of the major aspects of studying crime and delinquent behavior is that there
have to be statistics and definitions so that researchers can determine if
there is a specific relationship between two variables. For example, do the
statistics tell us that there is a higher concentration of crime in urban
areas? In addition, what are the violent crime (murder, rape, etc) statistics
of urban areas? All of these relationships can be found by analyzing crime data
from numerous governmental sources.
Regarding delinquency, there are two
separate distinctions: the legal definition and the behavioral definition. The
legal definition refers to any juvenile that has directly come into contact
with the juvenile justice system and has been adjudicated by the courts (Cox,
Allen, Hanser, & Conrad, 2014, p. 19). The behavioral definition refers to
any juvenile who behaves in a way that constitutes illegal activity, but they
have not been formally adjudicated by the courts (Cox et al., 2014, p. 19). For
example, if 16 year old Jerry often loiters outside the corner supermarket and
smokes, he would fall under the behavioral definition of a delinquent. If Jerry
is then busted for stealing and adjudicated as a delinquent for larceny, then
Jerry would now fall under the legal definition of delinquency.
There are three official measures of
crime statistics: the Uniform Crime Report (UCR), the National Incident-Based
Reporting System (NIBRS), and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).
The UCR is compiled by the FBI from official data from law enforcement agencies
across the country. In addition, the UCR is divided into two categories: Part I
offenses (serious offenses such as murder, rape, or kidnapping), and Part II
offenses (usually misdemeanors) (Taylor & Fritsch, 2011, p. 55). Part I
offenses can also be further classified into two separate indexes: the Violent
Crime Index (murder, rape, or aggravated assault) and the Property Crime Index
(arson, burglary, and grand theft auto) (Taylor & Fritsh, 2011, p. 55-56).
One of the major limitations of the UCR is that the crimes reported are based
on a hierarchy rule: only the most
serious crime is reported (Taylor & Fritsh, 2011, p. 61). For instance, if
someone is arrested for possession of stolen goods, and when the police search
their vehicle, they stumble upon a person in the trunk (a kidnapping), the UCR
would only have data on the kidnapping.
The NIBRS was developed in 1987 in
order to supplement the information collected in the UCR. Unlike the UCR, which
only reported those crimes that were “cleared” (lead to an arrest),
the NIBRS reported all crimes that were reported to the police, regardless if
it lead to an arrest (Cox et al., 2014, p. 27). Even with the UCR and the NIBRS
reporting the bulk of crime that police officers come into contact with, there
are still some crimes that are not reported. Nevertheless, these crimes still
occur and should be recorded.
The NCVS is an official crime
statistic in which data is collected from roughly 49,000 households about their
personal experiences with crime. By reporting these crimes with the NCVS, the
police gain a better understanding about the dark figure of crime: crime that occurs but is not reported (Taylor
& Fritsch, 2011, p. 63). Even though the NCVS has its perks, it also has
its drawbacks. Victims of certain crimes, such as rape, may still not report
the crime. In rape cases, women may not report their assault due to fear that
the rapist may come back and repeat the rape. In addition, victims of domestic
violence may not report their assault because their partner has control over
them and has either instructed them not to, or they may fear for their own
safety or the safety of their children.