Measuring Crime in the United States

Measuring Crime in the United States

Learning Objective 2: Identify the publication in which the FBI reports crime data, and list the two main ways in which the data are reported.

A. The Uniform Crime Report

i. Uniform Crime Report (UCR) released each year since its inception in 1930 as an attempt to measure the overall crime rate in the United States

ii. The UCR is produced by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

iii. UCR relies on the voluntary participation of local law enforcement agencies, with three measurements

a. Number of persons arrested

b. Number of crimes reported by victims, witnesses, or police themselves

c. Number of law enforcement officers

iv. Annual publication

a. The UCR presents data in three ways

1. As a rate

2. As a percentage

v. Part I offenses

a. Those crimes that, due to their seriousness and frequency, are recorded by the FBI to give a “general picture” of crime in the United States

b. There are eight Part I offenses

1. Murder

2. Forcible rape

3. Robbery

4. Aggravated assault

5. Burglary

6. Larceny/theft

7. Motor vehicle theft

8. Arson

c. Reflects those offenses that are “known,” or reported to the FBI by local agencies

vi. Part II Offenses

a. Those crimes that can be designated as either felonies or misdemeanors

b. Measured only by arrest data

B. The National Incident-Based Reporting System

i. Local agencies collect data on each single crime occurrence within twenty-two offense categories made up of forty-six specific crimes

ii. Started in 1989

iii. Provides information about four “data sets”

a. Offenses

b. Victims

c. Offenders

d. Arrestees

C. Victim Surveys

i. An alternative source of data collection attempting to avoid distorting influences of local police agencies

ii. Victims are asked directly about their experiences of crime, using techniques of mail or phone surveys

iii. The dark figure of crime

a. Results of victim survey indicate a higher victimization rate than had been previously expected

1. Researchers believe that a better understanding of the “dark figure of crime” is revealed through victim surveys

2. Dark figure of crime is the actual amount of crime that occurs in the country

b. The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) (LO 3)

1. Started in 1972

2. Conducted by the U.S. Bureau of the Census in cooperation with the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Justice Department

3. An annual survey of more than 41,000 households with nearly 73,500 occupants over 12 years of age

4. Participants are interviewed twice a year concerning their experiences with crimes in the prior 6 months

iv. A voice for victims

a. Supporters of the NCVS highlight a number of aspects in which the victim survey is superior to the UCR:

1. Measures both reported and unreported crime

2. Unaffected by the police bias and distortions in reporting the crime to the FBI

3. Does not rely on victims directly reporting crime to the police

D. Self-Reported Surveys

a. Form of data collection, in which persons are asked directly through personal interviews or questionnaires, or over the telephone, about specific criminal activity to which they may have been a party

b. Victims may be more forthcoming because of anonymity

Class Discussion/Activity

Ask students to discuss the problems with victim surveys. Why is self-reported data not necessarily correct?

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