Having read the course readings regarding differences in using official crime data and self-reported data, I would like to identify some of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the types of data sources. As critically examined in last week’s discussion, official crime data remains an important source of knowledge about crime. However, given that official crime data must be standardized to maintain consistency, its limitations are rather obvious, it is not as detailed as self-reported data. To make it possible for the government to collect and profile every crime, there are limitations to the categories or depth of data that can be communicated by official crime data (Pollock, Menard, Elliott & Huizinga, 2015). This is however not the case with self-reported crime data. During self-reports, reporters are given the opportunity to be as detailed as possible. This opportunity allows them to get into great depth in the crime information that they provide. As a result, one main difference is that self-reported crime data tends to be more detailed.
However, its main limitation comes when there is a need to compare crime data. As a result of lacking standardization of self-reported data, comparing the data is much harder. This is where official crime data edges self-reported data. Official crime data benefits from greater consistency which supports contrasting. Moreover, self-reported data may suffer from the effects of manipulation or embedded viewpoints (Harrison, 1995). Comparatively, official crime data is collected by professionals who know what to look out for and know how to enhance the reliability and validity of the data. However, given that the reporter of self-reported data is in control of what information to provide, this type of data is not as organized as official crime data.
Harrison, L. D. (1995). The validity of self-reported data on drug use. Journal of Drug Issues, 25(1), 91-111.
Pollock, W., Menard, S., Elliott, D. S., & Huizinga, D. H. (2015). It’s official: Predictors of self-reported vs. officially recorded arrests. Journal of Criminal Justice, 43(1), 69-79.