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Detection Rates: An International Comparison

NCJ Number
European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research Volume: 10 Issue: 2-3 Dated: 2004 Pages: 225-253
Paul R. Smit; Ronald F. Meijer; Peter-Paul J. Groen
Date Published
29 pages
This article focuses on the comparability of police detection (clearance) rates between countries, with attention to the detection rate for violent crime and property crime in nine European countries.
The primary issue addressed is whether differences in detection rates between countries are solely attributable to the ability of the police to find suspects, or are they influenced by other factors such as reporting rates, recording practices, definitions, and differences in the organization of the judiciary and the possibilities for the police and the prosecution to make their own decisions in handling cases. In order to explore these issues, a questionnaire was completed by representatives of the following countries: The Netherlands, Germany, England and Wales, France, Scotland, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Portugal. For Portugal, however, it was not possible to obtain the data necessary to compute detection rates. In addition to the questionnaire, data for the study were obtained from the International Crime Victim Survey and the European Sourcebook. The main conclusion of the study is that detection rates, as determined by statistics produced by each country, cannot be compared, since there are many external, organizational, and technical factors that affect the detection rates. This study also examined the punishment rates of the nine countries. This consists of the number of sanctions or measures per 100 recorded crimes. The total number of sanctions was calculated by adding court sanctions and sanctions imposed by the prosecution (if applicable). A comparison of the detection rate with the punishment rate found that the differences between countries in detection rates diminished significantly, suggesting that the primary factor in the differences in detection rates may be traced to the discretionary power of the police and the prosecution assigned under systems oriented more toward the punishment of offenders for some crime rather than attempting to link the offender to all the crimes he many have committed. 6 tables, appended questionnaire, and 10 references