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Research Exercises

Published onAug 07, 2020
Research Exercises
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There are four exercises in the course. The exercises make use of data analysis tools found on the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ website, www.bjs.gov. As explained on that website, the BJS is “the United States’ primary source for criminal justice statistics.” Its mission is “[t]o collect, analyze, publish, and disseminate information on crime, criminal offenders, victims of crime, and the operation of justice systems at all levels of government. These data are critical to federal state, and local policymakers in combating crime and ensuring that justice is both efficient and evenhanded.”

 As relates to your own life, the exercises teach you how to use the data analysis tools. These tools are a great way to find information about crime and criminal justice. This information can be used in future classes (e.g., to complete assignments, such as term papers). And if you have a career in criminal justice, these tools can be used to find information useful for doing your job. Thus, the reason I’m having you do these exercises isn’t simply to learn about criminal justice. It’s also so you can use the data analysis tools in the future and, in doing so, set yourself apart from the competition.

Submission: To submit your research exercise, select the appropriate quiz and enter your answers therein.

This is very important if you want a good grade: When filling in your answers for the exercise “quizzes,” do not include anything other than the number (i.e., no commas, percent symbols, periods or anything else) and make sure the number is whole (i.e., don’t have anything behind the decimal point), which may require rounding up or down (standard rounding rules apply). If you don’t follow that instruction, your answer is wrong. For example: if the exact answer is 4,100.5, then when entering the answer on D2L you should put “4101”, not “4,100.5”, “4100.5” or “4,101”. I know this is very particular, but it’s needed due to the technological limitations of D2L.

Grading: Submissions will be automatically graded and entered into the grade book.

Crime Exercise

In this exercise, you will gain experience using the BJS’s “NCVS Victimization Analysis Tool” (go to http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=nvat).[1] As explained on the website’s home page, “This dynamic analysis tool allows you to examine National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data on both violent and property victimization by select victim, household, and incident characteristics.”

All of the answers to the following questions can be found by examining the information on its “Custom Tables” page. Your task is to explore that page to find the answers. 

The “Custom Tables” page splits all victimization into two major types: “personal victimization” and “household victimization”.

1.      Personal victimization includes which crimes?

2.      Household victimization includes which crimes?

The two types of personal victimization are “violent victimization” and “personal theft/larceny victimization.”

3.      In 2018, what was the total number of violent victimizations?

4.      In 2018, which type of violent victimization was most common?

5.      In 2018, which type of violent victimization was least common?

6.      In 2018, what was the total number of theft/larceny victimizations?

Now that you know the total amounts of violent victimization and personal theft/larceny victimization, you are able to calculate the amount of all personal victimization. The total amount of personal victimization is the total amount of violent victimization plus the total amount of personal theft/larceny victimization.

7.      In 2018, what was the total number of personal victimizations?

As already noted, the two major categories of all victimization are personal victimization and household victimization. The prior questions focused on the former. Now focus on household victimization.

8.      In 2018, what was the total number of household victimizations?

9.      In 2018, which type of household victimization was most common?

10.  In 2018, which type of household victimization was least common?

Now that you know the total amounts of personal victimization and household victimization, you are able to calculate the amount of all victimization. To be clear, the total amount of all victimization is the total amount of personal victimization plus the total amount of household victimization.

11.  In 2018, what was the total number of all victimizations?



[1] A similar tool is based on the Uniform Crime Reports. See http://www.bjs.gov/ucrdata/.

Arrest Exercise

In this exercise, you will learn (if you don’t already know) how to calculate rates, and gain experience using the BJS’s “Arrest Data Analysis Tool” (go to http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=datool&surl=/arrests/index.cfm). As explained on the website’s home page, “This dynamic data analysis tool allows you to generate tables and graphs of arrests from 1980 onward. You can view national arrest estimates, customized either by age and sex or by age group and race, for many different offenses. This tool also enables you to view local arrests.”

All of the answers to the following questions can be found by examining the information on its Agency-Level Counts page, more specifically the information under the Annual Tables tab.

 To find out about arrest, you need to choose a particular state, agency, year, and table. For this exercise, you should choose Georgia, Atlanta Police Dept, 2014, and Offense By Age and Race. Once you have done so, click Generate Results. When looking at the table and answering the following questions, focus on the total for persons of all ages.

1.      How many arrests were there for murder and non-negligent manslaughter?

2.      How many arrests were there for vandalism?

3.      How many arrests were there for robbery?

4.      How many arrests were there for aggravated assault?

5.      How many arrests were there for burglary?

6.      How many arrests were there for larceny-theft?

7.      How many arrests were there for motor vehicle theft?

8.      How many arrests were there for arson?

Now that you know the number of arrests for those offenses, you are able to calculate the arrest rate, which is the total number of arrests per a certain number of persons in the population. For this exercise, you will use the above answers to determine the arrest rate per 100,000 persons in Atlanta. This involves simple math. The first step is to divide the number of arrests for each offense type by 420,000, which was about the population of Atlanta in 2012. Second, multiple that number by 100,000. That number will be your answer. (For example, there were a total of 35,439 offenses in Atlanta. To get the rate of offenses in Atlanta per 100,000 people, you would divide 35,439 by 420,000 and then multiple that number by 100,000. Once you round up, you have calculated the answer to be 8438; that is the right answer.)

9.      What is the arrest rate for murder and non-negligent manslaughter per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

10.  What is the arrest rate for vandalism per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

11.  What is the arrest rate for robbery per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

12.  What is the arrest rate for aggravated assault per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

13.  What is the arrest rate for burglary per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

14.  What is the arrest rate for larceny-theft per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

15.  What is the arrest rate for motor vehicle theft per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

16.  What is the arrest rate for arson per 100,000 people in Atlanta?

Sentencing Exercise

In this exercise, you will learn (if you don’t already know) how to calculate percentages, and gain experience using the BJS’s “Federal Criminal Case Processing Statistics” (go to http://www.bjs.gov/fjsrc/index.cfm). As explained on the website’s home page, “The Bureau of Justice Statistics, through its Federal Justice Statistics Resource Center (FJSRC), compiles comprehensive information describing suspects and defendants processed in the federal criminal justice system. The Federal Criminal Case Processing Statistics (FCCPS) tool is an interface that can be used to analyze federal case processing data. Users can generate various statistics in the areas of federal law enforcement, prosecution/courts and incarcerations, and based on title and section of the U.S. Criminal Code. Data are available for the years from 1998 to 2016. This tool includes offenders held for violating federal laws. It excludes commitments from the D.C. Superior Court.” 

All of the answers to the following questions can be found by going to the main webpage (see above) and then clicking on the “trends” option for “Offenders sentenced”, which is found under the “Prosecution/Courts” heading. Your task is to find the answers by following these instructions: 

First, select 1998 to 2016 as the range of years.  

Second, select “Type of sentence imposed” as the variable.

Third, make sure there is a checkmark next to “All values”.

Fourth, choose to display as “HTML” (or “PDF”), which will allow you to answer the following questions. (Note that this website is slow, so it may take some time to go to the next page.)

1.      In 1998, what is the total number of offenders sentenced?

2.      In 1998, how many offenders were sentenced to prison only?

3.      In 1998, how many offenders were sentenced to probation only? 

Now that you know the number of those sentences, you are able to calculate the percent of all sentences that are for prison only versus probation only. This involves simple math: divide the number of a particular sentence type (e.g., prison only or probation only) by the number of total sentences, and then multiple by 100. (For example, if there were a total of 10,000 sentences, and 1,000 of those were prison only, you would divide 1,000 by 10,000 and then multiple that by 100. You have calculated the answer to be 10; that is the right answer. However, if the numbers are different, you may have to round up or down as appropriate.)

4.      In 1998, what percent of all sentenced offenders were sentenced to prison only?

5.      In 1998, what percent of all sentenced offenders were sentenced to probation only?

In the same table you already generated (see steps 1-4), you should also see statistics for 2016.

6.      In 2016, what is the total number of offenders sentenced?

7.      In 2016, how many offenders were sentenced to prison only?

8.      In 2016, how many offenders were sentenced to probation only?

9.      In 2016, what percent of all sentenced offenders were sentenced to prison only?

10.  In 2016, what percent of all sentenced offenders were sentenced to probation only?

Prison Exercise

In this exercise, you will continue to calculate percentages, and gain experience using the BJS’s “Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool - Prisons” (go to http://www.bjs.gov/index.cfm?ty=nps).[1] As explained on the website’s home page, “This dynamic analysis tool allows you to examine National Prisoner Statistics (NPS) on inmates under the jurisdiction of both federal and state correctional authorities. You can instantly generate tables of numbers and rates of national and jurisdictional statistics, from 1978 to the most recent year that NPS data are available. The web tool includes state-level prisoner data from the 50 state departments of corrections, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and the District of Columbia (until 2001, when sentenced felons from the District became the responsibility of the BOP).”

All of the answers to the following questions can be found by examining the information on the above website’s Custom Tables page.

To find out about imprisonment, you need to choose a particular jurisdiction, year (or years), and population. For this exercise, first you should choose Georgia, 2016, and Admissions. Once you have done so, click Generate Counts Tables. (Note: Basically, “new court commitments” are people who are admitted into prison because of a recent conviction rather than another reason, such as a parole violation. And, “admissions” refers to people who have been sent to prison in a given year.)

1.      How many total admissions were there in Georgia in 2016?

2.      How many of the total admissions in Georgia in 2016 were new court commitments?

3.      How many of the total admissions in Georgia in 2016 were parole violators?

Now that you know the number of those admissions, you are able to calculate the percent of all admissions that are for new court commitments versus parole violators. This involves simple math: divide the number of a particular admission type (e.g., new court commitment or parole violator) by the number of total admissions, and then multiple by 100. (For example, if there were a total of 10,000 admissions, and 1,000 of those were parole violators, you would divide 1,000 by 10,000 and then multiple that by 100. You have calculated the answer to be 10; that is the right answer. However, if the numbers are different, you may have to round up or down as appropriate.)

4.      New court commitments were what percent of total (i.e., all) admissions in Georgia in 2016?

5.      Parole violators were what percent of total (i.e., all) admissions in Georgia in 2016? 

In the same table you already generated for Georgia, 2016, you should also see national statistics (U.S. total).

6.      How many total admissions were there in the U.S. in 2016?

7.      How many of the total admissions in the U.S. in 2016 were new court commitments?

8.      How many of the total admissions in the U.S. in 2016 were parole violators? 

Now that you know the number of those admissions, you are able to calculate the percent of all admissions in the U.S. that occur in Georgia. This involves the same math as above, except now divide the number of total admissions in Georgia by the number of total admissions in the U.S., and then multiple by 100.

9.      What percent of all admissions in the U.S. in 2016 occurred in Georgia?


[1] A similar tool may also be used for parole and probation. See, respectively, http://www.bjs.gov/parole/ and http://www.bjs.gov/probation/.

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