FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR)
The Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) compiles the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) after submission by local law enforcement agencies. According to Siegel (2008), it is the “best known and the most widely cited source of criminal records” (p.36).The History of the UCR dates back to 1927 when the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) created the Committee on Uniform Crime Reporting whose mandate included compilation of nationwide crime statistics for comparison purposes. Through legislation passed by congress, the FBI took up the role of compiling the UCR in 1930. The UCR in its present form lists crimes in two parts referred to as Part I and Part II crimes. The first part, known as index crimes, constitutes eight serious crimes. These represents crimes considered as most serious and their reporting tends to be more reliable than for other crimes. The crimes listed in this category are, aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder, and robbery. Other crimes under Index crimes are arson, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Part II crimes tracks crimes considered as less serious and tracks crimes such as simple assault, loitering, and vandalism. In total, there are twenty-one crimes reported under Part II index crimes. Criticism against the UCR stems from the fact that it mainly relies on the reports filed with the police hence if a crime goes unreported or undiscovered, it remains unrecorded. In addition, under the hierarchy rule, if a series of crimes occur as part of one incident, the report covers only the most serious crime committed, omitting all others.
National Crime Victimization Survey
The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) seeks to capture crimes that police statistics fail to capture because of lack of reporting. The Bureau of Justice Statistics administers the survey, and it covers the entire nation. Siegel (2007) reported that, “The NCVS includes unreported crime and important information on the personal characteristics of victims” (p.36). It utilizes a statistical sample for the entire nation to provide a feel of all crimes that occur in the nation. Whole families participate in the exercise provided the respondents are above twelve years old and they remain part of the respondents for a period of three years. Each member of a participating family provides information once every six months on crime in which they have been victims. The crimes reported under NCVS include assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, robbery, and theft. The computed results provide information used to develop a crime index.
The key advantages of the system is that it provides a ,means of finding out how much crime goes unreported thereby providing law enforcement agencies with vital information on the true extent of certain crimes in various regions. Since the reports developed rely on statistical methods, they provide both qualitative and quantitative information that is very useful in understanding why certain crimes occur. Critics of the system say that it has shortcomings since there is no means to verify the information provided, and also that there is a chance domestic crimes are not accurately reported since the survey covers the whole family. If a member of the family is the perpetrator of the crime, the other members may fail to report it in the survey.
Comparison of the Data Collection Methods
The two methods serve to complement each other. UCR provides information on actual crimes reported while NCVS statistically determines how many others go unreported. This means that using both methods it is possible to develop a statistically sound description of the prevalence of any crime covered under the systems. Taken independently, none of the two methods presents a clear enough picture of crime in the nation. UCR in itself reports only on the most serious crimes committed in an incident, while NCVS reports on all the crimes. This makes their independent conclusions different. The major advantage UCR has over NCVS is the availability of verification for its information hence it is a source of hard data on actual crimes that occurred. NCVS cannot be sure that the crimes reported to it actually occurred. The two methods taken together provide a better picture of the actual state of crime, better than any one of them. Depending on the purposes, one type of report may be more useful. NCVS has room for more detail compared to the UCR. As Kerman (2009) attested, “Statistics published in the NCVS offer more possibilities for analysis and interpretation than the much more limited data in the UCR” (p.63).
Calculation of Percent Changes in Motor Vehicle Theft in Last Two Years
Motor vehicle theft rate 2007 = 1,095,769
Motor vehicle theft rate 2008 = 956,846
Change in theft rate
138,923 / 1,095,769 = -0.12678
-0.12678 * 100 = -12.7% (Percent change from 2007 to 2008)
From the calculation above, motor vehicle theft reduced by 12.7% between 2007 and 2008.
Calculation of Percent Changes in Robberies in Last Two Years
Robberies 2007 = 445,125
Robberies 2008 = 441,855
Change in Robbery rate
3270 / 445,125 = -0.00735
-0.00735 * 100 = -0.74% (Percent change from 2007 to 2008)
The calculation above shows that the rate of robberies reduced by 0.74%, between 2007 and 2008.
Kerman, A. (2009). Crime victims: An introduction to victimology. Belfont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Siegel, L. J. (2007). Crimonology: Theories patterns and Typologies. Belfont, CA: Cengage Learning.
Siegel, L. J. (2008). Essentials of criminal justice. Belfont, CA: Cengage Learning.