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Developmental Approach for Measuring the Severity of Crimes

NCJ Number
Journal of Quantitative Criminology Volume: 25 Issue: 2 Dated: June 2009 Pages: 129-153
Rajeev Ramchand; John M. MacDonald; Amelia Haviland; Andrew R. Morral
Date Published
June 2009
24 pages
This study explored the Bradley-Terry model for measuring crime severity predicted on the developmental criminology perspective.
Results indicate that the Bradley-Terry model provides a perspective on crime severity absent in the criminology literature, namely a developmental perspective based on the temporal sequencing of criminal behaviors. Using the Bradley-Terry model of multiple paired comparison tests, crime severity estimates could be derived from two separate samples of youthful offenders. The results suggest that this method provides estimates of offense severity that are not just face valid, but which also have a developmental interpretation that is specific to the population under study. The offenses severity estimates tend to rank violent crimes as more severe than property and drug-related offenses. The estimates suggest that drug dealing offenses are not as severe as those reported in public perceptions surveys. The model should ideally be applied to cohorts followed from early childhood where offending behaviors are captured over a long period of time, whereas the current application only observes offending over a limited time period and may miss early developmental steps. Additionally, this model could be applied to offending data in international settings where the choices of crime may differ for socio-cultural reasons, and may necessitate a different conceptualization of offense severity. Data were collected from the National Youth Survey (NYS) and the RAND Adolescent Outcomes Project (AOP). Tables, figures, appendix, and references