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Publication Severity of Crime

Patsy A. Klaus, Carol B. Kalish, Bureau of Justice Statistics

January 1, 1984    NCJ 92326

NSCS undertook an extensive survey to develop an accurate measure of the seriousness with which society views specific criminal events. In 1977, 60,000 persons rated the gravity of 25 specific criminal events as part of this survey. Each crime then received a score representing its relationship to other crimes in terms of severity. Subjects perceive violent crime as more serious than property offenses. They also take white-collar and drug-related crime quite seriously. People tend to agree about the severity of specific crimes, although blacks and members of other racial groups gave lower scores than whites. The severity index represents an innovative approach to crime. The index can potentially aid the judiciary in sentencing and help to illuminate the true nature of changes in the crime rate. The bulletin contains the severity scores in descending order.

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