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Eugene Muse

10:11amMay 11 at 10:11am

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Worrall (2000) notes that quantitative research gives us more plausible means for evaluating criminal justice theory. In other words, quantitative research gives us hard data that proves or disproves criminological theories and criminal justice practices. The criminal justice system routinely uses quantitative data to illustrate crime trends and/or effectiveness of enforcement actions. However, there is a critical weakness to this approach. Numbers do not tell the story. For instance, a local law enforcement agency chief announces that violent crime is down by 20%. Statistically, he is telling the truth. However, the fact is that violent crime levels have not changed, but the way the police department reports them has. Shooting into occupied dwelling cases are now considered injury to property. Statistics very rarely show the complex reality of situations. They are a useful tool for law enforcement executives and politicians to show whatever result they want to the citizens.

Likewise, qualitative data can be exaggerated or misreported. However, when you are collecting qualitative data, you are not collecting impersonal numbers, but individual stories and experiences that more often show the reality of the situation. As Holt (2010) notes, qualitative research has become easier and more effective with new technologies. Using the internet and social media, researchers can have a wider reach, attract more participants, and find a larger cross section of people to survey. Copes (2010) points out that qualitative research allows participants to speak for themselves. When discussing crime and justice, I believe this is particularly important.

The strengths of quantitative data are that it can be used to quickly show the extent of an issue and that it can condense an issue to easily digestible segments of data for people to examine. The primary weakness of quantitative research is that it cannot accurately and fully explain or document complex issues, such as crime and effectiveness of crime control policies. Academicians wishing to inform the public or leaders on issues using quantitative data, can do so simply. Using publicly available crime data, for instance, they quickly analyze trends in the data to show increases/decreases. So, if a researcher wanted to show the efficacy of red-light cameras, for instance, they could show stakeholders data on wrecks at intersections due to running red lights a year before the cameras and a year after. They can thus show the efficacy of the cameras, in theory, and also show how quantitative data can be used to affect public policy.

Proverbs 19:2 (English Standard Bible, 2001) tells us “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” Read literally, this makes me think that wanting something without knowing about it and why you need it, is a mistake. Further, rushing into things carelessly is folly. So, as Christians, we are instructed to research before pushing forward with new things. If we apply this lesson in our professional lives, it will help us to make wiser decisions based on research.

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