CJ 499 Grantham University Three Factors of Crime Images Case Study Students will read chapter 2 of the Kappeler and Potter text, The Mythology of Crime an

CJ 499 Grantham University Three Factors of Crime Images Case Study Students will read chapter 2 of the Kappeler and Potter text, The Mythology of Crime and Criminal Justice.Upon completion of the weekly Kappeler and Potter chapter reading assignment, students will then submit a two-page summation, outlining crime images of the reality of crime. The summations should concentrate on the three factors of crime images. The summation should also encompass the reading requirement of this week. The weekly summation will not require a title page, so focus on your essay portion for your case study. Ensure that factual information provided in your essay is supported by listing your references at the end of your case study and citing your references within your essay. Points will be taken off for lack of content, spelling, composition, and grammatical errors and/or for a late submission. View your assignment rubric. Crime Waves, Fears, and Social Reality
The American criminal justice system is a mirror that shows a distorted image of the dangers that
threaten us—an image created more by the shape of the mirror than by the reality reflected.
—Jeffrey Reiman and Paul Leighton
For decades, polls have found that people in the United States are worried about crime. A
Gallup poll found that people worried their credit card information would be stolen by hackers (69%),
their homes would be burglarized when they were not there (45%), their car would be stolen (42%),
their child would be physically harmed while attending school (31%), they would be mugged on the
streets (31%), their home would be burglarized when they were there (30%), they would be victims of
terrorism (28%), they would be attacked while driving their car (20%), they would be murdered (18%),
they would be the victim of a hate crime (18%), they would be sexually assaulted (18%), or they would
be assaulted/killed at work (7%) (Riffkin, 2014). The learning process for these fears is complex, but one
contributing factor is the dissemination of crime statistics by the media and the government. (Recall our
discussion of the crime clock in the first chapter.) How reliable and valid are these statistics? Does the
public’s perception of crime reflect the reality of crime?
The number of people who fear crime is substantial. Perceptions about individuals who engage
in criminal behavior are even more revealing. Jeffrey Reiman and Paul Leighton (2017) describe the
stereotyped image: Think of a crime, any crime. . .. What do you see? The odds are you are not
imagining an oil company executive sitting at his desk, calculating the costs of proper safety precautions,
and deciding not to invest in them. Probably what you see with your mind’s eye is one person attacking
another physically or robbing something from another via the threat of physical attack. Look more
closely. What does the attacker look like? It is a safe bet he (and it is he, of course) is not wearing a suit
and tie. In fact, you—like us, like almost anyone else in America—picture a young, tough, lower- class
male when the thought of crime first pops into your head. (p. 74)
The “Typical Criminal” in the minds of most people who fear being victims of crime is poor,
young, urban, and black—“threatening the lives, limbs, and possessions of the law-abiding members of
society, necessitating recourse to the ultimate weapons of force and detention in our common defense”
(pp. 67–68).
The presidential campaign for George H. Bush in 1988 capitalized on this stereotypical image
with its infamous “Willie Horton” commercials. The governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, was
Bush’s opponent; his state had a highly successful prison furlough program. The Bush campaign seized
on a single case where a participant in the program (Horton) committed a violent crime while on
furlough. Willie Horton was an African American male whose predations were directed at white females.
The political advertisement reinforced the worst fears and prejudices about crime—violent crime
committed by an armed sociopathic stranger after being released by a “soft” criminal justice system.
Violent crime and draconian punishments have taken center stage in nearly every modern-day
presidential election. George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 with a gubernatorial legacy of
having signed more prisoner execution warrants (158) than any other governor at that time. President
Barack Obama’s first campaign for the White House was based, at least in part, on issues surrounding
prisoner treatment at the Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp and the issue of torture. Rick Perry was the
longest-serving governor in Texas history and twice ran for the U.S. presidency. There were 279
executions while he was in office, far surpassing Bush’s record. During his first presidential campaign,
Perry was asked if he lost sleep over the possibility of executing innocent people. He remarked without
hesitation, no sir, I have never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very
clear process in place of which—when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our
citizens . . . you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you’re involved with another crime and
you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas and that is you will be
executed. (Berman, 2011)
Political leaders play on the public’s fear of crime and portray the criminal justice system as
being “soft” to convince voters they have the solution to keep the public safe. A majority of Americans
(63%) believe that there is more crime than in the previous year (McCarthy, 2014). Historically, Americans are less likely to believe crime is increasing where they live, but they believe it is increasing
nationally. Since 1980, the lowest percentage expressing a belief in increased crime was 41% in 2001;
the highest was 89% in 1991. Some argue that consumption of news media influences the public to
believe that crime is more widespread than is actually the case. The belief that crime is increasing has
stayed relatively stable despite years of declining violent crime. Six in 10 Americans favor the death
penalty for convicted murderers, a percentage that has remained the same since 2008. Since 1937, the
percentage supporting the death penalty for murder has ranged from a low of 42% in 1966 and a high of
80% in 1994 (Jones, 2014). Given these attitudes, it is not surprising that politicians support legislation
for more police, more prisons, more severe sentences, and an ever-widening definition of what
constitutes a crime.
Reasoned reflection about crime presents a very different picture than the one promoted by
politicians, the media, and law enforcement officials. Facts have been curiously missing from the debate
about crime in the United States, and the facts clearly contradict common perceptions. • There is no
crime wave in the United States. Criminal victimization has been steadily declining for decades. The U.S.
crime wave is a myth. • Most crimes are not the serious, violent, dangerous crimes that prompt the
stereotype of the United States as a predatory jungle. The over- whelming majority of crimes are minor
incidents involving neither serious economic loss nor extensive injury. • Most of the violent crimes that
do threaten our well-being are not com- mitted by terrorists or psychopathic, predatory strangers
lurking in urban shadows. Instead, those we trust most—relatives, intimate friends, and
acquaintances—are much more likely to be the perpetrators. • Most crimes, even violent crimes, do not
involve the use of a weapon, nor do they involve serious injury. • Most crimes, particularly violent
crimes, are intraracial, contradicting the stereotype’s subtle and not-so-subtle appeals to racism. • The
government remains silent on select crimes that profoundly affect citizens. They hide the prevalence
and harm of police crime, corporate crime, political crime, and corruption. They also direct attention
away from violent attacks on women and children by relatives, intimates, and acquaintances.
The socially constructed image of crime that emphasizes street crimes committed by the poor,
the young, and minority group members is substantially false and shifts public attention away from the
most serious threats of death and injury. Our picture of crime reflects a reality—criminal acts, arrests,
convictions, imprisonment, and so on—but this reality of crime is not a simple objective threat to which
the criminal justice system reacts: It is a reality that takes shape as it is filtered through a series of
human decisions running the full gamut of the criminal justice system—from the lawmakers who
determine what behavior shall be in the province of criminal justice to the law enforcers who decide
which individuals will be brought within that province. And it does not end with the criminal justice
system as such because the media—television, newspapers, and the Internet—contribute as well to the
image that people have of crime in our society. (Reiman & Leighton, 2017, p. 68)
As the opening quotation to this chapter warns, we need to determine the accuracy of the images
reflected in the criminal justice mirror.
Asking how much crime there is in the United States is a very tricky question. Crime statistics
must be treated with great caution and not an inconsiderable amount of skepticism. Two primary
questions must be asked about numbers purported to reflect the danger of crime in society. First, are
they measuring what they say they measure? Second, what is the source of these numbers, and does it
have something to gain from the way crime is presented to the public?
The most commonly recognized measures of crime in the United States are the FBI’s Uniform
Crime Reports. As mentioned in chapter 1, the International Association of Chiefs of Police formed the
Committee on Uniform Crime Records in 1929 (FBI, 2016a). The committee decided to use the standard
of “offenses known to law enforcement” for gathering information and included crimes based on their
seriousness, frequency of occurrence, commonality in all geographic locations, and likelihood of being
reported to law enforcement. In January 1930, 400 cities in 43 states began participating in the program.
By the end of that year, Congress authorized the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect, publish, and
archive the data. The reports are published annually and now include data reported voluntarily by over
18,000 county, city, state, federal, university/college, and tribal law enforcement agencies on crimes
brought to their attention.
“Offenses known to law enforcement” is an ambiguous phrase, difficult to define universally. In
general, the data consist of reports of crime received from victims, officers who discover infractions, or
other sources. Note that this does not mean that a crime has actually occurred. The only requirement is
that someone, somewhere, for some reason believed that a crime might have been committed and
reported it to the police. As Peter Manning (2009) notes, this means the police “control the flow of data
at source with no auditing, accountability, or alternative sources of information” (p. 453).
UCR Crime Categories Exaggerate Serious Crime
Seven categories of crimes were indexed in 1930: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter,
forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft; arson was
added in 1979. For its Uniform Crime Reports, the FBI distinguishes between serious and nonserious
offenses. Part I crimes are the serious felonies designated by the eight indexed categories. Part II crimes
are misdemeanors and less serious felonies. Reporting of offenses is limited to these crime
classifications, which are considered the most likely to be reported and the most likely to occur with
sufficient frequency across jurisdictions. UCR specifies that if multiple offenses are committed in a crime
incident, only the most serious offense should be reported. The only exception to this hierarchy rule is
the crime of arson, which is reported with the other most serious offense in a multiple- offense incident.
Police departments have a consistent record of overrating the seriousness of offenses they are
reporting. Equally confusing is the fact that no two police agencies classify crime in exactly the same
way, leading to highly unreliable counts (Manning, 2009; Sherman, 1998). Criminologists, and many
police agencies, acknowledge that “uniform” crime reporting is rarely the case (Simerman, 2013). A 157-
page handbook defines types of crimes and includes scenarios for agencies to follow when submitting
their data, but the choices made in categorizing certain crimes—especially assaults—have a major
impact on the numbers and crime rates reported. The handbook itself asserts that aggravated assault is
troublesome in terms of classification. Police are instructed to count one aggravated assault for each
victim significantly injured or when the assailant is armed. So how should an agency report a shooting at
a crowded event: one assault for each injured victim or an attempted aggravated assault for each
person in the line of fire in the crowd?
Murder is one of the most reliable statistics because it is almost always reported, and death is
not a subjective category. A high murder rate generally signals high levels of other crimes. New Orleans
had a murder rate in 2013 of 19 per 100,000 citizens. Flint, Michigan, had a rate of 13.7. Yet the violent
crime rate for Flint was 721.1 per 100,000 versus 473.9 for New Orleans. The mayor and police
superintendent in New Orleans acknowledge that the murder rate is high, but they tout their violent
crime rate as lower than Orlando, Florida. Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon
University, con- firms that discretion is involved when classifying simple versus aggravated assault. He
also notes that “to argue that you’re safer in the face of anomalous assault rates—that raises questions”
(Times-Picayune, 2013). Rick Rosenfeld, a criminologist at the University of Missouri, St. Louis,
specializes in crime statistics. “I find the growing gap between assaults and homicides to be very
puzzling. For New Orleans to exceed the national figure by that much requires a good deal of
imagination. The two real possibilities are that citizens have reduced the rate at which they’re reporting
these crimes to the police, or that police have changed the way in which they classify.”
The problem of classification is not new. Chambliss (1988) pointed out: The crime categories
used in the UCR are often ambiguous. For example, burglary requires the use of force for breaking and
entering in many states, but the FBI tells local police departments to report the crime as burglary simply
if there is unlawful entry. Merging these two types of offenses makes statistics on “burglary”
ambiguous. (p. 29)
The exaggeration of serious violent crime gives the false impression that street crime is more
dangerous and common than it actually is. It also under- reports crimes that occur in a family setting.
Crimes by relatives, friends, and acquaintances are often classified as less serious than crimes by
strangers. Instead of the crime of aggravated assault, many of these crimes are classified as
misdemeanor assault. In addition, crimes by intimates are far less likely to be reported because of victim
fear, embarrassment, and the personal and private nature of the crime (Allison & Wrightsman, 1993;
Eigen- berg, 2001).
The stated goal of collecting UCR data is to generate reliable information for use by law
enforcement administration and operations (FBI, 2016a). It is also used by criminologists, sociologists,
legislators, and the media for research and planning. To improve the usefulness of official statistics, a
new component was added to UCR data collection: The National Incident-Based Reporting System
(NIBRS). During the 1990s, the UCR began to transform its format from a summary to incident-based
statistics. NIBRS collects data on every incident and arrest for 23 crime categories of 49 specific crimes
called Group A offenses; it also collects arrest data only on 10 Group B offense categories. The data
collected include information about the victim, the offender, property involved, injury sustained, and
the circumstances of the incident (FBI 2016c). The 2015 NIBRS data included details on more than 5.6
million criminal offenses: 63% property offenses; 23% crimes against persons; 14% crimes against
society (drugs, gambling, pornography, prostitution, and weapons offenses). There were almost 6
million victims (an individual, a business, an institution, or society) and 4.6 million offenders; 6,648 law
enforcement agencies provided the information. NIBRS offers additional information on crime known to
the police. Non-reporting and police discretion can affect the reliability of the data gathered. As with
UCR data, NIBRS depends on voluntary reporting from police agencies, a fundamental flaw (Shelden,
Brown, Miller, & Fritzler, 2016).
The politics of policing has an effect on crime statistics. A police administrator can use crime
statistics to demonstrate the efficiency of his or her operation or a serious need for further funding
(Alpert et al., 2015). Police policies directly affect the publicized crime rate, which in turn affects police
policies and budgets. If the crime rate is too high, the public could criticize police departments for not
using resources efficiently—while departments would claim more resources are necessary. Conversely,
if the crime rate is low, the department takes credit for doing its job well, but the public could decide
that current levels of funding are too high.
Statistics Result from Social Processes
Joel Best (2012) notes that statistics are not just mathematical calculations; social processes
determine what is and is not counted. When we hear that some government agency has measured the
crime rate or the unemployment rate or the poverty rate, we need to realize that that agency has made
a series of choices that led to those numbers. We may also hear criticisms that those official statistics
are not really accurate, not because someone has failed to do the calculations correctly, but because the
critics think that figures based on different choices would be more valuable. No statistic can be
completely understood unless we appreciate the process of social construction that shaped its
production. . . . We live in a complicated world, and we need to be able to think critically about its
complexity. We cannot rely on our narrow personal experiences to tell us what is going on; we need
statistics to give us a broader, more accurate view. But if we are going to use numbers, we need to
understand the social processes that produce statistics—and what the limitations of those figures might
be. (pp. 182–183, 186)
Social scientists have demonstrated with regularity that statistics reporting crime are subject to
manipulation (as the New Orleans example above illustrates). President Richard Nixon (1969–1974)
instituted a crime-control experiment in Washington, DC, to demonstrate the effectiveness of his crimecontrol proposals for the nation. The Nixon administration wanted the crime rate to go down in order to
claim success. The crime rate did indeed go down—not because there was any less crime committed but
because of a change in the reporting of crime. The District of Columbia police simply began listing the
value of stolen property at less than $50, thereby removing a vast number of crimes from the felony
category and thus “reducing” the crime rate (Seidman & Couzens, 1974, p. 469). William Selke and
Harold Pepinsky (1984) studied crime-reporting practices over a thirty-year period in Indianapolis. They
found that local police officials could make the crime rate rise or fall, depending on political exigencies.
Serious questions have been raised over the years about whether crime data reported to the FBI
for inclusion in the UCR are routinely falsified by the reporting departments. The FBI instituted an
auditing program in 1997. However, the FBI conducts an audit in each state once every three years,
choosing 6 to 9 departments and reviewing a limited number of incidents (Poston, 2012). For example,
the FBI did not review the Milwaukee Police Department (the largest in Wisconsin) until 2012—and they
reviewed 60 incidents. Eli Silverman, professor emeritus at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said if
reviews are only cursory, it would be more candid not to con- duct an audit rather than giving the
pretense of checking validity. He commented that crime data “is a tool that politicians and poli…
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