June 7, 2015
Assignment 2: Defining and Measuring Crime A crime is an act so reprehensible that it is considered a wrong against society as a whole, as well as against the individual victim (Gaines & Miller, 2015). So if this is the definition of a crime then why does this definition get changed based on social and political climate change. Why do we have such a hard time defining crime? Who do the crime statistics reflect and what types of measurements are used to measure crime. We as a people have different thoughts and moral ideas about how we live our lives. What happens when it comes to defining something like crime? We have a hard time narrowing down all of our ideas into one set definition. For example you take drug laws, what makes one drug illegal while another that does the same thing to a person legal. Like the textbook put it, if it isn’t based on science or medicine then what is the drug law based on (Gaines & Miller, 2015). The definition for these is all based on mala prohibita, some drugs are considered illegal while others are not because of what the society feels is right in their eyes. Over a century ago many drugs like cocaine were considered useful for medicinal purposes. But societal views have changed and no longer is cocaine a legal drug. One thing that is legal is alcohol and tobacco not because of their medicinal help or the safety of there use but because the law and society state they are acceptable. To be honest more people are killed because of the use of alcohol and tobacco then anyone using cocaine but society feels that they are accepted and therefore the law stands behind the definition of what a drug is. Why is it so hard to measure and define crime?
Our society was built to offer everyone the ability to have “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but crime takes away from that happiness. Crime as stated before is an act against society but why does our definition change. For example the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data system once defined rape only if it was against a female and forcibly against her will, they have since changed that to state penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim. Before cases of sodomy, and sexual assault with an object were not reported on the UCR because they were not rape under the old definition. The problem with specifically defining crimes and reporting statistical data based on the definitions some crimes go without being reported. In the eyes of society crimes like sodomy and sexual assault no matter how it was done were considered rape, but under the definition those crimes went uncounted. Rape is not the only instance this occurs and thus it is hard to define a crime and measure accurately what crime is occurring. Also with this in mind it brings up the question of what is the information reflecting on, the crime and criminal or the person collecting the information?
Crime statistics are so variable that it is hard to determine who is being reflected in the statistics. Do to the fact that the information is voluntary it brings up the thought of, is this department trying to make their area seem better than it is. If a governmental agency wants their city to look good to big name companies for example they don’t want the UCR to show them having a high crime rate. Information then can be not added to their inputting for the UCR and thus making themselves look better. Like the textbook pointed out there is scattered evidence that some local police departments manipulate their crime reports (Gaines & Miller, 2015). So because of the fact the information is voluntary and put it by the local agencies it would seem that the statistics therefore reflect the person inputting the information more than the actual crimes and criminals. If this is the case then what other types of measurements