Page 2

Volumes 2, 3, and 4 contain the background papers the panel commissioned to facilitate its work.

The panel adopted as its definition of "violence": behaviors by individuals that intentionally threaten, attempt, or inflict physical harm on others. Death is the basis for defining the most serious violent crime—murder. However, with murder as with lesser acts of violence, the definition masks enormous diversity in underlying behaviors that cause death: shootings by robbers, intrafamily murders, minor disputes that turn violent, sexual attacks, and gang killings. This diversity is also masked in statistical classifications of nonfatal violent crimes such as assault, robbery, and forcible rape. Even greater diversity is seen in violent behaviors that may not be counted as crimes, such as school fights, violence among prison inmates, and violence in the home.

Other violent events involve large collectives: wars, state violence, riots, and some activities of organized crime. The panel did not attempt to analyze such collective violence in this report.

Measuring Violence

Violent behaviors that society identifies as crimes are counted more completely and classified more accurately than those that are not. Three national measurement systems are of primary importance in counting crimes and their victims. The National Crime Survey (NCS) asks all persons age 12 and over in a national sample of households to recall and describe recent nonfatal victimizations. The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system records basic information about crimes detected by or reported to police, supplementary information about homicides, and descriptions of arrestees. Homicide data are also tabulated annually from death certificates by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) vital statistics program.

While murders are counted rather accurately, counts of nonfatal violent crimes are incomplete. Gaps and discrepancies occur because victimizations may not be recognized as crimes, because embarrassment or psychological stigma inhibits reporting, because victims are sometimes reluctant to involve authorities, because their consequences may not be thought worth reporting as crimes, and because of discretion in classifying and counting violent events.

Moreover, definitions of violent events as criminal or not change over time and differ among segments of society. Data are even less adequate for violent acts that authorities and the public are coming to recognize as serious crimes. Recent attention to bias



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