Criminology....... Measuring Crime
& Criminal Behaviour
About Dr Khurram Sohail Raja
Nature and Extent of Crime
Assessment of the nature and extent of crime often suffers from the shortcomings depending upon the type of data available to the researchers.Researcher A may make assessments on the basis of arrest records in the police stations. Researcher B may rely on conviction rates and Researcher C may use the number of convicts serving prison sentences.
There is a very interesting example to explain this. 3 blind men were invited in a
circus to experience an elephant. One blind touches the legs and explains the
elephant " as a trunk of a tree ". Second blind touches the tail and explains
elephant as " a rope ". Third blind touches the trunk and declared, " both
of you are wrong, elephant is like a big snake ".
There are 3 major reasons for measuring characteristics of crimes and criminals:
PART I: To test various theories about why people commit crime?
Several theories are examined that explain why people commit crime:
HYPOTHESIS: Lower class individuals engage in more serious crimes and
do so more frequently than middle class individuals.
PART II: Second objective of measurement is to enhance our knowledge
of the characteristics of various types of offences.
PART III: Third objective of measuring crime is that criminal justice
agencies depend on certain kinds of information to facilitate daily operations and to
anticipate future needs.
Unfortunately little research is done in Pakistan on criminology, but an ideal way of collecting data is devised if it could be used by our police & judicial agencies:
- Survey research: Widely used and cost effective.
- Experiments: Difficult and costly to conduct.
- Participant observation: Involves direct participation of the researcher in the activities of the people who are subject to research.
- Case-study method: To examine biographical and autobiographical accounts of individual offenders.
Data can be found in the statistics compiled by government agencies & private foundations.
The facts and observations researchers gather for the purpose of a particular study are called Primary data.
The data they find in government sources or the data that was previously collected for a different investigation is called Secondary data.
Surveys: It is a systematic collection of respondents answers to questions
asked in questionnaires or interviews. Generally surveys are used to gather information
about the attitudes, characteristics or behaviour of a large group of persons, who are
called the population of the survey. Surveys by criminologists measure the amount of
crime, attitudes towards the police or towards sentencing of dangerous offenders,
assessment of drug abuse and fear of crime.
Experiments: An investigator introduces a change into a process and makes the measurements or observations in order to evaluate the effects of change. Most experiments are done in laboratories, but its possible to do them in real world or field, hence the name field experiment.
Participant and Nonparticipant Observation: Observation is the most direct
means of studying behaviour. Investigators may play a variety of roles in observing social
situations . In non-participant they simply observe the activities in everyday settings
and record what they see.
Using Available data in research: Besides collecting their own data, researchers often depend on secondary data collected by private and public organisations.
In course of research, criminologists encounter many ethical issues as,
Act or situation
known to the Police
Figure: Process of bringing crime to the attention of Police
Source: R.F.Sparks, H.G.Genn, D.J.Dodd
In order for a criminal act to be " known to the police ", the act first must be perceived by an individual. It must then be defined or classified as something that places it within the jurisdiction of criminal justice system and it must be reported to the police. Then it is redefined before recording the act as a crime known to the police (as shown in figure 1. If any of the step is broken, crime is never discovered to begin with.
Part I and Part II Offenses:
Crime rate = number of reported crimes X 100,000
If we say that homicide rate is 10.2, it means there are 10.2 homicides for every
100,000 persons in the population under consideration.
Measuring Characteristics of Crime