Assignment: Violent Crime Stats Portfolio
Many chapters of the textbook present official crime data to describe patterns and dynamics associated with specific forms of violence. The purpose of this assignment is to further an understanding of violent crime by performing original analysis and interpretation of official crime data. To that end, for this assignment students will: (1) access publicly available crime/victimization data (UCR or NCVS data); (2) analyze the data; and (3) put together a one-page report or “Fact Sheet” describing their findings in both visual and textual form. By this I mean the Fact Sheet should include a concise, informative chart, graph or figure of violent crime prevalence or trends (the data analysis part) that is accompanied by a one-paragraph explanation of patterns evident in the data. Students will then do this two more times and compile everything (all three analyses) into a Violent Crime Facts Portfolio that consists of three Fact Sheets with original analyses of official violent crime data.
The analysis should describe some feature of the specific crime in relation to another variable. For example, a very simple analysis for a fact sheet would be to examine trends in U.S. homicide rates from 1960-2014 using UCR data (see related example on pg. 78). Many variations are possible. For example, instead someone might want to examine homicide rates in the South over this time period, or only homicides in Florida during these years.1 Another example might be to analyze how aggravated assault rates differ for males versus females using NCVS data. Perhaps males are victims of assault more often than females or it may be the opposite, but we’ll see what the data says. This would represent the analysis and the report would simply describe these findings in brief detail. As you will see once you begin to access to the crime data (described below), there are a variety of analyses that can be performed by simply examining some feature of a specific crime (i.e., number of aggravated assaults in a given year) in relation to another variable (i.e., percentage of those assaults against males vs. females).
While students can choose to analyze all forms of violent crime together (e.g., violent crime rates), they are encouraged to base each of their analysis on a specific crime as in the above examples (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, sexual assault, etc.). Were it me, I would pick three different offenses – one for each Fact Sheet – but I see no issue if students wanted to examine homicide rates over time in one sheet, regional differences in homicide in the second, and method of death in homicides in the third.
Formatting, Style and Design
When preparing your one-page reports, I want you to model them after the “Facts Sheets” used by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC). For example, here is an AIC Fact Sheet that used Australian crime data to examine the locations for motor vehicle theft in 2001 (cfi047), or report the number of motor vehicle theft offenses by month from 1995-2002 (cfi071). Although
- To be sure, the “feature of the specific crime” in all such examples is the rate of homicide while the “other variable” is time represented by years.
Page 1 of 5
these examples explore a common property crime, similar analyses are possible for violent offenses (our focus; do not pick a property crime for this assignment). For example, here are AIC reports that examined a variety of interrelated characteristics related to bank robberies in Australia (cfi053), types of weapons used in serious crime (cfi158), patterns in murder-suicide offenses (cfi176), trends in recorded sexual assault (cfi105), or even more specific on that subject, sexual assaults against men (cfi170). For even more AIC examples, go to the full list here. To be sure, I want you to model each fact sheet in your portfolio like the AIC examples in terms of substance and content but you can discard info in the headers.2
As in the examples above, each Fact Sheet should include a visual of the data (that you will have to create) that forms the basis of the analysis. This should be in the form of a chart, figure, or graphic – try not to use tables as that would simply be a replica of how the data looked when it was obtained (see methods of accessing data described below). Such visuals are most easily created in a program like Excel and then imported or copied into your word processor. If you are unsure how to do this consult the Internet – a simple search of “create graphs in Excel” or “create figures in Excel” generate numerous videos and webpages describing how to create charts in Excel and export them to a word processor like Word. As for design, the chart, figure, or graphic you choose usually depends on the nature of data and analysis itself. For example, prevalence data using percentages is probably best depicted using pie or bar charts, while data that examines crime trends over time (e.g., rates of homicide from 1960-2014) is most appropriately displayed using a line chart. Again, the Internet sources mentioned above will help in this regard and Excel has a feature that will recommend various charts based on the selected data.
As for your portfolio as a whole, you should include a cover page and table of contents that lists each report in chronological order. This means your assignment should be no more than 5 pages in length that consists of three sections: a (1) Title Page, (2) Table of Contents, and (3) three one-page Facts Sheets.
To summarize most of the above, to complete the assignment you will need to do the following:
- Access the UCR or other measure of violent crime (e.g., NCVS)
- Download some portion of the data that is relevant to your violent crime idea/question
- Perform an analysis of the downloaded data in Excel or similar program
- Produce a graph, figure or table (preferably a figure or graphic) displaying the results.
- Write a brief (one paragraph) report about what the analysis revealed (what do the results show you?) and be sure to interpret the findings in clear and concise detail.
- In your written report, be sure to clearly identify where the data was obtained and interpret findings with the appropriate unit of measurement consistent with the data (e.g., percentages, frequency, rate per 100,000 population, etc.)
- Give the graph, chart, or figure an appropriate title that describes what it is about (e.g., Homicide rates in the U.S. per 100,000 population, 1960-2014). Be sure to label all axis, column headings, data series, or legends as appropriate (this will of course depend on the type of figure, chart, graphic you decide to use and best represent the data).