Criminology is defined as, the study of the processes of making laws, breaking laws, and reacting towards the breaking of laws. The purpose of gathering crime statistics helps the local, state, and federal agencies to see the different frequencies in crime, with the aids of tables, graphs, and formulated data. Within a civilized state, the government remains accountable for protecting its citizens and providing a means of controlling the levels of crime throughout its region. Two systems that are used in measuring crime in the United States are the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The importance of using these crime measurements is to aptly calculate in areas where crimes is increasing or declining. It is an effective measure of crime deterrent in addition to, police force that makes a difference in areas where crime is exponentially high. Within this essay, it will provide an analytical comparison of the two crime measurements UCR and NIBRS, with the aid of the research, journal publication, and government agency resources. The primary focus is to discuss and analyze each crime measurement system’s methodological procedures and implications.
There is a prevailing belief that the advancement of efficient and effective criminal justice policy requires an accurate picture of crime. The primary tool for assessing crime in America has been the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) since its inception during the 1930s. Criticism of the UCR began almost as soon as the program began. One of the most frequent concerns was how crimes were counted. The original purpose of the UCR was to provide a basis for comparison. This led to a measure of crime that, although it provided an easily comparable set of indexes, failed to provide in-depth information about specific incidents of crime that would be extremely useful to theorists, researchers, and the police themselves. In an effort to bridge some of the gaps in the crime data, the FBI has attempted to broaden the utility of America’s crime data with the implementation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
Uniform Crime Report (UCR) was formulated by the FBI, and is one of the most if not commonly used and cited crime report measurements used in the United States. “The UCR Program’s primary objective is to provide a reliable set of criminal justice statistics for law enforcement administration, operation, and management.”(NJC, 1999) The UCR is used in a comparison of victim surveys and self-reports. It serves as a means of aiding in many sources of the criminal justice system, “They provide law enforcement with data for use in budget formulation, planning, resource allocation, assessment of police operations, etc., to help address the crime problem at various levels.”(FBI, 2011) Started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police developed the initial system in 1929 after wanting to formulate a system that provided a consistent catalog of police crime statistics based on crimes seriousness and frequency. After the initial studies and evaluations were run throughout the country they formulated a systematic plan that became the framework of the Uniform Crime Report Program (UCR). The system was then put to use in 1930 as the Department of Justice was in need of compiled data of published national crime statistics in one useful system. Since then the UCR has been widely used by criminal justice researchers to collect data on crime.
The FBI used the UCR system originally to get an idea about the amount of crime and how often crime happened in the US. The development of this crime information system was to indicate on a national level about the locations and types of crimes which was most often committed. “The FBI UCR Program is a nationwide, cooperative statistical effort of over 18,000 city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies (LEAs) voluntarily reporting data on offenses reported or known.”(FBI, 2013) Law enforcement agencies provide the crime data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and then compile and formulate the reports. The Uniform Crime Report however, does not count all crimes, some are not reported, and others are considered of a serious nature to be measured. The Uniform Crime Report Part I are index crimes or serious felonies reported to the police that have been selected for specific analysis because of the serious nature the likeliness that it would get reported, and the number of times it was done. The eight major offense categories are murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and arson. There are a large number of crimes that are not measured in the Uniform Crime Report because they are considered to be Part II crimes that consist of shoplifting, drug sale or use, fraud, prostitution, simple assault, vandalism, and other non-traffic offenses. Part II crimes are counted on the Uniform Crime Reports only if that person has been arrested and charged with a crime. These crimes do represent a large number of offenses that occur across the United States, however if the person is not arrested or charged with the crime it can create some measurement errors in the Uniform Crime Report.
A problem that has been hounding the criminal system has been white collar crimes, according to Cynthia Barnett, “White-collar offenses, in these cases, probably will be reported to the UCR Program only if criminal charges are filed, which is extremely rare in instances of corporate crime.”(Barnett, 2000) These are some of the crimes that UCR does not capture, white collar crimes include, “specialized offenses which are those not considered fraud, embezzlement, counterfeiting, or bribery.”(Barnett, 2000) These crimes do not fall under the normal category of Part I or Part II since they usually do not get recorded due to lack of follow through with convictions and arrest. In UCR’s current operations, they are made up of four parts that the FBI uses that include the Summary Reporting System (SRS), arrest Data for Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA), Hate Crimes Statistics Program and Cargo Theft, and finally the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). (FBI, 2013) The UCR involves the voluntary participation of local police departments that are established throughout the country in more than 100,000 states and local agencies, who help to report and record the crimes known to the system. A total of 47 states has instituted UCR programs in their system to compile data for their state. The UCR operates under strict guidelines and standards to ensure accurate measurement and reliability that include:
“1.A UCR Program must conform to the FBI UCR Program’s submission standards, definitions, specifications, and required deadlines.
- A UCR Program must establish data integrity procedures and have personnel assigned to assist contributing agencies in quality assurance practices and crime reporting procedures.
- A UCR Program’s submissions must cover more than 50 percent of the LEAs Within its established reporting domain and be willing to recover any and all UCR Contributing agencies who wish to use the UCR Program from within its domain. (An agency wishing to become a UCR Program must be willing to report for all of the agencies within the state).
- A UCR Program must furnish the FBI UCR Program with all of the UCR data collected by the LEAs within its domain.” (FBI, 2013)
UCR programs are employed in a majority of states. During the 80s, 98% of metropolitan statistical areas and 90% of rural areas reported to the UCR. In that time, it was reported that 97% of the population had been covered with the UCF, and at present the number is determined at 98% with this report. The Justice Department compiled a summary of UCR features that help to formulate the different statistics. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), “UCR, consists of monthly aggregate crime counts for eight index crimes, records one offense per incident as determined by hierarchy rule…hierarchy rule suppresses counts of lesser offenses in multiple-offense incidents. Applies “hotel rule” to burglary, records rape of females only and collects weapon information for murder, robbery, and aggravate assaults.” (BJS, 2000)
Every month, law enforcement agencies submit their findings on the amount of Part I crimes to the FBI. UCR has a different methodology than other crime measurements as their index of offenses are defined particularly for the system. The offenses consist of criminal homicide, “the willful non-negligent killing of one human being by another or a death caused by negligence, attempted killings, and suicides.”(Atlas, 2011) “Forcible rape, the raping a female forcibly and against her will, or attempts, and assaults.”(Atlas, 2011) Robbery, “the taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.”(Atlas, 2011) Aggravated assault, “an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury.”(Atlas, 2011) Burglary, “The unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft. Attempted forcible entry is included.”(Atlas, 2011) Larceny theft, “the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another.”(Atlas, 2011) Motor vehicle theft, “the theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle.”(Atlas, 2011) Arson, “any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud a house, public building or any other personal property of another.”(Atlas, 2011) Arson was not included in the Part I crime index’s originally, but was later added in 1979 to be included on the Uniform Crime Report. “The UCR’s Supplemental Homicide Reports provide the most reliable, timely data on the extent and nature of homicides in the Nation.”(NJC, 1999)
The U.S. is still considered an exceptionally high crime nation when compared to other developed countries. When considering the data contained in the UCR, must also be aware that as unemployment rates go up, crime goes up. This could be a factor as to why there was a dramatic change in crime statistics over the previous year. Part II of the UCR system is the non-index crimes such as simple assault, gambling, and drunken behavior. The way that UCR calculations are based on is the crimes per unit of population. This allows control of the population size and allows for a more accurate comparison. Conversely, the crime index of each offense is summed up and given the same weight as other offenses, so the index is un-weighted. The formula for UCR is calculated based on the original seven index offenses per 100,000 pops. (Population x 100,000=Crime Rate)
The way that the crimes are calculated for the “eight index crime classifications monthly, are totaled and reported on five elements: offenses reported or known to police (including “unfounded” offenses and attempts); unfounded, that is, false or baseless complaints; number of actual offenses (including attempts); total offenses cleared by arrest or exceptional means; and number of clearances involving only persons under age 18.”(BJS, 2000) Within the report are crimes that were cleared demographics of criminals arrested, number of police within the region, and details of homicide crimes including, demographics, relationship between the victim and offender, and other specific details that described the crime scene. (NJC, 1999)
However, like most measurement tools, there is room for error that must be taken into account when determining data. The FBI lets it be aware that in reading the data, precaution needs to warrant as they do not provide an accurate measurement. UCR’s weaker points: “UCR does not provide specific information on each incident (e.g., location, characteristics of the victim and offender, and injuries they received). If multiple crimes occur at the same scene, only the most serious are recorded.” (Hirschel, 2009) These statistics are only a portion of the regions true crime rate. During the mid-1960s and 1970s, the increase in deterring crime activity was attributed to enhance in communications, better police agencies, and reliable sources of reporting criminal activities. As policies and attitudes changed, the morality behind committing crimes changed, and more cases were going unreported. Although at the time, UCR served as the most reliable system. It has help to lead the way for a more up to date and faster system that has help to give a better view of criminal behavior in the United States. “Over the years, UCR data have become one of the country’s leading social indicators. Criminologists, sociologists, legislators, municipal planners, the media, and other students of criminal justice use the data for varied research and planning purposes.”(FBI, 2013)
The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) enhances on the features of the old UCR system. The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is an incident-based reporting system that allows agencies to collect information on each individual crime that is based on accounts from all levels of government, customized system to fit their needs. The NIBRS is a newer program that is part of the UCR. Police agencies in the 1970’s needed a better system to evaluate crime. As a result, The FBI developed a system which would meet the needs for police information on crime trends. The FBI developed the system with federal funds which allowed them to develop this new system. The FBI then conducted a study over several years with the goal of expanding and enhancing the UCR program.
The FBI developed new procedures for collecting information and disseminating it to state and local agencies. The information looked at different aspects of individual crimes giving specific information in helping to get an accurate account of the event. The new system was put to work in 1988 by the FBI. Using this new system local law enforcement agencies were able to create a more detailed and categorized report on each crime and arrest made within the crimes. Unlike the old system that used the hierarchy rule, and giving a short summary of the most serious of crime. NIBRS was able to give specific details using a 52 data element mechanism.
The NIBRS was developed by the FBI in 1985 is a crime investigation method which collects data on offenders, offences, victims and arrestees by mainly relying on the incident based national crime reporting system (National Institute of Justice, 2004). The data provided from each state to the FBI is highly accurate and is not limited to a specific number of crime groups like the UCR. “Originally designed as a summary system to collect only the most serious offense within an incident, the FBI UCR Program began using the NIBRS in 1989 to capture up to ten crime occurrences within an incident.”(FBI, 2013) According to the 1992 article, UCR Blueprint for the Future, “the most significant difference is that NIBRS is incident-based. This means that instead of tallying offense, arrest, and other crime-related data on a monthly basis, law enforcement agencies report NIBRS information for each individual crime incident and arrest through automated data processing means.”(Major, 1994) Since it relies on incident based data gathering procedures, a particular arrest can be directly linked to a definite incidence or offence (National Institute of Justice, 2004).
Just like in the UCR, NIBRS has no data on unreported crimes. However, “NIBRS enhances the UCR data because it describes details about 46 types of criminal activity.” (Hirschel, 2009) NIBRS data structure have been grouped into six levels, and 22 crime categories made up of 46 specific crimes called Group A offenses. They include all of the same UCR crimes but added with crimes such as embezzlement, fraud, bribery, other assaults, forgery, blackmail, gambling, and kidnapping. In Group B Arrest Report data, the offenses include, disorderly conduct, bad Checks, vagrancy violations, loitering, and curfew. Other offenses under the Group B include, driving under the influence, family offenses that are non-violent, drunkenness, liquor law violations, and Peeping Tom among other offenses categorized. These groupings help to provide the instrument to report Incident-Based Reporting (IBR) data to the FBI. “The configuration of the NIBRS data set is a reflection of the preferences and needs for crime statistics of the law enforcement community.”(Barnett, 2011) The proposed goals of NIBRS are to give an accurate and timely data that will enhance the quantity, quality, and timeliness of crime data collected by police and other agencies, in order to improve upon the methodology used for auditing, analyzing, compiling, and publishing all of the data. NIBRS goes beyond the added benefit of providing more information in data collected, but it is also capable of breaking down crimes and giving specific data for different offenses.
The characteristics of NIBRS data include unlike UCR, consists of individual incident records for all the offenses. Records each offense occurring in incident, it distinguishes between attempted and completed crimes. NIBRS records rape of male victims by female offenders restructure definition of assault and collects weapon information for all violent offenses. Like UCR the basis of NIBRS calculations are based on population, “Percent change represents 100 x (NIBRS Rate – Summary Rate) Summary Rate Percentages are rounded” (BJS, 2000) In the NIBRS, a third crime category was added, “Crimes against Society” to represent society’s prohibitions against certain types of activities. (FBI, 2013)
According to Dr. Hirschel, “NIBRS contains information on each incident reported to police, including:
- Characteristics of victims and offenders.
- Relationship between the victims and offenders.
- Crimes committed.
- Injuries at the incident scene.
- Weapons used.
- Arrests made.
- Incident location” (Hirschel, 2009)
NIBRS improves on the areas that the UCR system was lacking in regards the level of crimes recorded and the different demographics. In Cynthia Barnett’s piece on white collar crime, UCR did not include the crimes in their Part I crime indexes, but NIBRS does. In the summary of her calculations in measuring the crimes in America, she found, “With increased agency participation in NIBRS, however, the FBI will be better able to measure newer concerns in law enforcement, including white collar crime.”(Barnett, 2011)
NIBRS serves as, “An indispensable tool in the war against crime is law enforcement’s ability to identify with precision when and where crime takes place, what form it takes, and the characteristics of its victims and perpetrators.”(Major, 1994) NIBRS measurement system aids in ways that the UCR did not in such cases as kidnapping, drugs, and sexual assault of young children. In Kidnapping of Juveniles: Patterns of NIBRS, the authors have compile research and data based on the statistics of the NIBRS measurement tool. Children “are at increased risk for crime victimization. Not only are children victims of many of the same crimes that victimize adults, they are subject to other crimes, like child abuse and neglect that occur throughout their childhood.”(Finkelhor and Ormrod, 2000) The impact of the heinous crimes on the children can leave a devastating mark on their psychosis as the violent, and sexual victimization can often lead to an intergenerational cycle of violence and abuse.(Finkelhor and Ormrod, 2000) The of OJJDP’s Crimes against Children Series uses the data provided by the NIBRS to help improve and expand their efforts to better serve the victims of child crimes by giving accurate and timely data about the crimes committed, “including analyses of crime victimization statistics, studies of child victims and their specific needs, and descriptions of programs and approaches that address these needs.”(Finkelhor and Ormrod, 2000)
The rate at which children were getting abducted alarmed state agencies, and public concern. In the past measurement tools such as UCR did not collect law enforcement data on crimes against children, runaway, and missing or abducted children. The amount and rate at which these crimes were happening were not accurately measured. Until the formulation of NIBRS, agencies had no data to go on when tracking the trends in specific regions and cities. With the implantation of the NIBRS system, it has “enhance our understanding of youth abduction and create a comprehensive picture of kidnaping offenses.”(Finkelhor and Ormrod, 2000) The data was divided into three categories for child abduction: Family kidnapping, acquaintance kidnapping, and stranger kidnapping. What NIBRS system data collected was the victim’s ages, gender, locations, injuries, if weapons were used, and deaths that resulted. This information overall aids in police and state agencies understanding and finding of solutions to tracking and deterring the problems. A problem however, with NIBRS was that, “the limited coverage of NIBRS and the fact that kidnappings represent a very small percentage of all crimes make it impossible to project a reliable national estimate of kidnaping incidents.”(Finkelhor and Ormrod, 2000)
Another added benefit to NIBRS system is that it records demographics of each crime, contributing to find race and gender disparities within crimes. In Race, Ethnicity, and the Criminal Justice System, the article touches base on the findings of the NIBRS survey data. “Data reflecting trends over time are presented for context. It seeks to present a balanced picture of that is known about these issues from systematic research evidence.”(ASA, 2007) The data recorded show how African Americans were disproportionally represented in the amount of crimes committed and victims of crimes in the United States. A growing number of crimes were being committed by illegal aliens, and juveniles. This research has compiled analytical data evidence from different measurement systems including UCR and (NCVS) National Crime Victimization Survey to show criminal behavior in adults, and increasing amounts in juveniles.
As in the earlier of case of not reliable data on children and youth kidnapping so was the same for sexual assaults on young children. The research compiled by the American Statistical Association (ASA) compiled research and data based on the findings from NIBRS, which showed how out of date previous data collected from the NCVS. “NIBRS captures a wide range of information on each incident of sexual assault reported to law enforcement.”(Snyder, 2000) The data used in the study was pulled from a past year range of NIBRS data in order to study the trends, victims, incident characteristics, and location of offenders. The data compiled based on age, gender, location, and if weapons were used. The information that the NIBRS was unparalleled to other surveys in providing specifics in order to formulate a trend or graph that help to show statistics, profiling the offender, and a clear picture to the number of victims in various incident characteristics.
On trying to methodize how NIBRS is an improvement on a still widely used system, useful in knowing that the framework of NIBRS is from UCR, it was just improved upon by the impute from local and state government agencies, officers, and data that showed most crimes were outside UCR eight index crimes. In some programs more specifically used by the FBI combine UCR and NIBRS data in order to compile a more reliable and accurate data statistics of crimes committed in each state. The categories used helped with tracking serious yet previous unrecorded crimes that rip the nation apart every day. NIBRS is continually expanded throughout the United States.
In conclusion, the UCR and the NIBRS are two systems that are run accordingly with each other instead of against. The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) was established in 1929 as a reliable way of measuring crime throughout the United States. The UCR measures the capability of law enforcement agencies on the state and federal level in helping to deter and prevent crimes in the region. UCR also provides the necessary information to all levels of the local government in drafting policies, budgets, and programs to fight crime.
One of the biggest strengths of the UCR are their standardization in classification, accuracy, reliability, and scoring of its data. UCR is the most common crime measurement in the US the distinction between the various types of crime can be recognized between attempted and accomplished crimes. However, the UCR statistics provided are restricted to an explicit number of crimes based on the UCR’S classification system. There are some percentages of crime that go unreported, and are not included in the measurements creating errors within the results. Additionally as, expressed earlier in the essay UCR does not collect information on unreported crimes, so many crimes do not get reported and measured, due to the classifications and the reliance of the victims.
The NIBRS is an incident based system that was formulated due to needed upgrade of the UCR system. The FBI needed a better measurement tool in helping to facilitate different levels of crime and activity throughout the United States. The NIBRS is capable of giving a more detailed account for each incident and arrest, unlike UCR that only records a summary of the information needed for their index crime offenses. NIBRS is able to collect more data and information from police agencies through their increased categories of crimes listed in their Group a list, and usually untracked crimes listed in their Group B. Since the inception of the UCR program, it has tracked data on eight crimes: murder, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, theft, vehicle theft, and the inclusion of arson in 1979. UCR data, however, has several limitations that impair their use in analyzing local crime for use in measuring “specialized crimes.” UCR does not provide specific information on each incident, unlike NIBRS that collects incident characteristics such as age, gender, location, weapons used, injury and death, and other useful information. In addition, if multiple crimes occur at the same scene, or if arrest were made, only the most serious is recorded. Largely because of these limitations of the UCR system, the FBI had to revise the system in the 1980s. Officers have the capability using the two systems combined to accurately record information about each incident, including victim and offender details, features of crimes that occurred at the scene, and if an arrest was made at the scene.
Due to the addition of such data for official crime reporting, a police agencies and government officials at the state and federal level can make better decisions. Based on data from NIBRS data alone or combined with UCR data, they are able to give information on citywide data, in order to obtain a more comprehensive view of criminal activity in the region. Researchers have successfully used NIBRS data to assess dual arrest data and examine drug distribution in the United States. “As of 2004, NIBRS data have been supplied to the FBI by 5,271 law enforcement agencies that represent approximately 20 percent of the total U.S. population.”
Since the inception of the UCR, their methodology was in defining the crimes that they categorized. These definitions have been incorporated in the NIBRS system as well. Unlike UCR, NIBRS does not follow the “hierarchy rule” if they are several crimes committed at the scene, NIBRS will take a record of each event. Making a record of additional information not required of UCR aids NIBRS in getting a better understanding of the crime and all its details. According to BJS, in terms of data significance, NIBRS only rated slightly higher in a few crimes including.
- “Murder rates are the same ̆
- Rape, robbery, and aggravated
Assault rates in NIBRS are about 1%
Higher, on average, than in Summary UCR
- NIBRS burglary rates are lower by
An average 0.5%
- NIBRS larceny rates are higher by
An average 3.4%
- NIBRS motor vehicle theft rates are
Higher by an average 4.5 %”( BJS, 2000)
NIBRS and UCR are both instruments used by the FBI in recording and analyzing crime statistics. In measuring, they used combinations of factors in helping to outline a comprehensive survey that accurately shows criminal levels in each state in aid to give information for the program on crime determent, information for victims, and patterns to track offender’s locations. The details captured within the UCR and NIBRS systems paint a better picture in the level of society that we currently operate in and where we need to be headed. The information provided in comparing the methodologies and procedures of UCR and NIBRS with the aid of literary research and information provided by government agencies hopes to give a better understanding of how the United States calculates and measures crime.
Barnett, Cynthia.” Measurement of White-Collar Crime Using Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Data.”(2000). US Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/nibrs/nibrs_wcc.pdf
Department of Justice The Nation’s two crime measures. (1999). NCJ. Retrieved from http://www.criminology.fsu.edu/transcrime/twomeasures.pdf
Finkelhor, David and Richard Ormrod. “Kidnaping of Juveniles: Patterns from NIBRS.” (2000). US Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/kidnaping_of_juveniles.pdf.
Hirschel, David. “Expanding Police Ability to Report Crime: The National Incident-Based Reporting System.” (2009). NIJ in Short. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/225459.pdf
Major, V L. “UCR’s (Uniform Crime Reports) Blueprint for the Future.” (1992). National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Digitization/139475NCJRS.pdf
Race, Ethnicity, and the Criminal Justice System. (2007). American Statistics Association. Retrieved from http://www.asanet.org/images/press/docs/pdf/ASARaceCrime.pdf
National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) User Manual. (2013). FBI. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/nibrs/nibrs-user-manaul
Ranrata, Romana. “Effects of NIBRS on Crime Statistics.” (2000). Bureau of Justice Statistics. Retrieved from http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/encs.pdf
Snyder, Howard. “Sexual Assault of Young Children as Reported to Law Enforcement: Victim, Incident, and Offender Characteristics. (2000) National Center for Juvenile Justice. Retrieved from http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/saycrle.pdf
Sources of Crime Data: Uniform Crime Reports and the National Institute Based Reporting System. (n.d). Retrieved from http://www.nij.gov/topics/crime/ucr-nibrs.htm
Strom, Kevin. “State Use of Incident-Based Crime Statistics.” (1999).U.S. Department of Justice. Retrieved from http://bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/suibcs98.pdf
Summary of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. (2011). Atlas. Retrieved from http://www.nationalatlas.gov/articles/people/a_crimereport.html
Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics: Their Proper Use. (2011). FBI. Retrieved from http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr-statistics-their-proper-us