One of the standard facets of criminal justice researches is the collection of field data. While collecting the data there are some standard factors to be considered. Each project will be having some unique factors that determine how the field run would occur. One of the major aspects that have to be considered while going for data collection is that, the selection of the data collection team. Notifications, as well as travel arrangements, has to be made. While organizing the team the following things have to be considered. They are considered skills needed, time frames, and transportation issues. All the members of the team should be able to work as a team and their skills should be admired in nature. Freedom should be given to staff members about the choice of the team they would like to work with. Moreover, the assignment of a person with responsibilities of a group is compulsory; along with him the appointment of a backup leader will be most appropriate to meet contingency situations if necessary.
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Another important aspect to be considered is planning well in advance. The data collection team should be a well-trained team. Before going for field trips, it is important to plan the activities. This would help in collecting the data accurately and efficiently. Regular meetings and briefings with supervisors should be given priority.
While going for field research, the following points are worth to note, they are, selecting the data collecting instruments for each subject, list of sites, subjects along with their contact information, geographical maps aiding the study of each site along with meeting places, and hotels, hotel reservations, and contact information.
The leader that is selected for the investigating group should be having more experience than his team members. The leader should be responsible for holding meetings regularly for clearing doubts as well as making reviews and giving directions. During the orientation meetings, the leader should be supplied with samples of completed works so that they could examine these and suggest clarifications at the earliest. Critical and problematic locations should be noted and handed over to the most experienced members.
It is an ideal practice to conduct a pre-data run briefing during the first week of collecting the data. All persons responsible for data collection should attend the meeting. Useful and valuable demonstrations can be made during such meetings. During these meetings, it should be clearly noted that all the data collecting instruments should be clearly explained. Moreover, all the coding and other related items should also be explained. There should be an open-minded approach to questions.
Always reiterate the importance of providing the answer to each and every item. Every missing data should be noted and proper explanation should be sought. The staff members should be compelled to review each competed work immediately. It is also appropriate to remind everyone to keep a record of receipts as well as mileage documents. The policies on travel and reimbursement should be reiterated.
When going for criminal justice research, the following items should be compulsorily included so that data collection becomes foolproof and efficient. They are extra batteries and films, extra pens, extra instruments like surveys, etc, clipboards and binders, telephone books and maps, lists of contacts, information about hotels, lists of subjects, driving instructions, and last but not the least GPS units.
Checking the status of research teams engaged in the collection of criminal justice researches is also very important during the course of research. It is also necessary to collect the completed instruments and check for completeness as early as possible.
What is UCR?
The uniform crime reporting program, better known as a UCR was conceived in the year 1929 by the international association of police chiefs in order to meet the necessity of reliable, uniform crime statistics for the country as well as for the whole world. During the 1930s the FBI was entrusted with the task of collection, publishing, and archiving of criminal statistics. Nowadays there are many statistical publications like Crime in the United States, that are printed using data collected by more than 17000 law enforcement agencies engaged in the US (Uniform Crime Reports).
The data reporting in the United States is done by the FBI annually. The data is collected and compiled and reported by the uniform crime reporting program and published in the “Crime in the United States”, an annual magazine. The national index for crime increased nearly 2.1% in the year 2001. This increase was the first to be reported since 1991. However, when the trends were examined, the crime rate was down by 10.2% when compared to the data of 1997 and 17.9% down when compared with 1992 statistics.
Helping as a gauge of the level and scope of American crime knowledge, the FBI reports four major crimes. They are murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. Moreover, there are three property crimes namely, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, etc.
Data released by the UCR program of the FBI reports that there is a 2.1% increase of criminal offenses in the country, this data was based on the study conducted in the year 2001. Moreover, according to the report, the violent crimes had an increase of 0.8% when compared with the previous year. However, the trend of murders across the country had a decline of 12.2%. The reports also suggested that nearly 42.3% of the murder victims had knowledge about their assailants. Nearly one-third of the female victims were killed by their husbands or boyfriends (U.S. Crime Index Increases).
With regard to the collection and compilation of statistics, the UCR program aims to collect the best and the most meaningful statistics related to the crime for the police administrators. The program collects the data on known crimes and also persons that are arrested by law enforcement agencies. They do not gather data on the findings of a jury, a court, coroner, or the findings of a prosecutor.
Talking about reporting offenses, the UCR program limits its reporting to eight selected crimes. These crimes are most likely to happen with adequate regularity to make available an ample foundation for evaluation.
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As far as information regarding arrests is concerned, the UCR Program collects data relating to arrests on part 1 crimes as well as 21 other offenses. In a significant development, in 2004 the CJIS advisory policy board recommended and implemented the discontinuation of the use of crime index in the UCR program. The board recommended that the FBI should publish a violent and property crime index. This was because of the fact that the crime index failed to act as a true indicator of the degree of crimes in a locality.
Nonreporting about different types of crimes by the law enforcement agencies has prompted the UCR to estimate crime at metropolitan statistical areas, state levels, and national levels. When there is nonreporting of data from agencies, the UCR program staff assigns similar crime volumes based on the crime statistics of comparable areas inside a state.
Although the UCR program does not address unreported crime, another program named NCVS (national crime victimization survey) reports such crimes. The programs of the UCR and the NCVS were designed to help each other. However, the two programs use different methodologies.
Comparison of crimes between these two programs is not possible because of the difference in methodologies. These two programs examine the crimes from different perspectives.
The word classifying and scoring have different meanings in UCR programs.
Classifying means determining the proper crime category and scoring is counting the number of classified offenses (The National consortium for justice information and statistics).
In order to expand the UCR program to meet the law enforcement needs of the 21st century, the FBI and BJS formed and implemented the National incident-based reporting system. This system collects data on each and every reported crime incident. Under the UCR system, the law enforcement agencies total the number of incidents by offense type on a monthly basis and report to the FBI, whereas, under the NIBRS system, agencies will provide individual records for each crime.
The UCR program gathers offense information on part 1 crimes such as homicides, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and arson. The program supplies inadequate information regarding offenses, victims, and criminals and includes accounted arrests for 21 supplementary crime categories. Under the new system, the law establishments would supply information to the FBI on every single illegal event that occupies 46 exact offenses and also includes the eight-part 1 crimes that occur in their authority. Moreover, arrest information on the 46 offenses along with 11 small offenses is also provided under NIBRS.
The goal of the NIBRS system is to enhance the quality and quantity of criminal justice data. This system involves comprehensive data collection at the incident level on various aspects of reported criminal incidents. An important advantage of this system over UCR is that this system records and counts all offenses, not just serious offenses as done under UCR. NIBRS provides more categories of offenses than UCR. The crimes are divided into two categories namely group A which includes 22 serious crimes and group B which includes 11 lesser crimes.
The change from summary data collection to a broader framework of incident-based data collection is not totally complete. Offense statistics were received by the FBI from the NIBRS from the year 1989. In the year 2001, only 21 state coverage programs were acquiescent. The involvement of this program is rising progressively on the other hand the data is not invasive enough to make broader simplifications about crime in the United States. Moreover reduced reporting is also a big problem for the new system. On the basis of several studies conducted in this area, it was found that the new system is worth the endeavor and expenditure occupied in its full completion (Survey of Criminal Justice).
- FIELD DATA COLLECTION. 2004. CENTER FOR CRIIMIINAL JUSTICE RESEARCH California State University, San Bernardino. (online). Web.
- The National consortium for justice information and statistics. (online).
- Survey of Criminal Justice. (online).
- Uniform Crime Reports. FBI. (online).
- U.S. Crime Index Increases, FBI Reports. (online). Web.