The crime measurement index is designed to identify crime related social conditions. Just as the Consumer Price Index indicates the health of the economy, and the Crime Measurement Index indicates the health of a community.

Historically, a community’s crime rate is the recorded measurement criteria the community is aware of to determine the effectiveness of their police department. The traditional position is as follows: “Responding quickly, making arrests and successfully prosecuting those arrested can be accomplished more effectively with additional resources. Through this strategy, the police continue to sustain the perception that the police department is responsible for the crime rate.”

The Crime Measurement Index is designed to facilitate a cooperative effort. The following steps are outlined to demonstrate how the Crime Measurement Index works.

Step One: The five indicators of measurement contain data that is collected annually for all major cities.

  1. The poverty rate data is collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
  2. The high school dropout data is collected by the local school district.
  3. The unemployment data is collected by the U.S. Department of Labor.
  4. Data regarding young males 15 to 20 years of age is collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.
  5. The single parent family data is collected by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Step Two: Once the data for a given year is collected, the Crime Measurement Index is obtained by adding up the percentage numbers of the five categories. The following example is presented to demonstrate how the index number is obtained. The information is the national data in each category for 1994:

  1. The poverty rate – 14%
  2. The unemployment rate – 5%
  3. The high school dropout rate – 10%
  4. The number of males 15 to 20 years of age – 6%
  5. The number of single parent families - 30%

The national Crime Measurement Index number for 1994 = 65.

Step Three: Collect the data for the five measurement categories for a given city. Add the numbers from each of the five categories for the city you selected. With the city’s Crime Measurement Index numbers in hand, compare the city’s index number with the national Crime Measurement Index number for the year under evaluation.

The basic premise of the Crime Measurement Index is that the higher the index number, the higher the crime rate. If the national index number for 1994 is 65 and the city under evaluation has an index number of 75 for 1994, the assumption is that the crime rate for the city will be above the national crime rate for the year under evaluation.

Conversely, if the city under evaluation has an index number lower than the national index number the city will have a crime rate lower than the national crime rate for the year under evaluation. (In more than 20 cities where the Crime Measurement Index was texted, the assumptions have been correct.)

The following analogy is presented to emphasize the problem: High temperature in the human body is not an illness. Body temperature alone is only a symptom of illness. When a individual has a high body temperature, physicians are alerted to potential illness. Body temperature is a symptom that leads physicians to further examination.

The crime rate for America’s cities should serve the same purpose. The crime rate is a symptom of a community’s health. There are healthy cities in America and there are unhealthy cities. The symptomatic crime rate should be a guide for city leaders. The Crime Measurement Index is a tool to assist in the identification of community problems that have a demonstrated history related to the causes of crime.

Robert C. Wadman

Robert C. Wadman, Ph.D., is professor emeritus in the Criminal Justice Department at Weber State University