Reported serious crime rates in other nations held steady or increased as crime in the United States dropped in the late 1990s, says a United Nations compilation. An international victimization survey showed that rates of robbery and burglary were much higher in Latin America and Africa than in North America. A summary of reports to law enforcement authorities around the world was presented yesterday at the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. by Anna Alvazzi del Frate of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, based in Vienna, Austria.
Del Frate said that official compilations “do not provide the entire crime picture,” noting that fewer than half of crimes are reported to police “in the developing world.”
A “crisis of international crime data” was described at the session by criminologist Jay Albanese, chief of the International Center of the U.S. Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice. Albanese contended that “poor quality data” that he blamed on political, language, cultural, and economic factors are leading Interpol and the World Health Organization to stop distributing comparataive international data.
Albanese urged that crime data be compiled and analyzed for comparable areas, such as metropolitan regions. It makes more sense, for example, to compare New York City and London than to use data for the entire United States vs. that of the United Kingdom. A focus on timely data on crime trends from similar places could prove more useful than pursuing country-by-country totals, Albanese said.