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Class and Crime - Measuring Crime

offenses information victim measures

Some measures of crime are based on police, court, correctional, or official survey reports. These efforts produce information on victims and offenders. Reports of offenses known to the police and victimization survey results provide victim-based information. However, such victim information is sometimes used to infer offender characteristics. On occasion, victim-based measures are simply treated as if the offender-victim distinction is unimportant. That is, the focus on victims in such studies is never mentioned. Occasionally, offender information, such as that provided by the Supplementary Homicide Reports (SHR) program or by police reports of arrests, is used to modify victim information. A few studies have used arrest data in combination with offenses known to the police to create race-specific offense rates (Sampson; Ousey). More often, offender information is used to look at offender characteristics or the relationship between victims and offenders (Chilton and Jarvis). It is sometimes used to compute rates for studies that examine the relationship of offense rates to other economic and social characteristics of urban areas.

A different set of crime measures are created when interviews or questionnaires are used to ask people about crimes they have committed. Those asked about their criminal conduct can be juveniles or adults, male or female. They may live in the same community or be part of a national sample. The measures of crime used in such studies vary widely. Respondents may be asked to select, from a list, offenses they have committed at some point in their lives or at some time during the last year. They may or may not be asked about the frequency with which they have engaged in such conduct. The acts presented range from very minor offenses, or offenses that are only illegal for children, to very serious offenses. Measures of crime are sometimes created by counting the number of different types of crime reported and sometimes by using the frequency of crimes reported or by counting specific offenses such as assault or burglary.

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