Crime is defined as the “commission of an act or act of omission that violates the law and is punishable by the state… crimes are considered injurious to society or the community… as defined by law, a crime includes both the act and the intent to commit the act” (Microsoft Encarta, 2002). Importance of Crime Data Accurate crime data are important to many segments of society. Citizens need to know the probability of being crime victims for precautionary purposes (WACrimeStats. net).
Law enforcers and administrators also need to know the occurrence of crime in their surrounding jurisdiction to utilize resources more efficiently in protecting citizens and bringing criminals to justice (WACrimeStats. net). Legislators require statewide information on crime to aid them in developing laws to uphold stability in society, and in allocating budget to both state and local governments for criminal justice programs (James & Council, 2008, p. 1). Politicians use crime data to persuade voters of the results of control policies and programs (O’Connors, 2007).
Researches and planners need the information on crime to analyze trends and propose changes (WACrimeStats. net). Interest groups use crime data to substantiate their position on crime issues. Classification and Methods of Calculating Crime For purposes of illustrating how crime data are collected and estimated, this paper presents the methodology used by the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) in the United States. The International Association of Chiefs of Police established the UCR program in 1929 to provide reliable and uniform statistics on crime for the country (Federal Bureau of Investigation [FBI]).
In 1930, the FBI was assigned to collect, publish, and archive those statistics. For consistency and comparability of data, FBI established requirements for crime data classification, and methods of counting. FBI requires local law enforcement agencies across the US to submit monthly reports on the number of crimes that occurred in their respective jurisdiction (James & Council, 2008, p. 6-8). The two major classifications of crimes are Part I and Part II offenses.
Part I offenses are further subcategorized as (1) violent crimes against persons, such as criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; and (2) property crimes, such as burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson (WACrimeStats. net). Part I offenses are ranked accordingly from most serious to lease serious crimes (as enumerated above) (WACrimeStats. net). Part II offenses cover all other offenses, including fraud, forgery, gambling, drug abuse violations, prostitution, vandalism, embezzlement, carrying illegal weapons, offenses against the family and children, and drunkenness (James & Council, 2008, p.
47). For Part I offenses, the crime data includes the number of offenses known to police, the number and characteristics of persons arrested (including age, sex and race), and the number of clearances. For Part II offenses, crime data includes the number of arrests made (p. 7). In addition to these data, FBI collects supplemental information, such as type of weapons used in the murder, hate crime incidents, number of law enforcement officers killed or attacked, and more. To assist local law enforcers in classifying and counting offenses, FBI established three rules—the hierarchy, hotel, and separation of time and place rules (p.
9). The hierarchy rule states when an offender commits multiple crimes in a single incident, the law enforcer will score only the most serious crime (O’Connors, 2007). For example, if an offender robbed and murdered a victim, the law enforcer will count only the murder. However, arson is one of the exceptions to the hierarchy rule—the law enforcer always counts arson (James & Council, 2008, p. 9). The hotel rule applies only to burglaries of hotels, motels, or other dwelling places for transients.
For example, if six rooms in an apartment were burglarized, it would be counted as one offense, but if six different hotels were burglarized, it would be scored as six offenses (p. 10). The rule of separation of time and place applies to cases where “the same offender commits multiple offenses over a short period of time in different locations” (p. 10). In these cases, the reporting law enforcer considers the offenses as distinct events. However, this rule does not apply in situations where offenses are committed in different time and places as part of continuing crime by the same offender (p.
10). Part I offenses became the basis for measuring the national crime index, the general indicator of criminality in the US that was measured as “the total number of reported murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft (over $50), and auto theft offenses” (p. 4). In 1982, this index coverage was expanded to cover arson. However, in 2004, the FBI suspended the use of both the crime index and the modified crime index as they did not truly reflect the degree of criminality.
They were heavily skewed towards the highest number of larceny-theft and not by other serious offenses, like murder and rape (FBI). Today, UCR publications that provide crime statistics include Crime in the United States, Hate Crime Statistics, and Law Enforcement Officers Killed (FBI). Sample Crime Statistics Figure 1 below shows the trend of US violent crime rates that cover the offenses on criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. In 1960, the US violent crime rate registered at 160.
9 per 100,000 population includes 510,000 homicides; 960,000 rape cases; 6,010,000 robberies; and 8,610,000 aggravated assaults. As shown in Figure 1, the violent crime rate significantly escalated in 1960s and reached at 396 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1971. This increase in the US violent crimes could be attributed to the blazing culture war during the 1960’s—e. g. , left and right protests of civil rights movement, and rise of racial militant groups—as fueled by the activist Warrant Court in extending and protecting rights (Armstrong, 2003). The US violent crime rate continued to peak in 1980 at 596.
6 per 100,000 inhabitants. Although the violent crime trend dropped in 1984 due to the decline in homicide and robbery cases, it reversed its trend in 1985 reaching the highest peak in 1991 at 758. 1 per 100,000 inhabitants. The 1970’s and 1980’s crime increases may be attributed to the crimes committed by juveniles and young adults. There was a higher propensity of heroin addicts committing crimes, and the sprawling of gangs committing gun violence in several locations (Roberts, 2003). After its highest peak in 1991, the violent crime rate has a sharp downward trend attaining a crime rate of 475.
8 per 100,000 persons in 2003, which is similar to the 1977 crime incidence. This declining trend could be attributed to various factors, such as (1) the strong economy in the 1990s that absorbed more workers; (2) changing demographics—a major decline in the percentage of the ages 15-29 US population, who are prone to commit crimes; (3) better policing strategy and significant additions to law enforcers during the 1990s; (4) imposition of gun control laws; and (5) public policy reforms that amplified the imposition of prison sentences and their length (Levitt, 2004). References Armstrong, Virginia C.
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