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CRCJ 2334 Intro to Criminal Justice System

Strengths and Weaknesses- Always ask "Why?"

Statistics should be gathered and analyzed according to established methods that have been proven effective over time.  This is call the methodology.  A simple question you can ask yourself that will help you identify the strengths and weaknesses of any given methodology is WHY:

  • Why did the researcher/organization choose this method?  The reasons will reveal the perceived strengths of the methodology, and conversely the weaknesses of others. The researcher/organization may even explain this explicitly in the methodology section of reports and articles. 
  • Why were changes made?  If changes were made to a particular method or standard that usually means that some weakness was discovered and needs to be corrected.  Occasionally there are other forces at work such as political motivations, economic factors, or logistical challenges which are also helpful to understand. 
  • Why is this required?  Why was this law enacted?  For things like the Clery Act, for example, it can be helpful to research the motivations behind passing the act or law.  This will reveal the weaknesses of previous methods or standards and the expected strengths of the new method or standard.

How to think about crime statistics

Questions to ask yourself when thinking about statistics:

  • Who is likely or unlikely to participate in this survey?  Or who is likely to be counted or not counted by this method? 
  • Would factors like gender identity, cultural shame, economic disadvantage, racial bias, citizenship status, or other contextual elements affect the way this crime is documented or reported?
  • What agency or entity is gathering or reporting this information?  Just in the Dallas-Fort Worth area there are multiple overlapping jurisdictions and law enforcement organizations including:
    • College campuses (ex. UTA)
    • Transportation systems (ex. DART)
    • Counties (ex. Tarrant)
    • Cities (ex. City of Arlington)
    • Military Bases (ex. Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth)
    • State-wide law enforcement agencies (ex. Texas Rangers, Texas Game Wardens)
    • Nationwide-law enforcement agencies (ex. FBI, United States Postal Inspection Service)  

Crime Statistics- Background Reading

Non-Scholarly Sources

The sites listed below include non-profits, media sites, and books written for a general audience- they are NOT scholarly sourcesHowever, that does not automatically mean that the information provided is inaccurate or wrong.

Think of these sources like the movie version of a book- sometimes the movie holds very closely to the events and themes of the source material, and sometimes it seems like the director never read the book at all.  You must use critical thinking and comparison with other sources to decide how accurate or well-supported their arguments are.

In addition to asking yourself the questions below, scan for keywords you encounter that can be used to research  scholarly sources.

  • What is the mission statement or goal of the organization?
  • Who compiled the information?  What are their credentials or area of expertise?
  • What kinds of sources do they cite?  Academic?  News articles?  Do they not provide citations at all?
  • Can you find the raw data they used to make their claims?  Is it clear what they did with the data to come to their conclusions?