According to the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) (1960 – 1995), which is the official arrest statistics, both males and females are tend to be arrested because of less serious offenses. The five most common arrest categories are other except traffic, driving under the influence (DUI), larceny-theft, drug abuse, and other assaults. While arrests for serious crimes like murder, arson, and embezzlement are rare for both males and females. The pattern of change is similar for both sexes as well. These 35 years have witnessed large increases in larceny-theft, fraud, DUI, drug violations, and assault in both male and female crimes.
Similarly, the decreases in drunkenness, sex offenses, vagrancy, suspicion, and gambling are witnessed in both sexes. As the authors indicates in their chapter, this similar pattern of change suggests that both males and females were affected by similar social changes and legal forces, and females were not really in unique situation in this matter (Steffensmeier and Allan, 2000). However, UCR did show some differences in genders. Compared to males, females are far more likely to be involved in minor property crimes (25 percent of female arrests versus 12 percent of male arrests).
While males always have relatively higher involvement in the serious crimes (16 percent of male arrests versus 6 percent of female arrests). The minor property crimes such as larceny-theft and fraud, and substance abuse like DUI and alcohol issues are the most usual reasons that females are arrested. Female share of arrests is always higher for the minor property crimes and low for “masculine” crimes. Moreover, this female percentage of arrests for minor property crimes had an obvious increase from 17 percent (1960) to 27 percent (1980) to 35 percent (1995).
At the same time, most other crimes only showed slightly increases, some of them even declined (Steffensmeier and Allan, 2000). Females are less likely to be involved in violent crimes compared with males. Though involved, females tend to commit less serious crime, have less offender culpability and commit offences in private settings and against intimates (Schwartz, Steffensmeier, and Feldmeyer, 2009). Females less likely show commitment to criminal behavior, they usually started and quite earlier than those of males, and they are less likely to repeat violent crimes (Steffensmeier and Allan, 2000).
However, the official arrest data are always believed to have bias. The gender-related patterns of criminal behavior in UCR is possibly related to the authorities’ selection and practices, rather than actual behavior differences in criminality of different genders (Chesney-Lind, 1973; Smart, 1976). Most of the early criminal justice policies and criminal theories were sex-biased or mono-sexual, then the feminist criminology was initially developed via the “add women and stir” approach, which was certainly imperfect (Chesney-Lind, 1986). This may cause the limits in representation or even problematic exhibition of female crimes.
Moreover, the official data is heavily influenced by the criminal justice policy. When the policy changes, especially regarding to what behavior need to be defined to be the crime, the crime trend may have distinct change accordingly. The literature suggests this issue is especially obvious in female crime trend. Three sets of net-widening changes in Criminal Justice policy in recent years, namely 1) the inclusion of minor forms of violence, 2) the legal changes criminalizing violence between intimates, and 3) the more gender-neutral of law enforcement, has increased the females’ arrest vulnerability nowadays.
This resulted in the national rise in female crimes, especially violent crime arrests in the official arrest data (Schwartz, Steffensmeier, and Feldmeyer, 2009). Victimization and self-report surveys have been used to address the biases of official statistics. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) has been annually conducted by the Census Bureau since 1973. This survey has a sample of roughly 50,000 household respondents who are 12-year old and older. This survey is conducted to gather the information about the crime from the victims’ perspective.
The information presented by the NCVS does not necessarily filtered or influenced by the police or other law enforcement, which can reduce the police bias, and captures the “dark figure” (unreported crimes) to some extent. However, comparing with the official data, NCVS is likely to be less accurate or vaguer (O’Brien, 1985). The NCVS showed that female offenders were responsible for about 8 percent of robberies, 1 percent of aggravated assaults, 15 percent of simple assaults, 6 percent of burglaries, and 5 percent of all motor vehicle thefts reported by victims.
This proportion share of female is similar to the result of UCR, indicating females were less likely to commit serious index crimes (Hindelang, 1979; Steffensmeier and Allan, 2000). Generally, UCR and NCVS show similar gender-related crime patterns: males tend to have larger share of most serious crimes, while females are more likely to be involved in minor property crimes than serious crimes (Schwartz, Steffensmeier, and Feldmeyer, 2009).
Their findings also captured the different assault gender gap over the past one to two decades in UCR and NCVS, which strengthens the argument that it is the policy-change which contributed to the national rise in female crimes, especially violent crime arrests in UCR. The self-report (SR) are always conducted by asking individuals (mostly juveniles) whether they have committed any kind of delinquent/criminal acts. The earlier SRs focus more on delinquent behaviors rather than criminal behaviors.
Therefore, the figure shown by SRs could be dramatically different with that of UCRs (O’Brien, 1985). However, the refined SRs asked about more serious offences, which significantly reduced the difference between UCR and SR for the proportion of males to females (Elliott and Ageton, 1980; Hindelang et al. , 1981; O’Brien, 1985). According to the findings of Steffensmeier and Allan’s research in 1996, self-report studies done mostly by juveniles also confirmed the higher female share of minor crimes/delinquencies, and lower share of serious crimes (Steffensmeier and Allan, 1996).
As discussed above, different data from different perspectives have their own advantages and disadvantages. The UCR is official, more accurate, and have enormous population coverage, but does not have victim information, let alone the unreported crimes. The NCVS has the information about victims and some of the unreported crimes, but has accuracy and affiliation issues. The SR has different emphasis with UCR and NCVS, and it also has accuracy and sampling issues. This situation makes the data triangulation essential.
The combination, evaluation and comparison of data from different sources can efficiently limit the biases caused by single data source and strengthen internal and external validity and reliability of the research (Schwartz, Steffensmeier, and Feldmeyer, 2009). Moreover, the research can also benefit from the triangulation of methodologies. The cross validation and comparison of both qualitative and quantitative methodologies will surely increase the reliability of the research, especially the social science research like criminology, human geography and sociology.