Counting Crime the Cambridge Way

Darwin College Humanities and Social Sciences Group
Professor Larry Sherman, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge; Emeritus Fellow, Darwin College
The Richard King Room, Darwin College
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 14:10 to 15:00

For two centuries, governments have mindlessly counted all crimes as if they were created equal. The crime “rate” per 100,000 still treats murder and shoplifting as of equal importance. In the past decade, the Cambridge Institute of Criminology has managed to push public data to greater precision in crime counting. Our method calibrates the relative seriousness of crime based on days of imprisonment recommended for each crime type under judicial guidelines for sentencing convicted offenders, then sums those recommended days across all crimes after each crime has been multiplied by its sentencing weight. Our 2007 proposal for the Cambridge Crime Harm Index has been followed by the development of a variety of “crime severity indexes” in Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and (eventually) the UK, although not all of them measure what matters most to crime victims. Yet what difference does it make? Does counting crime with a weighted index offer any real improvements in public safety? Do police do different things with this information than they do without it? Can offenders cause, and victims suffer, less harm in total because the Cambridge CHI is used to measure crime harm? Answers to these and other questions will be revealed on 16th October in the Richard King Room at Darwin College.

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