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Understanding the Picture of Crime through Uniform Crime Reporting

What is UCR? Does it draw a complete picture of crime in US? What purpose does the NCVS serve?


The UCR or the Uniform Crime Reporting program that was conceived in year 1929 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police has played a critical role in supporting law enforcement agencies with establishing control over crime by analyzing trends.  Whether it is the law enforcement executives or the criminal justice researchers or even media and public, they consider the UCR the point to start from when it comes to getting a picture of crime inside the nation. UCR publishes four important publications annually.  They are Crime in the United States, National Incident Based Reporting System, Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted and Hate Crime Statistics.


  1. Crime in the United States: CIUS presents data related to the crimes committed in US and known to the law categorized under distinct categories. Apart from that the report presents trends and rates of crime. The report organizes crime data under distinct categories like violent crime, property crime, homicides etc. the report also presents data on arrested people as well as some other aspects of crime.
  2. NIBRS: As the name suggests the National Incident Based Reporting System is an incident based reporting system for the crimes known to the police. There is a variety of data related to every crime and this data is collected in the NIBRS regarding every crime coming to the attention of law in US. The data includes the nature and type of crime as well as characteristics of the offender and the victim and more. One major advantage of this report is that it provides quite a large amount of data regarding the crimes being reported. Moreover, the information is organized in ways that makes it usable for so many purposes. Still, there is a drawback that it does not provide information on crimes that have gone unreported.
  3. LEOKA: Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted Reports records the number of officers who were killed or assaulted on duty accidentally or feloniously. There is a small drawback of this report too. The weapons used to assault or kill the officers are not reported. Apart from it distinguishing and comparing the data is not an easy task for the data is listed under several categories making the task complex.
  4. Hate Crime Statistics: The Hate Crime Statistics report publishes data collected from several resources. There are thousands of Universities and Colleges, city, county, state, tribal, federal and other law agencies that participate voluntarily in the collection of data for the Hate Crime Statistics. The officers in these agencies have to analyse the data prior to categorizing it as one motivated by bias or as a hate crime. There is also a small drawback which is caused by the ambiguities that make it difficult to identify a bias motivated crime from a hate crime.

How accurate a picture of crime does the UCR draw? Where does the NCVS fit in?


UCR has been considered a very good starting point for the people interested in studying crime and crime patterns in US. The program is supported by more than 18000 law enforcement agencies that participate in the data collection program voluntarily. The data has to be submitted to the UCR either directly to the main UCR program or through the state UCR programs. The collected data is then given the form of four publications.  Undeniably the UCR is a great source of information on crime stats in US. While UCR measures crime statistics in US, it also equally true that it does not provide the best measure of crime. The data compiled in the UCR is valuable and still there are several aspects of crime that cannot be understood just from these reports. However, the data for these aspects of crime in the nation can be obtained from the NCVS or the National Crime Victimization Survey.

NCVS is valuable resource to obtain data on criminal victimization.  It collects data from a sample of 90,000 families comprised of 160,000 persons regarding frequency, characteristics as well as consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. Every year, each of the households is interviewed twice to prepare the report. The survey mainly analyses the likelihood of victimization by rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated and simple assault, theft, household burglary, and motor vehicle theft for the population. The survey also analyses the likelihood of crime for various other segments like women, elderly population, members of racial and ethnic groups, city population and several other groups. Apart from everything NCVS also provides a forum where the victims can discuss the impact of crime as well as characteristics of the offenders. NCVS also collects data on both types of crimes reported and unreported. It is also the main source of information on the nature of criminal victimization incidents.  The respondents have to provide information about themselves and the type of victimization they underwent. UCR and NCVS are used complementarily by researchers as they provide data on two different aspects of crime. UCR reports on crime and NCVS on victimization and the two must be used to get a more complete and clear picture of crime in US.  People or agencies interested in crime related data must not rely on just one of the two. In this regard the notable thing is that just UCR is not a fully reliable source to analyze the crime trends in US. The two must be used together to understand the nature, magnitude as well as impact of crime in US.