Tagged: statistics

Dubious CJCJ Report Claims that Republican Counties Suffer from More Violent Crime

California, like the rest of the country, suffered a major increase in homicide in 2020. The Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice (CJCJ) has released a report by Mike Males that presents differences between Republican- and Democratic-voting counties (identified by majority voting Democrat in 2020) in terms of homicide rates. He argues that Republican counties tend to have higher homicide rates, stating that: “the clearest difference between areas that have cut crime substantially and those suffering the worst crime trends and rates is not geographic nor demographic, but how they vote – Republican versus Democratic.” However, this report ignores a number of important variables that could be obscuring this finding. Namely, Republican-voting counties tend to be more rural, suburban, and overall have a lower median income when compared with Democratic-voting counterparts, all of which could also impact homicide rates. The classic phrase to remember here is: “correlation does not equal causation.”

It is perplexing why a researcher would compare two groups that are vastly different from each other without attempting to control for outside factors that might differ between groups, such as geography or population size. As a result, the groups are not entirely comparable because they are not similar enough; in this situation researchers would need to apply adequate statistical controls to account for these differences, something that is missing from this analysis. Ideally, a well-conducted study would attempt to control for all factors that differ between counties, except for the political affiliation, i.e., the main variable of interest. Continue reading . . .

Recent BJS Report Examines 10-year Recidivism Rates of State Prisoners

As stated in a recent Bill Otis’s post on Wednesday, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) recently released a report that examines 10-year recidivism patterns of prisoners released in 2008 from 24 states. The study has a lengthy follow-up period of ten years, which is useful in tracking recidivism rates over time. A similar report was released on the topic in July 2021 that included data from 34 states, but the follow-up period was only five years (2012-2017). Similarly, BJS also released a report in May 2018 that examined recidivism rates of offenders from 30 states with a nine-year follow-up period. Extending the follow-up period allows researchers to examine recidivism patterns over longer periods of time, which is one of the main benefits of the current study.

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The Future of Crime Data in Policing

January 1, 2021 marked the end of an era when the FBI officially retired the nearly 100-year old Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system in lieu of a more comprehensive option known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The UCR, otherwise referred to as “simple summary reporting” (SRS) was introduced in 1929, and essentially reported aggregated counts of crimes at monthly and yearly intervals for participating law enforcement agencies. NIBRS was introduced in 1982 in an attempt to modernize the UCR, emphasizing incident-level data collection rather than aggregate-level. The purpose of this was to provide more detail and context about each incident (e.g. details on victims or offenders of crime, characteristics of the incident) to improve crime data quality (and quantity). The comprehensive data collected via NIBRS would allow for more opportunities to analyze patterns of crime and apply it to the field. However, one downside of NIBRS is that data are more burdensome for law enforcement agencies to collect. Further, participation in both UCR and NIBRS is voluntary for law enforcement agencies, meaning that additional burden might affect participation rates. Not surprisingly, participation rates are typically higher for the UCR, making it the preferred official source for reported crime data up until very recently. Continue reading . . .