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Criminology Class, Fall 1999
200 Word Summaries of Lectures and Class Discussions

California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Latest update: September 26, 1999
E-Mail Curran or Takata.


There are three major sources used to understand crime rates:

  1. Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
  2. FBI's UCR is the best known and most widely source of criminal statistics; crimes known to police. In 1994, 13.9 million UCR index crimes were reported to police. Some criticisms of UCR are: reporting practices ("real" amount of crime is never known), law enforcement practicies (the way police record data, definitional differences), methodological problems (reports are voluntary and vary in accuracy and completeness).

    Some Extra Notes from Adler's Chapter 2

    A few facts:

    • Crimes reported by 16,000 city, county, and state law enforcement agencies. p. 24
    • Crime is reported when police verify that it has been committed. (p.24)
    • Index crimes are the more serious crimes, which are more reliably reported to the police. They are also called Part I crimes. (p. 24) They include:
      • "crimes against the person" - homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault
      • "crimes against property" - burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson
    • All the rest, except traffic offenses, are Part II crimes.
    • How crime rates are calculated:
      crime rate = no. of reported crimes/total population X 100,000 (p.25)
    • Problems with UCR data:
      • Voluntary nature of reporting
      • Errors in reporting - definitional variance, accuracy, transfer accuracy, white collar crime reported to agencies, whole crime picture hard to come by

    Uniform Crime Reports for 1995-96
    Uniform Crime Reports for 1990-93

  3. National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)
  4. Victim surveys measure the extent of criminal behavior by focusing on its target - the victims. According to the 1994 NCVS, there were 42 million victimizations. Some criticisms are: counting victims is not the same as counting offenders; victims may fail to report, forget or lie; does not measure victimless crimes such as drug abuse, gambling, etc.; cannot tell us about homicides.

    Bureau of Justice Statistics on Crime Victimization

  5. Self Report Studies
  6. Self report studies are designed to allow participants to reveal information about their violations of the law. The basic assumption is that the anonymity of the respondent and the promise of confidentiality backed by academic credentials will encourage people to accurately describe their illegal activities. Some criticisms are: respondents may lie, exaggerate, forget, underrepresent their criminal activities; definitional & interpretational problems; reliability and validity of data.