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Chapter Summary and Key Concepts

Chapter 2 reviews the way crime is measured and how the level of crime affects the criminal justice system and the public’s fear of crime.

Types of Crime

  • There are three general types of crime: crimes against the person, crimes against property, and crimes against the public order.

  • Crimes against the person carry the most severe penalties and may involve interpersonal disputes, instrumental violence, group violence, chronic violent offenders, political violence, rape and sexual assault, and robbery.

  • Crimes against property, which include burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson, usually do not carry the same impact as crimes against persons.

  • Crimes against the public order offend the sensibilities of some groups of people who have been successful in getting their values encoded into the criminal law.

Measuring Crime

  • Crime is measured in four major ways: the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the National Incident-based Reporting System (NIBRS), victimization studies, and self-report studies.

  • The UCR, the largest, most expensive, most comprehensive, and oldest method used to represent the incidence and seriousness of crime, continues to be used to allocate resources, deploy police officers, and report crime levels.

  • The two types of error in the UCR are unintentional and intentional.

  • The NIBRS is designed to correct for some of the UCR’s flaws, primarily by collecting data on all criminal incidents that take place, not only on the most serious crime.

  • Victimization studies ask victims of crime about their experiences, are not as comprehensive as the UCR, and only provide a snapshot of the actual incidences of crime.

  • Self-report studies ask offenders to identify the types of crimes they have committed over the past six months or year.

  • Homicide, rape, and robbery are separated from other types of crime when the crime rate is discussed.

  • Crime rates are calculated so that crime levels may be compared across jurisdictions.

  • The eight UCR Part I Offenses are murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

  • Self-report studies and victimization studies miss or obscure corporate crime, organized crime, drug sales, prostitution, and gambling.

  • Larceny/theft, burglary, automobile theft, and arson are measured by criminal justice data-gathering efforts to ascertain their levels of seriousness and frequency.

The Perception of Crime

  • The media has facilitated the institutionalization of categories of newly discovered crimes such as stalking.

  • A gap exists between the public’s fear of crime and the actual threat of crime. Those who have the least to fear are often those who go to the greatest extremes to avoid dangerous situations. Those who are victimized the most are the ones who seem to fear crime the least and engage in high-risk behaviors.

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