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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 120605 Find in a Library
Title: What Is the Perceived Seriousness of Crimes?
Journal: Criminology  Volume:27  Issue:4  Dated:(November 1989)  Pages:795-821
Author(s): M Warr
Date Published: 1989
Page Count: 27
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Survey data from Dallas residents form the basis of this analysis of whether individuals' judgments of the seriousness of crimes reflect normative evaluations of wrongfulness or factual judgments about their harmfulness to victims.
Abstract: A sample of 665 persons randomly selected from the telephone directory received mailed questionnaires in September 1987. Usable responses came from 336 people, most of whom were white. Results showed that normative evaluations and factual judgments represent two distinct dimensions and that the conventional categories of crime (personal, property, public order) systematically differ on the two dimensions. Where crimes are perceived to be more wrong than harmful, seriousness reflects perceptions of wrongfulness. Where crimes are perceived to be more harmful than wrong, harmfulness predominates. However, a substantial minority of participants do not perceive differences in the moral gravity of crimes and judge seriousness solely on the basis of harmfulness. Results indicate that judgments about seriousness are more structured and complex than commonly supposed and that conventional measures of seriousness may mask or obscure distinct mechanisms of evaluation. Figures, tables, footnotes, and 19 references.
Main Term(s): Crime seriousness measures
Index Term(s): Offense classification; Public Opinion of Crime
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