College of Arts and Sciences


  • Hickman and Rice Publish Data Analysis of Crime Statistics

    October 21, 2010

    Criminal Justice  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.”

    Data are 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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