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Federal Bureau of Investigation
Common name Federal Bureau of Investigation
Abbreviation FBI
Seal of the Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) contain official data on crime that is reported to law enforcement agencies across the United States who then provide the data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). UCR focuses on index crimes, which include homicide and non-negligent manslaughter, robbery, forcible rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. UCR is a summary-based reporting system, with data aggregated to the city, county, state, and other geographic levels. Crime statistics are compiled from UCR data and published annually by the FBI in the Crime in the United States series. To address limitations of UCR, the FBI has developed the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) system, which is slowly being deployed by law enforcement agencies.


History of the UCR

The UCR Program was based upon work by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) throughout the 1920s to create a uniform national set of crime statistics, reliable for analysis. In 1927, the IACP created the Committee on Uniform Crime Reporting to determine statistics for national comparisons. The committee determined seven crimes fundamental to comparing crime rates: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, burglary, aggravated assault, larceny and motor vehicle theft (the eighth, arson, was added under a congressional directive in 1979). The early program was managed by the IACP, prior to FBI involvement, done through a monthly report. The first report in January 1930 reported data from 400 cities throughout 43 states, covering more than 20 million individuals, approximately twenty percent of the total U.S. population.[2]

June 11, 1930, through IACP lobbying, the United States Congress passed legislation enacting 28 USC §534, which granted the office of the Attorney General the ability to “acquire, collect, classify, and preserve identification, criminal identification, crime, and other records” with the ability appoint officials to oversee this duty, including the subordinate members of the Bureau of Investigation. In 1930, full authority was passed to the Bureau of Investigation, which was renamed numerous times throughout the 1930’s eventually becoming the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935, the July 1930 issue of the IACP crime report serving as notice of the FBI’s takeover of the program. While the IACP discontinued oversight of the program, they continued to advise the FBI to better the UCR.

Since 1935, the FBI served as a data clearinghouse; organizing, collecting, and disseminating information voluntarily submitted by local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies. The UCR remained the primary tool for collection and analysis of data for the next half century. Throughout the 1980s, a series of National UCR Conferences were with members from the IACP, Department of Justice, including the FBI, and newly formed Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). The purpose was to determine necessary system revisions and then implement them. The result of these conferences was the release of a “Blueprint for the Future of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program” release in May 1985, detailing the necessary revisions. The report proposed splitting reported data into two separate categories, the eight ‘serious’ crimes and twenty-one less commonly reported crimes. The eight serious crimes became known as Part I index crimes. The additional twenty-one crimes are considered Part II index crimes.

In 2003, FBI UCR data were compiled from more than 16,000 agencies, representing 93 percent of the population[3] in forty six states and the District of Columbia.[4] While nationally reporting is not mandated, many states have instituted laws requiring law enforcement within those states to provide UCR data. The continued growth and improvement of the UCR is unlikely as the US Department of Justice and other UCR Conference members have decided to integrate the UCR program into the NIBRS program, created in the late 1980s based on the UCR framework.

Data collection

Each month, law enforcement agencies report the number of known index crimes in their jurisdiction to the FBI. This mainly includes crimes reported to the police by the general public, but may also include crimes that police officers discover, and known through other sources. Law enforcement agencies also report the number of crime cases cleared.

UCR Crime Categories

Violent and Property Crime Indexes per 100,000 population, 2004 Uniform Crime Report

For reporting purposes, criminal offenses are divided into two major groups: Part I offenses and Part II offenses.

In Part I, the UCR indexes reported incidents in two categories: violent and property crimes. Aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder, and robbery are classified as violent while arson, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft are classified as property crimes. These are reported via the document named Return A - Monthly Return of Offenses Known to the Police. Part 1 crimes are collectively known as Index crimes, this name is used because the crimes are considered quite serious, tend to be reported more reliably than others, and are reported directly to the police and not to a separate agency (ex- IRS) that doesn't necessarily contribute to the UCR.

In Part II, the following categories are tracked: simple assault, curfew offenses and loitering, embezzlement, forgery and counterfeiting, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, drug offenses, fraud, gambling, liquor offenses, offenses against the family, prostitution, public drunkenness, runaways, sex offenses, stolen property, vandalism, vagrancy, and weapons offenses.

Two property reports are also included with the Return A. The first is the Property Stolen by Classification report. This report details the number of actual crimes of each type in the Return A and the monetary value of property stolen in conjunction with that crime. Some offenses are reported in greater detail on this report than on the Return A. For example, on the Report A, burglaries are divided into three categories: Forcible Entry, Unlawful Entry - No Force, and Attempted Forcible Entry. On the Property Stolen by Classification report, burglaries are divided into six categories based on location type and the time of the offense. Offenses are counted in residences with offense times of 6pm to 6am, 6am to 6pm and Unknown Time and Non-residences with the same three time groupings.

The second property report is the Property Stolen by Type and Value report. The monetary value of both stolen and recovered property are totaled and classified as one of eleven property types:

  • Currency, Notes, Etc.
  • Jewelry and Precious Metals
  • Clothing and Furs
  • Locally Stolen Motor Vehicles
  • Office Equipment
  • Televisions, Radios, Stereos, Etc.
  • Firearms
  • Household Goods
  • Consumable Goods
  • Livestock
  • Miscellaneous

The FBI began recording arson rates, as part of the UCR, in 1979. This report details arsons of the following property types:

  • Single Occupancy Residential (houses, townhouses, duplexes, etc)
  • Other Residential (apartments, tenements, flats, hotels, motels, dormitories, etc)
  • Storage (barns, garages, warehouses, etc)
  • Industrial/Manufacturing
  • Other Commercial (stores, restaurants, offices, etc)
  • Community/Public (churches, jails, schools, colleges, hospitals, etc)
  • All Other Structures (out buildings, monuments, buildings under construction, etc)
  • Motor Vehicles (automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc)
  • Other Mobile Property (trailers, recreational vehicles, airplanes, boats, etc)
  • Other (crops, timber, fences, signs, etc)

Criticism of the UCR

Critics of the UCR note they do not accurately reflect crime rates in that they can only list crimes reported to law enforcement agencies. Also, should a number of crimes be connected, they only list the most serious one. For instance, if someone were murdered during a car theft, they would only list murder. Lastly, the list is biased in the reporting of rape. The UCR defines forcible rape as, "the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will." It does not list rapes against men, nor does it list same-sex rape.

The UCR itself warns that it reflects crime reports by police, not later adjudication by coroner, medical examiner, district attorney, grand jury, trial judge, petit jury or appellate court. For instance, manslaughter or assault later adjudicated as justifiable self-defense normally will be listed on the initial police report as a criminal act and entered in the crime statistics.

Criticisms of Statistical Validity

Comparing arrests, reports and unknown violent crime

The UCR does not include simple assaults in part 1 and minor assaults, verbal assaults and other such crimes, which can account for between 50% and 90% of violent crimes in other countries, are not recorded.

Differences with and Evolution to NIBRS

See also


  1. ^ a b c d "Quick Facts". Federal Bureau of Investigation. Retrieved 2009-11-20. 
  2. ^ Crime in the United States 2000. (PDF). Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. Washington, D.C.. Retrieved on 2008-03-30.
  3. ^ Frequently Asked Questions. Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. Washington, D.C.. Uniform Crime Reports. Retrieved on 2008-03-30.
  4. ^ UCR and NIBRS Participation. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics. Washington, D.C.. Retrieved on 2008-03-30.

Further reading

  • Lynch, J. P., & Addington, L. A. (2007). Understanding crime statistics: revisiting the divergence of the NCVS and UCR. Cambridge studies in criminology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521862042

External links

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