October 21, 2010
faculty Matthew Hickman and Stephen Rice published Digital Analysis of
Crime Statistics: Does Crime Conform to Benford’s Law? in the recent
edition of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology . Benford’s law is a mathematical theorem that
has been used by forensic auditors to detect financial fraud. In their study,
Hickman and Rice examined whether crime statistics are Benford-distributed by
reviewing crime statistics at national, state, and local levels. They found
that national- and state-level summary Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) data conform
to Benford’s law. When national data were disaggregated by offense type, they
found varying degrees of conformity, with murder, rape, and robbery indicating
less conformity than other offense types.
“Data quality is
an important issue in criminal justice,” said Hickman. "Crime
statistics are used in support of policy making, for the allocation of state
and federal funds, and for purposes of research and evaluation.”
submitted voluntarily by more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the
United States, and downgrading of offenses to convey the image of crime
control has a long history in the United States. Hickman and Rice expect
their research to improve the quality of crime statistics by providing the
means to proactively audit on a broad scale and examine the validity of
observed trends in subsets of crime data.
"We are also
looking at the application of this technique in examining police stop and frisk
data,” Rice (above) added, “ and further contributing to efforts to ensure
police integrity and accountability."
The College of Arts and Sciences at Seattle University offers an undergraduate major in Criminal Justice as well as a Master of Arts in Criminal Justice and Certificate in Crime Analysis, and students have the option to pursue a joint MACJ - JD degree.
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