Crime in America PSCI 2481
Definitions Crime “Behaviors for which society provides formally sanctioned punishment.” Distinctions among types of crime Felony vs. Misdemeanor Violent vs. Property Victim vs. Victimless Blue-Collar vs. White Collar
How much crime exists? Who keeps track of crime? In 1929, the International Chiefs of Police Association (IACP) recommended that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) define and maintain a national system for gathering crime statistics.
How much crime exists? Who keeps track of crime? • In 1930, the FBI created the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) system. • The FBI set up coding rules and tallied the statistics reported to it. Local police departments were responsible for the actual collection of crime data. • Data collected: • Crime reports taken • Arrests made • Cases cleared
The FBI Uniform Crime Report (“UCR”) (An Official Typology of Crime) PART I (The “INDEX”) Violent Crimes 1. Homicide 2. Rape 3. Robbery 4. Assault (Aggravated) Property Crimes 5. Burglary 6. Larceny 7. Motor Vehicle Theft 8. Arson (added in 1978)
UCR II PART II Petty Larceny Simple Assault Vandalism Drug Abuse Sex Offenses Fraud Drunkenness Disturbing the Peace Gambling Status Offenses Prostitution
Problems with the UCR • It’s focus is on reported crime. (Why is this a problem?) • The original reports provided no details. All crimes were lumped together in a single number. • It provides no additional information about the crime. • It requires both the local police and citizens to cooperate in providing accurate information.
Problems with the UCR • It’s open to abuse. Agencies responsible for reducing crime have an incentive to misreport crime. • It is sensitive to reform “in the wrong direction”. (Better reporting increases the reported crime rate.) • It’s biased toward “blue collar” crime. • The base for evaluating crime is questionable. (NYC auto thefts – the crime rate is high if we’re calculating theft’s per car or low if we’re reporting thefts per person)
Does the UCR measure the effectiveness of the criminal justice system? As the number of police increase, what impact do we expect they’ll have on crime? If we put more police out on the streets to fight crime, we expect fewer crimes to occur. What do we observe? As the number of police increase, the number of reported crimes increase.
Alternative Measures of Crime: The National Crime Victimization Survey • In 1966, the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice sponsored surveys of crime victims. • In 1968, Congress enacted the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act that created the National Criminal Justice Information and Statistical Service (NCJISS).
Alternative Measures of Crime: The National Crime Victimization Survey • In 1972, NCJISS established the National Crime Survey (NCS) to be conducted every 6 months by the US Census Bureau. NCS was a survey of 60,000 households and 39,000 businesses designed to measure crime, reported and UN-reported. • Today the NCS is known as the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The Census Bureau conducts interviews with about 134,000 persons age 12 and older in 77,200 households twice each year about their victimizations from crime.
Crime: What do we do about it? • Most crime control policies are nonsense. • Both liberals and conservatives are guilty of peddling nonsense about crime and crime control. • Most crime control policies are based on faith rather than the facts. -- Samuel Walker
Philosophical Differences Conservatives Liberals Society structures individual actions Discrimination, poverty. Lack of opportunity lead to anti-social actions People can be re-shaped. • Society survives if/because individuals are self-restrained. • Government’s role is to ensure self-restraint and deal with the lack of it. • People are restrained or not as part of basic nature.
Policy Recommendations Conservative Liberal General Rehabilitation, Social Change Specific Emphasize Probation and Parole Indeterminate Sentencing Education • General • Punishment (emphasis on certainty and severity) • Specific • Mandatory Prison Sentences • Death Penalty • Eliminate Miranda, Plea Bargaining, Insanity Defense, Exclusion Rule