Social actors and crime measurement counting crime :
between administrative data and victimisation surveys
As soon as crime has emerged as a social problem, estimating its level and trend has become a central issue. Historically, these estimates were based on the records of criminal agencies’ activity. Along the 20th century, growing uncertainty as to the adequacy of these institutional data, along with the surfacing debate on fear of crime and insecurity led to the designing of general population crime surveys. From then on, measuring crime has increasingly entailed confronting a variety of sources like institutional data bases on the one hand, general population surveys on the other. The article draws upon French national victimisation surveys and police statistics to learn lessons from their comparison. The authors’ conclusion is that reaching an estimate of crime should not close the debate but open it instead.