Crime Reports and Crime Statistics


I. Introduction

II. What Are Crime Reports and Statistics, and Why Are They Important?

III. Who Publishes Crime Reports and Statistics, and How Do They Do It?

IV. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the UCR Program

A. What Crimes Are Measured in the UCR?

B. The Future of the UCR Program: The National Incident-Based Reporting System

C. Advantages and Disadvantages of UCR Data

V. The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the NCVS

A. NCVS Methodology

B. Crimes Measured in the NCVS

C. The Future of the NCVS

D. Advantages of the NCVS

E. Disadvantages of the NCVS

VI. UCR Data and the NCVS Compared

VII. Conclusion

I. Introduction

The purpose of this research paper is to provide an overview of crime reports and statistics. Crime reports and statistics convey an extensive assortment of information about crime to the reader and include topics such as the extent of crime and the nature or characteristics of criminal offenses, as well as how the nature and characteristics of crime change over time. Aside from these big-picture topics related to crime, crime reports and statistics communicate specific information on the characteristics of the criminal incident, the perpetrator(s), and the victim(s). For example, crime reports and statistics present information on the incident, such as weapon presence, police involvement, victim injury, and location of the crime. Details such as the age, race, gender, and gang membership of the offender are also available in many of these reports. Also, details gleaned from statistics regarding the victim, such as, but not limited to, income, race, age, relationship with the offender, education, and working status, are made available. Crime reports can convey information that affects the complete population of individuals and/or businesses, or they can convey crime-related information on a subset of victims, such as males, the elderly, businesses, or the poor. Crime reports and statistics can focus on a short period of time, such as a month, or they can cover longer periods, such as 1 year or many years. In addition, these reports can offer change in crime and its elements over time. Statistics offered in crime reports may describe crime as it pertains to a small geographical region, such one city; one region, such as the West or the Northeast; or the entire nation. Finally, on the basis of statistics, these reports can describe crime in a static, point-in-time way, and they can provide a dynamic perspective describing how crime, its characteristics, or risk change over time.

Topics covered in this research paper include a discussion on what crime reports and statistics are as well as why they are important. Information presented includes what agencies publish crime reports and statistics as well as a brief history of these bureaus. Because crime reports and statistics are social products, it is imperative to present information on the data used to generate them. Two major data sources are used to generate crime reports and statistics: (1) the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and (2) the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The data these reports yield, as well as the methodology and measurement they use, are described. Because no data are perfect, a description of their advantages and disadvantages are presented. Because these data are the two primary sources of crime information in the United States, the research paper explores a comparison of these data. Given that entire textbooks can be devoted to the topic of crime reports and statistics, this research paper provides readers with a relatively short overview of the major topics related to these important items. For readers who wish to delve into the topic in greater detail, a list of recommended readings is provided at the close of the research paper.

To fully appreciate the information found in crime reports and the statistics used to summarize them, one must be aware of what is meant by crime reports and statistics, why this topic is important, who is responsible for the creation of reports and statistics, and how the reports and statistics are created. To address these important issues, the research paper is structured around these significant questions. It first addresses the question “What are crime reports and statistics, and why are they important?” Next, it asks, “What agency is responsible for crime reports and statistics?” In answering this question, the research paper presents past and current information about the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Next, the research paper moves to addressing the closely related question “How are crime reports and statistics generated?” This portion of the research paper is the lengthiest, because it offers information on the nuts and bolts of the UCR and the NCVS, including a look at the history of the programs as well as future directions. Included also is a discussion of the methodology, advantages, and disadvantages of each program.