History of Crime Measurement as Well as Essay

  • Length: 10 pages
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  • Subject: Criminal Justice
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #52358775

Excerpt from Essay :

history of crime measurement as well as the major strengths and limitations of current measurement techniques. I have also included the discussion regarding the importance of crime measurement in criminology. In the end, I have put emphasis on the need of the development of more crime measurement techniques.

The measurement of crime is done with the objective of monitoring and this is mostly done in the same manner as the measurement of "consumer prices, stock market activity, traffic fatalities, population, unemployment, and HIV infection rates" (Maxfield & Babbie, 2011). However, much more is done in measuring the crime instead of just counting things. An assortment of societal, fiscal, geographic, and medical concerns is measured for keeping a record of communal and monetary conditions, population size, age distribution and hazards to physical well-being of the people. Similarly, crime measurement has the main concern of keeping track of criminal behavior so that probable risks to public security can be monitored in an effective and efficient manner (Maxfield & Babbie, 2011).

Measuring the characteristics of crimes and criminals is important because of three reasons. Firstly, crime measurement helps in finding out the motivations behind the commitment of crime and this is done by testing various theories. Secondly, crime measurement is used for enhancing the knowledge of the distinctiveness of a range of offences. Thirdly, crime measurement facilitates criminal justice agencies to carry out their routine operations easily. However, it is rather complex to have knowledge of the exact numbers of crimes that are committed. There is no clear picture of the recorded crimes due to the various factors that influence them like victims' readiness to give their testimony about the crimes.

To cut a long story short, crime measurement techniques are used by criminologists for measuring the temperament and level of criminal behavior and the individuality, mind-sets, and background of immoral lawbreakers. Therefore, it is exceedingly significant to have an understanding of the process of the collection of such data so that it can be known how professional criminologists perform their duties and move on to solve different cases.

Uniform Crime Reports

In 1929, the International Association of Chiefs of Police envisaged the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program for the fulfillment of the need of a dependable, uniform crime statistics for USA. The collection, publish, and archive of those statistics was made the responsibility of the FBI in 1930, at present, quite a lot of annual statistical publications are published from the facts and figures that are provided by USA city, county and state law enforcement agencies, more or less 17,000 in number. Thus, it has been since the 1930s that the FBI has governed the UCRP along with issuing cyclic measurement and evaluation of the nature and kind of misdemeanor/felonies across USA ("Summary of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program," 2013).

The major purpose of the Program is the generation of a dependable set of criminal statistics to be used by the law enforcement admin and management. The data contained in Uniform Crime Reports have turned out to be the most important social indicator in the United States of America. This is the reason why Americans follow Uniform Crime Reports to gain knowledge regarding the variations in crime level. These reports are also used by criminologists, social researchers, lawmakers, civic representatives, the media and students for different purposes ranging from research to planning ("Summary of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program," 2013).

Strengths and Limitations of UCRP

The reports generated under UCRP encompass AI/an population that is very large. The collection of data is done under a major policy issue and is involved with the system of judiciary. The data of many years is easily available consisting of an enormous anthology of published tables. These tables have an extensive use for tracking nationwide crimes. In addition, the records of master files can also be accessed on request. Master files means that the information contained in those files is not based on estimates but is actually the final data.

As far as the limitations are concerned, the reports contain summarized data because of which it is not possible to analyze the facts further than trouble-free tabulations based on geographic components, race and age. Furthermore, the data mostly consists of arrests' tabulations and information about the victim. Therefore, it is not easy to use this data for the determination of the no. Of persons being arrested in a year. Moreover, UCR only contains information of the crimes that are reported by the police agencies to the FBI. Thus, it can be easily concluded that the U.S. crime is not accurately exposed in the UCR. Also, such crime reports by the police to the FBI are voluntary in nature.

The variations of accurateness and comprehensiveness of these reports are because of "the personnel and computer systems available to maintain the data, the number of police officers available to respond to calls, the discretion of officers as they perform their duties, police department policies (both formal and informal) on handling certain crimes, and citizen involvement in reporting crime" (Purpura, 1997). Another limitation of this measurement technique is that its index only covers 8 crimes i.e. criminal homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larcency-theft, motor vehicle theft and arson ("Summary of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program," 2013).

Another big problem with the UCR is that its guidelines allows law enforcement agencies (police, in particular) to report the most grave crime in the index. For instance, if a woman is being raped and murdered during a burglary incident, the UCR will record this incident as a murder considering it most serious among the three. Moreover, the definition of rape given in UCR only includes women. However, both male and female populations are considered when rape rate is calculated. Last but not the least, the UCR and state definitions for the eight crimes in UCR vary. As a consequence, the crimes are labeled differently in many cases. For instance, most police agencies use larcency and burglary as similar crimes (Purpura, 1997).

National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)

With the expanded utilization of UCR data and the increase in law enforcement capabilities to make crime information available, NIBRS was introduced in March 1988 as a lengthened and improved system for crime data collection for meeting the twenty-first century law enforcement needs.

Under NIBRS, the data is collected for single crime occurrence by the law enforcement agencies. This incident-based reporting system receives data from the participant local, state & federal law enforcement agencies that have automatic/computerized records systems. It depends on the agencies to form a records system that can suit its needs. These needs may include the compilation/storage of information that is required for organizational and operational purposes or the report data that is submitted to UCRP by the NIBRS. The objective of NIBRS is to gather information (facts and figures) about every single incidence. There are twenty-two offense categories in Group a offenses about which the law enforcement agencies are required to report specific facts. On the other hand, Group B. offenses has eleven offesnse categories for which the law enforcement agencies are required to report arrest data only.

Strengths and Limitations of NIBRS

Incident-based reporting systems comply with both NIBRS and FBI's UCRP. Its advantages are several in numbers. Firstly, there is no restriction of data collection as the offense categories are not limited. Secondly, its crime definitions are similar to those defined at the local, state, and national levels. It gives detailed information and analysis of individual crime incidents including crimes, criminals, victims, assets and arrests. It allows the linkage of arrests and clearances to specific unpleasant incidences or transgressions. Unlike UCR's hierarchy rule, NIBRS allows the recording and counting of all offenses in an unpleasant occurrence. It also allows the making up of distinctions between tried and accomplished crimes. It also allows comprehensive crime investigations within and across the authority of law enforcement agencies ("Advantages of Incident-Based Reporting over Summary Reporting"). NIBRS data also has significant propositions for researchers and criminal justice students who search for better comprehensions regarding the nature and scope of illegal happenings (Brown, Esbensen & Geis, 2013).

As far as the NIBRS limitations are concerned, they are as same as UCR. The data recorded under NIBRS include only those crimes that are reported to police and preserved by the systems of recordkeeping. Thus, it is a weakness of NIBRS that it excludes unreported and undocumented crimes. Secondly, the participant local agencies under NIBRS are burdened significantly due to the rigidness of the NIBRS specifications to report crimes. This is the reason why the smaller agencies in the smaller U.S. states are the major adopters of NIBRS unlike country's larger agencies in larger states that do not adopt NIBRS frequently. Moreover, the NIBR record structure is so aged and multifaceted "and concomitant size of data files present unfamiliar challenges to researchers, analysts, and computer hardware and software" (Brown, Esbensen & Geis, 2013). In addition, there exist quite a lot of concerns regarding the…

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