If we cant measure it, it doesnt exist.  This is a popular saying in the world of science.  To measure the magnitude and prevalence of a crime problem, criminologists have formulated different ways to measure crime (i.e., self surveys, secondary analysis, review of official arrest records, and victim surverys).  The readings from weak 4 speaks to the strengths and weakenesses of these methods.  In 850 words or more, please 1) tell me which method is most accurate and why, what are the limitations of each method, and what are the strengths of each.


Week 4 readings

If you cant Measure it, it doesn’t exist.

Gelman, A., Fagan, J., & Kiss, A. (2007). An analysis of the New York City police department’s “stop-and-frisk” policy in the context of claims of racial bias. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 102(479), 813-823.

Durlauf, S. N. (2005). Racial profiling as a public policy question: Efficiency, equity, and ambiguity. American Economic Review, 95(2), 132-136.

Warren, P. Y., & Tomaskovic‐Devey, D. (2009). Racial profiling and searches: Did the politics of racial profiling change police behavior?. Criminology & Public Policy, 8(2), 343-369.

Harrison, L. D. (1995). The validity of self-reported data on drug use. Journal of Drug Issues, 25(1), 91-111.

Rengert, G., Chakravorty, S., Bole, T., & Henderson, K. (2000). A geographic analysis of illegal drug markets. Crime Prevention Studies, 11, 219-240.

Curtis, R., & Wendel, T. (2000). Toward the development of a typology of illegal drug markets. Crime prevention studies, 11, 121-152.




Evaluating Methods of Measuring Crime: Accuracy, Limitations, and Strengths

In the realm of criminology, the ability to measure crime accurately is crucial for understanding the magnitude and prevalence of criminal activities within a society. Various methods have been developed by criminologists to measure crime, including self-surveys, secondary analysis, review of official arrest records, and victim surveys. Each method has its own set of strengths and limitations that impact its accuracy in capturing the true extent of criminal behavior. This essay will explore and compare these methods, highlighting their respective strengths and weaknesses to determine which method is most accurate in measuring crime.



– Self-surveys allow individuals to report their own involvement in criminal activities, providing insights into underreported crimes that may not be captured through official channels.
– They offer a level of anonymity that can encourage more honest responses from participants regarding their criminal behavior.


– Self-surveys are prone to response bias, as individuals may underreport or overreport their involvement in criminal activities based on social desirability or fear of repercussions.
– They may not capture crimes that individuals are unaware of committing or crimes that they are unwilling to disclose.

Secondary Analysis


– Secondary analysis utilizes existing data sources, such as government reports or academic studies, to analyze trends and patterns in crime.
– It provides a cost-effective way to access large datasets and historical information on criminal activities.


– The quality of secondary data sources can vary, leading to potential inaccuracies in the analysis.
– It may be limited by the scope and focus of the original data collection, restricting the breadth of crimes that can be analyzed.

Review of Official Arrest Records


– Official arrest records offer concrete data on reported crimes and arrests made by law enforcement agencies.
– They provide a standardized and structured source of information that can be used for comparative analysis across different regions or time periods.


– Official arrest records only capture crimes that have been reported to and processed by law enforcement, excluding unreported or unresolved criminal activities.
– They may be influenced by biases within the criminal justice system, such as racial profiling or disparities in enforcement practices.

Victim Surveys


– Victim surveys collect information from individuals who have been directly affected by crime, offering a unique perspective on victimization rates and experiences.
– They can capture crimes that have not been reported to law enforcement agencies, providing a more comprehensive view of criminal activities.


– Victim surveys rely on respondents’ ability to recall and report incidents accurately, which can be influenced by trauma, memory bias, or other factors.
– They may not capture crimes against certain populations or demographics that are less likely to participate in surveys.


While each method of measuring crime has its own strengths and limitations, no single method can be deemed as the most accurate in isolation. Combining multiple methods and triangulating data from different sources can provide a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of crime trends and patterns. By acknowledging the strengths and limitations of each method, criminologists can strive towards developing more robust and reliable measures of crime that contribute to evidence-based policymaking and effective crime prevention strategies.


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