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Defining and measuring crime


An act that is unlawful that is punishable by state is referred to us crime. In every age and nation all over the world, crime has always existed. Even powerful and great nations such as the United States have always been plagued by this ago old problem. In criminal law of these modern times there exists no definition that is universally accepted. The crime rates in the United States are usually treated as an approximate since most of the crimes that do take place usually goes unreported while the crime rate statistics are usually based on those that have been reported.

Classification of crime

Civil law and criminal law- Gaines, Michael , and Roger (2OOO), with the criminal law it focuses the attention to acts to individuals that are of intentional harm, but which looking from a broader perspective, these offences are against all of us( 75). The based example being when one breaks into another individual’s property it is a crime since it violates the safety and privacy of the occupants of the home, but additionally it depicts that everyone is not into a safe neighborhood. For the civil law, it mainly concerns dispute that do arise through acts of negligent or between private parties and do cause harm to others. Best examples include individuals or organizations differing who owns which building or land.

Misdemeanors and felonies– The crimes that are punishable by a jail term that does not exceed a year are referred to as misdemeanors. In some cases instead of one serving these jail terms in high security prisons, they usually serve them at a local county jail. The definition that is at times given to demeanors by some states is a crime that is not an infraction or a felony. Generally a high degree of flexibility is witnessed among the prosecutors in deciding how to punish certain types of crimes. Felonies on the other hand are crimes that are considered to be more serious. For these cases, what clearly defines them is the amount of time that one spends in jail which is usually over one year. Strict observations are witnessed in the procedures of the courtroom since the punishments associated with these cases are so severe so as to ensure that the rights of the defendants stay protected. The view of society towards these cases is severe and includes crimes like arson, rape, murder kidnapping or burglary. However, there exists a variety of ways in which the felonies can be punished in order to ensure that the crimes severity matches the punishment.

Mala in se and mala Prohibita– Mala in se crimes are those that are considered wrong of it and in self. For mala prohibita, it contrasts mala in se since are those crimes that are considered wrong because they have been prohibited (Gaines, Michael, and Roger, 2OOO, 78). The characteristic that distinguishes the mala in se crimes is not the severity but rather the general feeling of the citizenry of the being morally wrong hence no outside justification is required in order to prove their wrongness. Mala prohibita on the other hand are those crimes that are criminalized strictly by statutory law and statute. In the modern courts it has been observed that the amount of weight that is usually applied to them is minimal. Due to these, they usually incur punishments that are less serious. The characteristic that usually distinguishes the mala prohibita crimes is the fact that they are criminalized by the statutory in order to ensure that the society’s general behavior is regulated and not the lack of severity by them.

The uniform crime report

In reporting of the uniform crime program, the offences are generally groped into two broad groups. These are Part 1 offences and Part 2 offences. Part one offences include crimes such as robbery, forcible rape, burglary, criminal homicide and aggravated assault.

Criminal homicide includes a when a law enforcement officer kills a felon while on line of duty. Additionally it entails a private citizen killing a felony during felony commission; also when through gross negligence an individual kills the other. With forcible rape it includes when against the females will and individual forcibly gains carnal knowledge. Assaults with the intention to rape and rapes by force are included in the forcible rape regardless of the victim’s age.

With part 11 offences, only the data that pertaining to the crimes are collected. These offences mainly comprise of counterfeiting or forgery, embezzlement, vandalism, stolen property, commercialized vice and prostitution, drug abuse violations, gambling, liquor laws among the rest (Gaines, Michael, and Roger, 2OOO, 83).

Alternative measuring of crime

Victim surveys– In employing this method, different individuals are interviewed with the aim of ascertaining if previously they have been victims of crime associated with a particular individual or a certain crime. There are a number of advantages that are associated with employing surveys as a means of measuring crime. These include, information regarding incidences that the police might not have recorded as crime could be realized. Additionally data on offenders, victims and crimes themselves are generated by conducting surveys about crimes.

Self reported surveys– According to Gaines, Michael, and Roger (2OOO), with this type of measuring crime; information is sought from respondents if they have been involved in criminal or delinquent behavior and their frequency in doing so if they have been involved (88). There are certain methods of data collection employed and include the random response technique and the computer based audio assisting interviewing that greatly increases the accuracy of the results achieved. These method as an alternative means of measuring crime has found extensive use both internationally and in the United States.

Trends of crimes in the United States

In the United States the years that crime greatly increased is in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of the reasons that can be attributed to the rise in these crimes are mainly the Warren court creating rules that were criminal friendly, militant groups being on the rise, Hawaii and Alaska being incorporated into the crime rate census and civil rights movement rousing tensions. The year by which the crime rates reached the peak in the United States reached the peak was in the year 1980.

According to Gaines, Michael, and Roger (2OOO), the amount of drugs being shipped to the United States was on the rise in the early 1980s. Mainly it used to come through the Dominican Republic and Bahamas and usually landed in Miami (90).These resulted to the Islands having cocaine powder in a huge glut. The net effect of these was cocaine witnessed a great drop of prices. The dealers resulted to make crack by converting the powder, with crack, one could smoke cocaine and additionally it was capable of being smoked in quantities that were smaller. Additionally it was easy to produce, cheap and returned large amounts of profits on the sides of the dealers. This attracted many dealers into the industry a factor that led to high competition and bitter rivalry. As a result there was a wide increase in the number of crimes that were associated to drug wars.

Gaines, Michael, and Roger (2OOO) suggest that from the early 1990s the crime rates in the United States was witnessed to drop, with a steep decline being experienced especially in the tear 1994 (93). Everything looked good since statistics in burglary, homicide, and auto theft all were on the decline. Hence the 1990s and the 2000s seemed like the golden era. The lower crime rates during these periods could be attributed to a robust economy, lower population among the individuals in the age bracket of committing crimes and the tactics that were employed by the police during these periods such as the zero tolerance policies. Furthermore, most criminals associated with the drug wars in the 1980s had been killed hence it helped in Making the United States a safer place (Gaines, Michael, and Roger, 2OOO, 93).


Crime has been witnessed all over the world and even in developed and powerful nations such as the United States. Generally it has been witnessed that in most urban cities in the United States, the crime rates are linked to poverty and not race. These are mainly from various researches that were conducted in neighborhoods that were greatly disadvantaged among the blacks and the whites. Men in the United States have been witnessed to highly participate in crime than there women counterparts. These results were achieved at through comparison of the number of men and women that have been incarcerated in the United States.

Works cited

Gaines, Larry K, Michael Kaune, and Roger L. R. Miller. Criminal Justice in Action. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2000. Print.