April 09, 2006

Clocks and Crime

While the F.B.I. has finally decided to unplug their crime clock (a major source of the "x people are robbed, murdered, raped, etc., every minute, hour or day for everywhere regardless of whether there are dramatic differences by jurisdiction; has there ever been a jurisdiction that is exactly what the clock says?), other clocks continue that have very different meanings, implications and potential uses. Take, for example, the Doomsday Clock from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. The time is now five (recently changed), not seven, minutes before midnight, when life as we have known it will end. The intention is to draw attention to nuclear war that could happen. Then there is the population clock of the U.S. and World, the National Debt Clock (now at 8.8 trillion) and the Chronic Disease Clock. Many more have probably been created and others could be--although we hope you don't read this and mindlessly go run and do that.

So many of the uses of time point to a feeling of potential catastrophe or foreboding. While these are or may be appropriate at times, and although the history of criminology sees more abuse of crime clocks (e.g., in using it to construct the dire crime problem for this or that political purpose) than positive education for constructive change, we look forward to the criminological uses of clocks and time more generally to bring about constructive change in theory, research and practice. The current critique underway of the use of prison time to solve the crime problem gets at this in a clear policy arena (see, e.g., the book, It's About Time). The more extended use of time to alter the denominator in the computation of the nature and extent of crime events is also welcome. Mike Maltz did so in Recidivism, which looks in part at time-controlled survival models; Sally Boggs paved the way in her early work on computing crime rates; a solid standard for recidivism measures is recidivism rates adjusted for time at risk, i.e., whether an offender is actually at risk of offending (not in custody or limited by 'handlers' in some other way); and more recent crimemapping work has the potential to combine time-based crime calculations over geographic, demographic, crime and related dimensions. Even here time denominators need to include potential offender time benchmarks, not just the seconds of an atomic clock, and the variably timed opportunities of offenders for variably timed crime targets.

Should California's Crime Clock on display at the Attorney General's Office, available here (at the bottom of the page) or with a click below, be canned?

View crime clock

Posted by jackson at April 9, 2006 06:39 AM