Crime in a Free Society: Selections from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice

By Robert W. Winslow | Go to book overview

3 Criminal statistics
—an urgently needed resource *

Over 30 years ago a distinguished Commission appointed by the President of the United States to study crime and propose measures for its control reported serious deficiencies in essential information at the national level.Calling "accurate data * * * the beginning of wisdom," the Wickersham Commission recommended development of a "comprehensive plan" for a "complete body of statistics covering crime, criminals, criminal justice, and penal treatment" at the Federal, State, and local levels and the entrusting of this plan at the Federal level to a single agency. 1

Had this recommendation been adopted, the present Commission would not have been forced in 1967 to rely so often on incomplete information or to conclude so frequently that important questions could not be answered.

Given the importance of sound data to both crime control and public understanding, it is hard to believe that such basic facts as the trend of juvenile delinquency, the percent of crimes committed by professional criminals, or the likelihood of recidivism are beyond the capacity of our present statistical resources. In some respects the present system is not as good as that used in some European countries 100 years ago.There are no national and almost no State or local statistics at all in a number of important areas: the courts, probation, sentencing, and the jails. 2 There are important deficiencies in those statistics which are collected.There is no reliable measure of the extent of organized crime and no satisfactory test for police performance. In short, the United States is today, in the era of the high speed computer, trying to keep track of crime and criminals with a system that was less than adequate in the days of the horse and buggy.

In other areas our society has not been so cavalier about the

____________________
*
This chapter was prepared in conjunction with the Task Force on Science and Technology.
1
U.S. National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement, Report on Criminal Justice ( Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931), pp. 3, 6 (hereinafter cited as Wickersham Statistics Report).
2
The Administrative Office of the Courts publishes statistics for the Federal courts and for Federal probation, and some individual States have good statistics regarding some parts of the criminal justice system.

-73-

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Crime in a Free Society: Selections from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Crime in a Free Society - Selections from the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Administration of Justice *
  • Preface iii
  • Contents v
  • 1: Introduction 1
  • 2: The Amount and Trends of Crime 34
  • 3: Criminal Statistics —an Urgently Needed Resource 73
  • 4: The Etiology of Crime 106
  • 5: The Ecology of Crime 142
  • 6: Professional Crime 163
  • 7: White-Collar Crime 175
  • 8: Organized Crime 191
  • 9: Narcotics and Drug Abuse 217
  • 10: Drunkenness Offenses 248
  • 11: The Police 257
  • 12: The Courts 289
  • 13: Corrections 324
  • 14: A National Strategy 361
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