Measuring Crime

Measuring Crime: Putting It All Into Perspective Given that all three measures of crime have both strengths and weakness, the question becomes which do we use and when? The short answer is all three. If we wish to examine seri- ous crime such as homicide, the UCR is likely our best measure. If we wish to examine drug and alcohol use among teens, we are better off using self-report surveys. Finally, if we wish to examine the victim-offender relationship more clearly, we are better off using victimization surveys. In other words, each measure can help us understand a different facet of crime. How- ever, there remain benefits and disadvantages of comparing the three measures when trying to understand delinquency.

The benefits of using all three measures include the following:

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• The UCR and the NCVS cover many of the same types of crime. Studies have also found that the two measures are comparable with regard to burglary and robbery. As such, these two measures tend to validate each other, which makes them useful in examining crime trends.

• Both the NCVS and self-report surveys find that the UCR is underestimating the amount of crime occurring each year. This revelation is important for understanding the relationship between socioeconomic status and delinquency. As such, the findings should remind us to be cautious of the latest headlines regarding arrest rates.

• Victimization and self-report data help identify risk factors for delinquency such as peers, family, and school performance. The more we know of victims of crime and

how victims experience crime, the more we can do to help prevent crime in the first place and also help those who have suffered a traumatic experience.

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