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  • Measuring Crime Behind the Statistics

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    SERIES EDITORS Nicholas Fisher, University of Sydney, Australia Nicholas Horton, Amherst College, MA, USA

    Deborah Nolan, University of California, Berkeley, USA Regina Nuzzo, Gallaudet University, Washington, DC, USA

    David J Spiegelhalter, University of Cambridge, UK


    Errors, Blunders, and Lies: How to Tell the Difference David S. Salsburg

    Visualizing Baseball Jim Albert

    Data Visualization: Charts, Maps and Interactive Graphics Robert Grant

    Improving Your NCAA® Bracket with Statistics Tom Adams

    Statistics and Health Care Fraud: How to Save Billions Tahir Ekin

    Measuring Crime: Behind the Statistics Sharon Lohr

    For more information about this series, please visit: https://www.crcpress.com/go/asacrc

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  • Measuring Crime Behind the Statistics

    Sharon Lohr Professor Emerita of Statistics at Arizona State University

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  • CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group 6000 Broken Sound Parkway NW, Suite 300 Boca Raton, FL 33487-2742

    © 2019 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC CRC Press is an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group, an Informa business

    No claim to original U.S. Government works

    Printed on acid-free paper Version Date: 20190205

    International Standard Book Number-13: 978-0-367-19231-0 (Hardback) International Standard Book Number-13: 978-1-138-48907-3 (Paperback)

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    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

    Names: Lohr, Sharon L., 1960- author. Title: Measuring crime : behind the statistics / Sharon L. Lohr. Description: Boca Raton, FL : CRC Press, 2019. | Includes index. Identifiers: LCCN 2018055918| ISBN 9781138489073 (pbk. : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780367192310 (hardback : alk. paper) | ISBN 9780429201189 (ebook) Subjects: LCSH: Criminal statistics. Classification: LCC HV7415 .L64 2019 | DDC 364.072/7--dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018055918

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  • Contents

    Preface vii

    Chapter 1 � Thinking Statistically about Crime 1

    Chapter 2 � Homicide 9

    Chapter 3 � Police Statistics 21

    Chapter 4 � National Crime Victimization Survey 37

    Chapter 5 � Sampling Principles and the NCVS 51

    Chapter 6 � NCVS Measurement and Missing Data 63

    Chapter 7 � Judging the Quality of a Statistic 81

    Chapter 8 � Sexual Assault 97


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  • vi � Contents

    Chapter 9 � Fraud and Identity Theft 113

    Chapter 10 � Big Data and Crime Statistics 125

    Chapter 11 � Crime Statistics, 1915 and Beyond 137

    Glossary and Acronyms 149

    For Further Reading 153

    Index 155

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  • Preface

    We all want less crime. But how can you tell whether crime has gone up or down?

    Measuring Crime: Behind the Statistics helps you think sta- tistically about crime. What makes some measures of crime more trustworthy than others? What features should you look for when deciding whether a statistic provides useful information?

    The same ways of thinking can help you interpret statistics about unemployment, public opinion, time spent commuting, out- of-pocket medical expenses, high school graduation rates, seat belt use, smoking prevalence, automobile safety, and poverty rates.

    You do not need a prior background in statistics or mathemat- ics (beyond arithmetic) to read this book. There are no formu- las or Greek symbols. The main ideas of statistical reasoning are discussed through examining the sources and properties of crime statistics. If you have taken one or more statistics classes, this book will give you a different perspective on the concepts you learned there.

    You also do not need to be a professional statistician to investi- gate the data yourself. I describe examples of crime statistics and investigations that have been conducted on their quality, but do not present a comprehensive picture of crime in the United States. My goal is to help you evaluate statistics as a statistician would, so that you can find and interpret crime statistics on topics you are interested in.

    The website http://www.sharonlohr.com has two online sup- plements with additional information. Exploring the Data tells how to obtain the data sources discussed in this book. To learn more about the statistical methods and examples, check Endnotes and References. It lists all of the sources used in the book, gives addi- tional details and analysis for selected topics, and provides sugges- tions for further exploration.

    I suggest reading Chapters 1 through 7 in sequence, as each depends on material in earlier chapters. Chapters 8 to 11 can be


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  • viii � Preface

    read in any order after that. Chapter 1 outlines the topics in each chapter.

    I am grateful to the persons who read parts of the book and gave many helpful suggestions for improvement: Barry Nussbaum, Howard Snyder, Mike Brick, David Cantor, Rose Weitz, Norma Hubele, Lynn Hayner, and the series editors and reviewers for CRC Press. Jill Brenner and the Writers Connection group at the Tempe Public Library listened patiently on Friday afternoons to readings from a statistics book and reminded me to “show, not tell.”

    I’d also like to thank editor extraordinaire John Kimmel, who encouraged me to write the book and gently prodded me about deadlines, and the entire production team at CRC Press.

    And finally, a big thank you to Doug, my partner in crime and everything else.

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  • C H A P T E R 1

    Thinking Statistically about Crime

    THE HEADLINE of the February 2018 news story drew mein: “94%: Sexual misconduct in Hollywood is staggering.”The story continued: The first number you see is 94% — and your eyes pop with incredulity. But it’s true: Almost every one of hun- dreds of women questioned in an exclusive survey by USA TODAY said they have experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault during their careers in Hollywood.

    Almost all of the women who participated in the survey said they experienced sexual harassment or assault. But what about women who did not participate?

    We can’t tell from this survey. The USA Today story acknowl- edged this: “As a self-selected sample, it is not scientifically repre- sentative of the entire industry.”

    Why don’t the results from this survey generalize to all women who work in Hollywood?

    • E-mail invitations for the survey were sent only to members of two advocacy organizations: The Creative Coalition, and Women in Film and Television. All survey participants have joined an organization that raises awareness about issues such as public funding for the arts and gender parity in the screen industries. Their experiences and perceptions likely differ from those of non-joiners.


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  • 2 � Thinking Statistically about Crime

    • Altogether, 843 women participated in the survey. The story does not say how many were asked to participate, so we do not know what percentage of women responded to the survey invitati