criminal law reflects constantly changing public opinions and moral values

*       Criminal law has the power to define the boundaries of moral and immoral behavior

*       Has proven difficult to legally control public morality because of the problems associated with gauging the will of the majority; respecting the rights of the minority; and enforcing laws that many people consider trivial or self-serving.

*       Deterring Criminal Behavior – criminal law has a social control function to control, restrain, and direct human behavior through its ability to punish and correct law violations. 

*       The threat of punishment associated with violating the law is designed to prevent crimes before they occur.

*       Punishing Wrongdoing – the deterrent power of criminal law is tied to the authority it gives the state to sanction or punish offenders

*       Those violating mores and folkways can receive social disapproval, whereas criminal law violators are subject to physical coercion and punishment.

*       Criminal law is society’s instrument of punishment; it serves as a measure of the public’s idea of right and wrong.

*       Maintaining Social Order – all legal systems are designed to support and maintain the boundaries of the social system they serve.

 

THE LEGAL DEFINITION OF A CRIME

To fulfill the legal definition of crime, all elements of a crime must be proven:  the criminal act and the criminal intent

*       Actus Reus – 1.  the criminal act itself; the action must be voluntary for an act to be considered illegal; 2.  a person must act when there is a legal obligation to do so; failure to act is a criminal offense.

*       The central issue is the voluntary action and whether the individual has control over his or her actions.

*       The duty to act is a legal duty, not just a moral duty

*       The relationship of parties based on status (parent/child; spouses)

*       Imposition by statute

*       Contractual relationship

*       Mens Rea – for an act to constitute a crime, it must be done with criminal intent (carrying out an act intentionally, knowingly, and willingly

*       Most crimes require general intent, or an intent to commit the crime.

*       Specific intent is an intent to accomplish a specific purpose as an element of the crime

*       Transferred intent occurs when the original intent is transferred to the unintended victim.

*       Negligence involves a person’s acting unreasonably under the circumstances resulting in harm.

*       Constructive intent occurs when the intent that underlies an unintentional act results in harm to another with the finding of criminal liability

*       Strict-liability crimes occur when the person accused is guilty simply by doing what the statute prohibits; intent does not enter the picture.

 

CRIMINAL DEFENSES

*       Defendants of a crime must refute one or more elements of the crime of which they have been accused by:

*       Arguing they were falsely accused and that the real culprit has yet to be identified.

*       May claim that although they engaged in the criminal act of which they are accused, they lacked the intent needed to be found guilty of the crime.

*       Excuses  -  excuse criminal actions by claiming he or she lacked the capacity to form sufficient intent to be held criminally responsible (insanity, intoxication, and ignorance)

*       Another type of defense is justification – the individual admits committing the criminal act but maintains that the act was justified and that he or she should therefore not be held criminally liable.  (justified under the circumstances – necessity, duress, self-defense, and entrapment)

*       Ignorance or Mistake – ignorance of the law is no excuse; ignorance does not excuse evil intent; can be an excuse when there was no intent to violate the law and unknowingly did so (buying goods you did not know were stolen) or if the mistake is reasonable (some statutory rape)

*       Insanity – a defense to criminal prosecution in which the defendant’s state of mind negates his or her criminal responsibility

*       Insanity is a legal category in which psychiatric testimony is to prove a defendant legally sane.

*       A person found to be legally insane at the time of trial is placed in the custody of state mental health authorities until diagnosed as sane.

*       U.S. courts usually use the M’Naghten Rule or the substantial capacity test

*       M’Naghten Rule is known as the right-wrong test; didn’t know what he was doing or didn’t know it was wrong.

*       M’Naghten criticized due to confusion of terms “disease of the mind” and “ know the nature and quality of the act” having never been properly clarified; mental health professionals have pointed out that rule is unrealistic and narrow in that it does not cover situations in which people know right from wrong but cannot control their actions.

*       Irresistible impulse test – could not control his conduct at the time of the crime; if jury finds a person acted under an irresistible impulse, the defendant would be placed in a mental health facility until considered capable of controlling his or her behavior.

*       Substantial capacity test is essentially a combination of M’Naghten and Irresistible impulse requiring only a lack of substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct or to control it, which must be proven by the prosecution beyond a reasonable doubt

*       Intoxication – which in legal terms is defined as the taking of alcohol or drugs, is not generally considered a defense

*       Duress – defense to a crime when the defendant commits an illegal act because the defendant, or a third person, has been threatened by another with death or serious bodily harm if the act is not performed.

*       Necessity- as a defense is applied in situations in which a person must break the law to avoid a greater evil caused by natural forces (storms, earthquakes, or illness)  This defense is available only when committing the crime is the lesser of two evils.

*       Self-Defense – involves a claim that the defendant’s actions were a justified response to the victim’s provocative behavior. 

*       Self-defense can be used to protect one’s person or property.

*       An individual is justified in using force against another to protect himself or herself.

*       Defendants must reasonably believe that they are in danger of death or great harm and that it is necessary for them to use force to protect themselves.

*       The amount of force used must be no greater than that necessary to prevent personal harm.

*       Entrapment – another defense that excuses a defendant from criminal liability. 

*       Defendant maintains that law enforcement officers induced him or her to commit a crime that the defendant would not have committed had it not been for trickery, persuasion, or fraud on the officers’ part

*       Law enforcement officers plan a crime, implant the criminal idea in a person’s mind, and pressure that person into doing the act is different than an officer providing an opportunity for the crime to be committed and the defendant being willing and ready to do the act

*       Exotic Defenses – based on preexisting conditions or syndromes with which their clients were afflicted

 

THE UNIFORM CRIME REPORT

*       FBI receives and compiles records from over 17,000 police departments serving a majority of the U.S. Population

*       Its major unit of analysis involves the index crimes, or Part I crimes:  murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, arson, and motor vehicle theft

*       The FBI tallies and annually publishes the number of reported offenses by city, county, standard metropolitan statistical area, and geographical divisions of the U.S.

*       The UCR also shows the number and characteristics (age, race, and gender) of individuals who have been arrested for these and all other crimes, except traffic violations.

 

Collecting the Uniform Crime Report

*       Each month law enforcement agencies report the number of index crimes known to them – data are collected from records of all crime complaints that victims, officers who discovered the infractions, or other sources reported to these agencies.

*       Unfounded or false criminal complaints are eliminated from actual count

*       Each month law enforcement agencies report how many crimes are cleared:  when at least one person is arrested, charged, and turned over to the court for prosecution; or by exceptional means, when some element beyond police control precludes the physical arrest of an offender

*       Traditionally, slightly more than 20% of all reported index crimes are cleared by arrest each year.

*       Violent crimes are more likely to be solved than property crimes because police devote more resources to the more serious acts – witnesses are frequently available to identify offenders, and in many instances the victim and offender were previously acquainted.

*       Crime rates per 100,000 are computed:     Number of reported crimes/Total U.S. Population x 100,000 = Rate/100,000

 

How Accurate Are the Uniform Crime Reports?

*       Three main areas of concern about UCR accuracy include:

reporting practices (victims of many serious crimes do not report these incidents to police because do not trust police or have confidence in their ability to solve crimes, do not have insurance and believe it is useless to report theft, victims fear reprisal)

*       findings indicate that the UCR date may significantly under-represent the total number of annual criminal events

 law enforcement practices (the way police departments record and report criminal and delinquent activity also affects the validity of UCR statistics)

*       how law enforcement agencies interpret the definitions of index crimes may also affect reporting practices

*       some local police departments make systematic errors in UCR reporting and count an arrest only after a formal booking procedure

*       in some cases police officials may deliberately alter reported crimes to improve their department’s public image

*       what appears to be a rising crime rate by be an improved police record-keeping ability

 and methodological problems

*       no federal crimes reported

*       reports are voluntary and vary in accurateness and completeness

*       not all police departments submit reports

*       if an offender commits multiple crimes, only the most serious is recorded – many lesser crimes go unreported

 

SELF-REPORT SURVEYS

*       Viewed as a mechanism to get at the “dark figures of crime”, the figures missed by official statistics

*       Provide an appreciable amount of information about offenders that cannot be found in official statistics

*       Indicate that the number of people who break the law is far greater than the number projected by official statistics

*       Are Self-Reports Accurate? – some people may exaggerate their criminal acts, forget some of them, or be confused about what is being asked

*       The “Missing Cases” – self-reports may measure only non-serious , occasional delinquents while ignoring hard-core chronic offenders who may be institutionalized and unavailable for self-reports.

 

VICTIM SURVEYS

*       The National Crime Victimization Survey – the number of criminal victimizations was far higher than previously believed because many victims failed to report crime to police, fearing retaliation or official indifference

*       Is the NCVS Valid? – suffers from some methodological problems of reporting

*       Are Crime Statistics Sources Compatible? – numbers are different but patterns and trends are similar

 

CRIME TRENDS

*       Trends in Violent Crime – violence decreased during the 1990s, reversing a long trend of skyrocketing increases

*       Trends in Property Crime – property crime has declined in recent years

*       Changes in population age distribution has the greatest influence on crime trends

 

CRIME PATTERNS

*       The Ecology of Crime – Patterns in the crime rate seem to be linked to temporal and ecological factors

*       First day of the month has highest crime rates

*       Warm summer months of July and August have the most reported crimes occurring

*       People outside during warm weather make themselves targets more

*       Homes left vacant during summer more making them more vulnerable to property crime

*       Crime rates increase with rising temperatures and then begin to decline around 85 degrees when it may be too hot for physical exertion, except during long periods of highly uncomfortable weather which is related to homicide rates.

*       Large urban areas have by far the highest violence rates

*       Southern states used to have the highest rates in almost all categories of crime, but the western states now have the dubious distinction of having the highest crime and violence rates.

*       Social Class and Crime – the classes report similar amounts of crime, though lower income people are more likely to be arrested, convicted, and incarcerated.

*       Age and Crime – age is inversely related to criminality

*       Gender and Crime – male crime rates much higher than those of females

*       Race and Crime – African Americans are more likely to be arrested for serious violent crimes though little difference in the self-reported crimes is evident