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CHAPTER TWO THE NATURE AND EXTENT OF CRIME Learning Objectives 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Be able to discuss how crime is defined. Define and discuss some of the different types of crime. Be familiar with the methods used to measure crime. Discuss the development of the NIBRS program. Be able to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of crime measures. Recognize the trends in the crime rate. Comment on the factors that influence crime rates. Be familiar with international crime trends. Know the various crime patterns. Understand the concept of the criminal career.

Chapter Outline I.

How is crime defined?  While it may seem straight-forward, there are three views of how and why some behaviours are illegal and others remain noncriminal. A. Consensus view  Behaviours that become crimes are essentially harmful to a majority of citizens living in society and therefore have been controlled or prohibited by the existing criminal law.  Criminal law is a set of rules, codified by the state which expresses the norms, goals, and values of the vast majority of society.  Consensus view rests on the assumption that criminal law has a social control function. B. Conflict view  Criminal law is created and enforced by the ruling class as a mechanism for controlling dissatisfied, have-not members of society.  The law is the instrument that enables the wealthy to maintain their position of power and control the behaviours of those who oppose their ideas and values or who might rebel against the unequal distribution of wealth. C. Interactionist view  Falls between the consensus and conflict views.  Suggests that criminal law is structured to reflect the preferences and opinions of people who hold social power in a particular legal jurisdiction.  Focuses on the role of people who dedicate themselves to shaping the legal process, called moral entrepreneurs. 21

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D. All three definitions agree that  (1) criminal law defines crime;  (2) the definition of crime is constantly changing;  (3) social forces impact the definitions of crime; and  (4) criminal law has a social control function. What are the different categories of crime? A. Violent crime  Rates of violent crime have declined significantly over the past decade.  Most Americans still worry about being victimized by a violent crime.  Some acts are expressive violence and others are instrumental violence. 1. Gang violence  There are more than 27,000 gangs active in the U.S., with involvement in drug distribution, extortion, and violence.  At one time gang were only found in the nation’s largest cities, but today this is no longer the case.  More than 1/3 of cities with populations of at least 2,500 experience gang problems. 2. Multiple murders  There are three types of multiple killers: mass murderers, spree killers, and serial killers. 3. Intimate violence  Americans are at greater risk of physical danger from people close to them than from strangers.  The Department of Health and Human Services monitors 6 million cases of alleged child maltreatment each year, with 25% substantiated after investigation.  About 8% of these cases involve sexual abuse.  Effects of child abuse can be devastating. 4. Hate crimes  The FBI reports about 7,000 crimes each year that are motivated because the target shares a certain racial, ethnic, religious, or gender trait.  Most hate crimes involve racial attacks against African Americans.  1/3 of hate crimes are directed towards institutions or organizations. B. Public order crimes  Acts that are criminalized because they run counter to existing moral standards.  Also referred to as victimless crimes. 1. Prostitution  About 80,000 prostitution arrests are made annually, with the gender ratio 2 to 1 female to male.  Arrests are beginning to trend downward. 22

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 International sex trafficking is a significant problem. 2. Substance abuse  Recent drug use by youth has stabilized or declined.  Alcohol is the most commonly used substance and is involved in many murders, suicides, and accidental deaths.  The relationship between drug use and crime remains uncertain. C. Economic crimes  Millions of property and theft-related crimes occur each year, and are mostly the work of amateur or occasional criminals. 1. White collar crime  Criminal activities that are intended to profit through illegal business transactions.  May include bribery, mail fraud, computer fraud, environmental law violations, embezzlement, insurance fraud, price fixing, environmental pollution, etc.  Difficult to estimate the influence and costs of these types of crimes.  Some white collar crimes involve criminal conspiracies designed to improve the market share or profitability of corporations and are termed corporate crime. 2. Organized crime  The criminal activity of those whose purpose is to gain economically through illegal enterprise.  Federal and state agencies have been dedicated to wiping out organized crime and there have been some high-profile arrests. D. How much crime is there? How do we measure it?  In order to plan effective policies, it is important to understand trends and patterns in crime. Sources of crime data  Primary sources are surveys and official records collected, compiled, and analyzed by government agencies. A. The Uniform Crime Report  UCR involves data collection by more than 17,000 police departments regarding Part I and Part II crimes.  Includes crimes reported to local law enforcement and the number of arrests made by police agencies. 1. Compiling the Uniform Crime Report  Data collection includes all crimes reported to the police, with false complaints eliminated. 2. Clearance rates  Crimes are cleared when at least one person is arrested, charged, and turned over to the court for prosecution, or when the physical arrest of an offender is precluded.  Slightly more than 20 percent of all reported Part I crimes are 23

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cleared by arrest each year. Validity of the Uniform Crime Report a. Reporting practices  Crimes not reported to the police, for whatever reason, are not counted as part of the UCR; therefore critics argue that the UCR is an underestimation of many crimes. b. Law enforcement practices  Departments may record and report crimes differently, which seriously impacts the validity of the UCR.  If more than one crime is committed simultaneously by an offender, only the most serious offense is counted. c. Methodological issues  The most frequent methodological concerns are that no federal crimes are reported, reports are voluntary, not all police submit reports, and incomplete acts are lumped together with complete acts. 4. National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)  A redesign of the UCR resulted in NIBRS, which has expanded crime categories and requires police agencies to provide a brief account of each incident and arrest, including information about the victim and the offender.  There are links in NIBRS between arrests and clearances to specific incidents or offenses, all offenses are included rather than just the most serious, and there exists the ability to distinguish between attempted and completed crimes.  Can also examine interrelationships between victim and offender. National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)  Data is collected regarding frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization by a variety of crimes, many of which many not have been reported to law enforcement.  Used because more than half of all victims do not report their experiences to law enforcement.  Conducted on a yearly basis of about 42,000 households. 1. NCVS: Advantages and problems  The greatest advantage is that it can estimate the total amount of annual crimes and not only those that are reported to the police.  Over-reporting may occur due to victims’ misinterpretation of events.  Under-reporting may occur due to victims’ embarrassment. 2. The future of the NCVS  The effectiveness of this study has been undermined by budget limitations. Self-report surveys  Individuals are questioned regarding their own involvement as perpetrators 24 3.



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of delinquent or criminal acts, which may or may not have been previously brought to the attention of law enforcement.  Many such studies have focused on juvenile delinquency or drug use. 1. Monitoring the Future  Considered the national standard to measure substance abuse trends among American teens.  Indicates that the number of people who break the law is far greater than the number projected by official statistics. 2. Validity of self-reports  Research demonstrates a substantial association between official processing and self-reported crime.  Self-reports may measure only non-serious, occasional delinquents while ignoring hardcore chronic offenders who may be institutionalized and unavailable for self-reports.  Reporting accuracy differs among racial, ethnic, and gender groups. Evaluating sources of crime data  The trends in crime indicated by the various crime data sources indicate similarities, and generally agree on the personal characteristics of serious criminals and the location and timing of crime. Crime trends  There was a gradual increase in crime, especially violent crime, from 1830 to 1860.  From 1880 to WWI, crime decreased, followed by a steady decline until the Depression when another crime wave was recorded.  Crime rates increased gradually following the 1930s until the 1960s, when the growth rate became much greater.  The number of crimes has been in decline since 1991 when there were 14.6 million crimes recorded.  In 2008 there were about 11 million crimes reported. 1. Trends in violent crime and property crime  U.S. violent crime rates have been in decline for approximately twenty years.  About 1.3 million violent crimes are now reported to the police each year, which is about 500,000 fewer than in 1991.  Property crime has dropped more than 10% in the past decade.  Currently about 9 million property crimes are reported each year to the police, resulting in $18 billion in losses. 2. Trends in victimization  About 16 million households experience one or more property crimes or violent crimes.  Criminal victimization has declined significantly over the past 30 years. 3. Trends in self-reporting  There has not been a reduction in self-reported criminality in terms 25

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of theft, violence, and damage-related crimes. What the future holds  Researchers speculate an increase in crime in the future, due to a large population of children currently under the age of ten who will soon be reaching their crimeprone years.  Other researchers speculate a downward trend in crime or a levelling off of crime. Crime patterns A. The ecology of crime 1. Day, season, and climate  Most crimes that are reported occur in July and August.  Exceptions to this trend are murders and robberies, which occur frequently in December and January.  Crime rates increase with rising temperatures and then begin to decline at about 85 degrees. 2. Regional differences  Large urban areas have the highest violence rates and rural areas have the lower crime rates (exceptions are large transient or seasonal population areas).  Western and Southern states have higher crime rates than Midwest or Northeast states.  Most believe that regional differences can be explained by economic differences. B. Social class, socio-economic conditions, and crime  UCR data indicates that crime rates are higher in inner-city, high-poverty areas.  It is unclear whether the relationship between class and crime is due to more crime in these areas or more targeted law enforcement in these areas.  These crimes are instrumental. D. Age and crime  Younger people commit more crime than older people and are arrested at a disproportionate rate.  The peak age for property crime is 16, and for violent crime age 18.  Kids who are persistent offenders begin committing crime in their childhood, increase their offending activities in late adolescence, and then begin a slowdown in adulthood.  Early starters tend to commit more crime and are more likely to continue to be involved in criminality over a longer period of time. E. Gender and crime  Male crime rates are much higher than those for women.  Victims report that their assailant was male in 80 percent of all violent personal crimes.  Over the past decade male arrest rates have declined by 9% and female arrest rates have increased by 9%. F. Explaining gender differences in the crime rate 26

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Early criminologists pointed to emotional, physical, and psychological differences between males and females to explain the differences in the crime rates. 1. Socialization and development  Some suggest that girls, unlike boys, are socialized to avoid violence and are more closely supervised by parents, thereby preventing their involvement in extensive delinquency. 2. Cognitive differences  The superior verbal skills of girls may allow them to talk rather than fight. 3. Feminist views  Self-report studies indicate that the pattern of female criminality is similar to that of male criminality and the factors that predispose men to crime are the same for women. 4. Is convergence likely?  Previous views are being challenged by the rapid rise in the female crime rate.  Police may be abandoning their traditional deference toward women in an effort to be “gender neutral.” Race and crime  African Americans comprise 12 percent of the population, but 38 percent of violent crime arrests and 30 percent of property crime arrests.  Large national samples of youth indicate there is very little evidence that African Americans commit more crime than Whites, leading researchers to wonder about discriminatory police practices.  For some serious offenses, African American youth do in fact admit to more offending than White youth. 1. System bias  Some argue that race based differences in the crime rate can be explained by unequal treatment by the justice system.  Racial threat hypothesis suggests that as the percentage of minorities in the population increases, so too does the amount of social control that police direct at minority group members. 2. Cultural bias  This explanation suggests that racial differences in the crime rate rests on the legacy of racial discrimination on personality and behaviour.  The idea is that black crime in the United States is a function of socialization in a society where the black family was torn apart and black culture destroyed in such a way that recovery has proven impossible. 3. Structural bias  African Americans are disproportionately represented among the nation’s poor, and this economic inequality may increase the incentive to engage in criminal activity. 27

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Is convergence possible?  If economic conditions improve in the minority community, then differences in crime rates will eventually disappear.  A trend toward residential integration may also help reduce crime rate differentials. Chronic offending and crime  Most offenders commit a single crime and once arrested, they will discontinue their involvement in crime.  A small group of criminal offenders account for a majority of all criminal offenses.  Referred to as career criminals or chronic offenders or habitual offenders. 1. What causes chronicity?  Youths exposed to personal and social problems at a young age are at the greatest risk for continued involvement in crime.  Those who spend time in a juvenile facility and later in an adult prison are more likely to desist from crime.  Other predictive factors for chronicity include arrest before age 15, relatively low intellectual development, and parental drug involvement. 2. Policy implications  Strategies such as three strikes laws and mandatory sentences have been designed to incapacitate chronic offenders for extended periods of time.  Apprehension and punishment seem to have little impact on the offending behaviour of chronic offenders and most repeat their criminal acts after their correctional release.

Key Terms * consensus view of crime-behaviours that become crimes are that that (a) are essentially harmful to a majority of citizens in the society and therefore (b) have been controlled or prohibited by the existing criminal law; and there is general agreement about which behaviours society needs to control by law and which should be beyond state regulation * conflict view of crime-criminal law is created and enforced by the ruling class as a mechanism for controlling dissatisfied have-not members of society and enables the wealthy to maintain their position of power and control the behaviour of those who oppose their ideas and values or who might rebel against the unequal distribution of wealth * career criminals-persistent repeat offenders who organize their lifestyle around criminality * chronic offenders-as defined by Marvin Wolfgang, Robert Figlio, and Thorsten Sellin: delinquents arrested five or more times before the age of eighteen who commit a disproportionate amount of all criminal offenses 28

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* cleared-an offense is cleared by arrest or solved when at least one person is arrested or charged with the commission of the offense and is turned over to the court for prosecution. If the following questions can all be answered "yes," the offense can then be cleared "exceptionally": (1) Has the investigation definitely established the identity of the offender? (2) Is there enough information to support an arrest, charge, and turning over to the court for prosecution? (3) Is the exact location of the offender known so that the subject could be taken into custody now? (4) Is there some reason outside law enforcement control that precludes arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offender? * corporate crime-type of white collar crime which includes antitrust violations, price-fixing, and false advertising and involves a criminal conspiracy * crime-a violation of social rules of conduct, interpreted and expressed by a written criminal code, created by people holding social and political power; its content may be influenced by prevailing public sentiments, historically developed moral beliefs, and the need to protect public safety; individuals who violate these rules may be subject to sanctions administered by state authority, which include social stigma and loss of status, freedom, and on occasion, their lives * early onset-kids who have been exposed to a variety of personal an asocial problems at an early age are the most at risk to repeat offending * expressive crimes-criminal acts that serve to vent rage, anger, or frustration * hate crimes (bias crimes)-violent acts directed toward a particular person or members of a group merely because the targets share a discernible racial, ethnic, religious, or gender characteristic * instrumental crimes-criminal acts intended to improve the financial or social position of the criminal * interactionist view of crime-criminal law is structured to reflect the preferences and opinions of people (called moral entrepreneurs) who hold social power in a particular legal jurisdiction and use their influence to shape the legal process * liberal feminist theory-an ideology holding that women suffer oppression, discrimination, and disadvantage as a result of their sex. Calls for gender equality in pay, opportunity, child care, and education * mass murderer-kill many victims in a single violent outburst * moral entrepreneur-wages campaigns to control behaviors they view as immoral and wrong or, conversely, to legalize behaviors they consider harmless social eccentricities * National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)-the NCVS is the nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization. Each year, data are obtained from a national sample that measure the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization by such crimes 29

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as rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, theft, household burglary, and motor vehicle theft * National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)-a new form of crime data collection created by the FBI requiring local police agencies to provide at least a brief account of each incident and arrest within twenty-two crime patterns, including the incident, victim, and offender information * Part I crimes-those crimes in the FBI's former Crime Index, which was composed of offenses used to gauge fluctuations in the overall volume and rate of crime. The offenses included were the violent crimes of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault and the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson * Part II crimes-all other crimes reported to the FBI not included in the former Crime Index. These were less serious crimes and misdemeanors, excluding traffic violations * public order crimes-behaviors that run contrary to social norms, customs, and values; also referred to as victimless crimes * racial threat hypothesis-as the percentage of minorities in the population increases, so too does the amount of social control that police direct at minority group members * self-report survey-a research approach that questions large groups of subjects, typically high school students, about their own participation in delinquent or criminal acts * serial killer-kill over a long period of time but typically assume a “normal” identity between murders * spree killer-spread their murderous outburst over a few days or weeks * three strikes law-sentencing codes that require that an offender receive a life sentence after conviction for a third felony. Some states allow parole after a lengthy prison stay—for example, twenty-five years * truth in sentencing-require that convicted felons spend a significant portion of their sentence behind bars * Uniform Crime Report (UCR)-the official crime data collected by the FBI from local police departments * white collar crime-purpose is profit through illegal business transactions; includes tax evasion, credit card fraud, and bank fraud

Discussion Questions 1.

What is the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and how can it help us 30

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better understand crime compared to other data collection methods? 2.

Compare and contrast the UCR and NCVS. Are the data of these measures reliable?


In what ways are the data from the UCR and the NCVS alike and in what ways do they report differently?


What constitutes a chronic offender? How can a chronic offender be positively identified at an early age? What can be done to stop chronic offending?


Discuss international findings with regard to crime trends.


Discuss the trends in violent and property crime over the past several decades.


What are some stable crime patterns with regard to ecology, social class, age, gender, and race?

Student Activities 1.

Find statistics for a crime of interest to you from both the United States and from a nation of your choosing. How does the U.S. compare to this other country? How can you explain the difference?


Compare substance abuse statistics between the United States and another industrialized nation of your choice. How can you explain the differences?


White Collar Crime in Perspective – The Federal Bureau of Investigation is one agency responsible for the investigation of white collar crimes. Explore the FBI’s Facts & Figures on white collar crime from 2003 at, and then answer the following:  Do you believe white collar crime should be pursued at vigorously as violent crimes? Why or why not?  Do you believe white collar crime is as dangerous to the public as other types of crime? Why or why not?


Test bank introduction to criminal justice 13th edition siegel