To address the need of many entities—news media, tourism agencies, and other groups with an interest in crime in the United States for an official Crime Index figures, Uniform Crime Reports had been provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation since July 1930. The FBI acquired this information from the different law enforcement agencies across the country and then compiled it in aid of assessing criminality and law enforcement response for a given city, county, state, and other geographic levels.
“UCR focuses on index crimes by making the violent and property crimes as Part I offense. Those belonging to their classification of violent crimes are Aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder, and robbery while for those of property crimes are arson, burglary, larceny-theft and motor-vehicle theft.
Other crimes monitored in UCR are 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.”
The UCR is the primary source of U.S. crime statistics. Based on the Crime in the United States 2000, “the Uniform Crime Reports give a nationwide view of crime based on statistics contributed by state and local law enforcement agencies.” These reports would then be used to study some factors, such as population density and degree of urbanization, which are known to affect the volume and type of crime occurring from place to place.
Furthermore, the Uniform Crime Report is a valid measurement or technique for assembling statistics about crime and could also be used for international comparisons that would determine how different nations have varying definitions and interpretations of criminal behavior.
According to Steven Barkan in his Criminology, A Sociological Understanding, “the UCR severely underestimate the actual number of crimes.” He believes that only 3-4 percent of all crimes are discovered by policemen. He also states that police in various areas may have different definition and interpretation of crimes. He also criticized the emphasis of UCR towards index crimes as said in its purpose which allegedly diverts attention away from white-collar crimes.
As a result of the above problems cited by Barkan, many critics say that UCR does not accurately reflect crime rates. In addition, UCR implements a hierarchy rule wherein if there would be a chance that more than one offense were committed at the same period by the same person, the higher offense shall only be the one reported. For example, “if someone were murdered during a car theft, UCR would only include murder.” Lastly, critics states that forcible rape has a loophole because in UCR, it is only defined as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will.” It does not include rapes against men and of the same-sex rape.
So as to try to dissolve these several issues with the use of UCR, a more comprehensive approach called the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is being developed by FBI that would intensify data gathering for all sort of crimes not only to those handled by UCR.
Barkan, S. Criminology, A Sociological Understanding, 3rd Ed. Pearson Prentice Hall
Crime in the United States 2000: Uniform Crime Reports. Federal Bureau of Investigation
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C. 20535. Retrieved May 29, 2008 from
Uniform Crime Reports. Retrieved May 29, 2008 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_Crime_Reports