The Perception versus the Reality of Crime in the US


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This activity is an active learning exercise designed to expose the differences that exist between the perception and the reality of crime. I have used this activity in my Introduction to Sociology, Introduction to Criminology, and Introduction to Criminal Justice courses. This exercise comprises of three parts. Part I is an individual task which requires students interview 3 to 5 students on campus, including themselves, about their perceptions of crime in the United States. The interviewer asks respondents about the trends in crime and why they believe this to be the case. Part II is a group task that requires students to share and summarize their answers and then work together to find the truth. In order to find the truth students must work as a group to access, navigate, and compile the real picture of crime using two official sources of crime data: The Uniform Crime Report and The National Survey of Victimization. Part III requires students to reflect on the real world implications of the disconnect between our perceptions and reality of crime in the US. Taken together these three tasks force students to confront the fact that our perceptions of crime are often not based in reality while also gaining experience accessing and analyzing official data.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Racheal E Pesta 
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Usage Notes:

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Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Goal 1: Students will be able to access, navigate, and analyze real crime data.
Assessment 1:
Assessment 1: This goal will be assessed through the student’s ability to utilize the UCR and NCVS data sources to find raw data on crime in the U.S. Students will use a hands-on approach to download, organize, and analyze crime data from these
Goal 2:
Goal 2: Students will be able to think critically about the perception and the reality of crime.
Assessment 2:
Assessment 2: This goal will be assessed through the student’s ability to recognize the discrepancy between their own and others’ perception of crime and what the crime picture really looks like. By acknowledging this, students will then be asked to
Goal 3:
Assessment 3:

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