Research Paper on Crime Reports and Statistics

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This sample research paper on crime reports and statistics features: 6900+ words (25 pages), an outline, and APA format bibliography with 15 sources.

Outline

I. Introduction

II. What Are Crime Reports and Statistics, and Why Are They Important?

III. Who Publishes Crime Reports and Statistics, and How Do They Do It?

IV. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the UCR Program

A. What Crimes Are Measured in the UCR?

B. The Future of the UCR Program: The National Incident-Based Reporting System

C. Advantages and Disadvantages of UCR Data

V. The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the NCVS

A. NCVS Methodology

B. Crimes Measured in the NCVS

C. The Future of the NCVS

D. Advantages of the NCVS

E. Disadvantages of the NCVS

VI. UCR Data and the NCVS Compared

VII. Conclusion

I. Introduction

The purpose of this research paper is to provide an overview of crime reports and statistics. Crime reports and statistics convey an extensive assortment of information about crime to the reader and include topics such as the extent of crime and the nature or characteristics of criminal offenses, as well as how the nature and characteristics of crime change over time. Aside from these big-picture topics related to crime, crime reports and statistics communicate specific information on the characteristics of the criminal incident, the perpetrator(s), and the victim(s). For example, crime reports and statistics present information on the incident, such as weapon presence, police involvement, victim injury, and location of the crime. Details such as the age, race, gender, and gang membership of the offender are also available in many of these reports. Also, details gleaned from statistics regarding the victim, such as, but not limited to, income, race, age, relationship with the offender, education, and working status, are made available. Crime reports can convey information that affects the complete population of individuals and/or businesses, or they can convey crime-related information on a subset of victims, such as males, the elderly, businesses, or the poor. Crime reports and statistics can focus on a short period of time, such as a month, or they can cover longer periods, such as 1 year or many years. In addition, these reports can offer change in crime and its elements over time. Statistics offered in crime reports may describe crime as it pertains to a small geographical region, such one city; one region, such as the West or the Northeast; or the entire nation. Finally, on the basis of statistics, these reports can describe crime in a static, point-in-time way, and they can provide a dynamic perspective describing how crime, its characteristics, or risk change over time.

Topics covered in this research paper include a discussion on what crime reports and statistics are as well as why they are important. Information presented includes what agencies publish crime reports and statistics as well as a brief history of these bureaus. Because crime reports and statistics are social products, it is imperative to present information on the data used to generate them. Two major data sources are used to generate crime reports and statistics: (1) the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and (2) the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The data these reports yield, as well as the methodology and measurement they use, are described. Because no data are perfect, a description of their advantages and disadvantages are presented. Because these data are the two primary sources of crime information in the United States, the research paper explores a comparison of these data. Given that entire textbooks can be devoted to the topic of crime reports and statistics, this research paper provides readers with a relatively short overview of the major topics related to these important items. For readers who wish to delve into the topic in greater detail, a list of recommended readings is provided at the close of the research paper.

To fully appreciate the information found in crime reports and the statistics used to summarize them, one must be aware of what is meant by crime reports and statistics, why this topic is important, who is responsible for the creation of reports and statistics, and how the reports and statistics are created. To address these important issues, the research paper is structured around these significant questions. It first addresses the question “What are crime reports and statistics, and why are they important?” Next, it asks, “What agency is responsible for crime reports and statistics?” In answering this question, the research paper presents past and current information about the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Next, the research paper moves to addressing the closely related question “How are crime reports and statistics generated?” This portion of the research paper is the lengthiest, because it offers information on the nuts and bolts of the UCR and the NCVS, including a look at the history of the programs as well as future directions. Included also is a discussion of the methodology, advantages, and disadvantages of each program.

II. What Are Crime Reports and Statistics, and Why Are They Important?

Crime reports describe information about crime and cover an almost endless array of crime topics. They can focus on specific crimes, types of victims, types of offenders, and/or characteristics of the offenses. A useful tool in conveying information about crime in crime reports is by using statistics. Statistics are merely numerical measures used to summarize a large amount of information—in this case, information on crime. For example, if one noted that on average in a particular year that 50% of violent crime was reported to the police, that person has simply summarized crime data and presented a simple meaningful number (50%) about that particular phenomenon (crime reporting).

Crime reports and statistics are vital to the study of criminology. Without these tools, our understanding about what kind of crime is occurring, how often crime is being committed, who is committing crime, who is being victimized, and the characteristics of offenses would be little more than guesses. Aside from a pure information utility, crime reports and accompanying statistics serve as an important indicator of the “health” of society. A rising crime rates suggests that society is ailing. Unequal victimization risk among groups of individuals suggests a societal ill in need of attention. Conversely, a reduction in crime conveyed by these reports and statistics is one indicator of an improved quality of life. An equally important function served by crime reports and statistics is to assist researchers in the development of and testing of crime and victimization theories. Another important function of crime reports is providing policymakers valuable, empirically based information so they can design policies to further reduce crime, better assist crime victims, and effectively deal with offenders.Without reliable information on crime, policies designed to reduce all crime and victimization would not only be ineffective but would also represent misappropriated or wasted valuable resources.

III. Who Publishes Crime Reports and Statistics, and How Do They Do It?

In general, the federal government publishes crime reports and statistics.The department within the federal government responsible for these publications is the U.S. Department of Justice. And within the Department of Justice, publications are generated by two bureaus: (1) the FBI and (2) the BJS. Because these documents are generated using taxpayer dollars, more recent crime reports (i.e., since about 1995) are available free to the public online at the respective bureaus (http://www.foi.gov and http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs).

IV. The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the UCR Program

Most individuals are aware of the crime-fighting responsibilities of the FBI. Fewer know that the responsibilities of the FBI include those of crime data compiler, crime data analysis, and publisher of crime reports for the United States. These responsibilities are accomplished through the UCR program, which compiles crime reports submitted voluntarily either directly by local, state, federal, or tribal law enforcement agencies or through centralized state agencies across the country. Although there are some exceptions, in general, UCR data are submitted to the FBI on a monthly basis. The crime information gathered via the UCR program comprises the nation’s oldest unified national crime data. Although the crime data may be the nation’s oldest, it took approximately 50 years of calls for such data before the UCR program started collecting crime data in 1930, and even then the crime report collection did not occur in the Bureau of Investigation (the precursor to the FBI); instead, a collective of police chiefs are responsible for the commencement of one of the nation’s two major crime information sources.

Calls for unified national statistics on crime were first made first in the 19th century. Although crime data had been collected for a long time, this collection was conducted at the state and local levels by some jurisdictions only. This was problematic, because no two states defined crimes in the same way. Neither did each jurisdiction necessarily collect information on the same crimes. Because of this, there was no way to aggregate this information in any meaningful way to get a unified picture of the national crime situation, and without standard offenses, officials could not make comparisons across jurisdictions. In 1870, the Department of Justice was established. At this time, Congress mandated the reporting of annual crime statistics. A short time later, in 1871, an appeal for unified national crime information was made at the convention of the National Police Association, an organization that later became known as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Unfortunately, neither the establishment of the Department of Justice nor the call of police chiefs resulted in the collection of national crime information.

About 50 years later, in the late 1920s, the IACP established a Committee on the Uniform Crime Records to resolve this gap in crime information. The purpose of the committee was to develop a program as well as procedures for collecting information about the extent of crime in the United States. The product of this work was the UCR. Initiated in 1927, this program was designed to provide unified, reliable, and systematic information on a set of serious crimes reported to law enforcement agencies across the country. Using these data, police chiefs could compare crime across jurisdictions and time. The IACP managed the UCR program for several years, until the responsibility moved to FBI in 1935.

The UCR program initially included crime reports from 400 law enforcement agencies from 43 states, describing crime for approximately 20% of the population. Over time, the program has grown, and it now gathers crime reports from approximately 17,000 law enforcement agencies from all states, the District of Columbia, and some U.S. territories. Furthermore, the UCR program now describes crime as it occurs in almost the entire nation. The purpose of the UCR program started as, and continues to be, serving the needs of law enforcement agencies.

A. What Crimes Are Measured in the UCR?

The UCR program gathers information on a wide variety of criminal offenses. Since 1985, these crimes have been partitioned into Part I and Part II crimes. Part I offenses include eight crimes that are considered to be serious and occur regularly. The frequency of these offenses means that enough information can be gathered to enable comparisons regarding crime across time and across jurisdiction. The eight Part I offenses include the following: (1) murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, (2) forcible rape, (3) robbery, (4) aggravated assault, (5) burglary, (6) larceny–theft, (7) motor vehicle theft, and (8) arson.

Part II crimes are also considered serious offenses; however, they differ from Part I offenses in that they occur relatively less frequently. Because of the infrequent nature of these events, reliable comparisons between jurisdictions or over time for these offenses are not often possible. The following are Part II criminal offenses:

  • Other assaults (simple)
  • Forgery and counterfeiting
  • Corporate fraud
  • Embezzlement
  • Buying, receiving, and possessing stolen property
  • Vandalism
  • Possession and carrying of a weapon
  • Prostitution and commercialized vice
  • Drug abuse violations
  • Gambling
  • Nonviolent and unlawful offenses against family and children
  • Driving under the influence
  • Liquor law violations
  • Drunkenness
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Vagrancy
  • All other violations of state or local laws not specified (except traffic violations)
  • Suspicion, that is, arrested and released without formal charges
  • Curfew violations and loitering
  • Runaways

The UCR program offers more than simply counts of each crime. Depending on the crime, it also offers details of the criminal incident. The crime for which there is greatest detail in the UCR is murder and nonnegligent manslaughter. Using Supplemental Homicide Reporting forms, the FBI gathers information on the homicide victim’s age, sex, and race; the offender’s age, race, and sex; weapon type (if any); victim and offender relationship; and the circumstances that led to the homicide. For other crimes, some, but not many, details are available. For instance, one can ascertain whether a rape was completed or attempted, whether a burglary involved forcible entry, the type of motor vehicle stolen, and whether a robbery included a weapon.

B. The Future of the UCR Program: The National Incident-Based Reporting System

Since the UCR program was launched, little has changed in terms of the data collected. One exception is the addition of arson as a Part I crime. Over time, it became clear that change was needed in the UCR program. For example, the lack of incident-level detail for offense data gathered was viewed as a significant limitation. In fact, most scholars refer to the UCR program as the UCR summary program, because it collects only aggregate-level information on the eight Part I index crimes over time.Another problem is that some crime definitions had become dated. In response to these and other concerns, evaluations by the FBI, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the IACP, and the National Security Agency in the late 1970s and early 1980s concluded that the UCR program was in need of modernization and enhancements to better serve its major constituency: law enforcement. The final report of these evaluations and recommendations are available in Blueprint for the Future of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

The resulting redesign, introduced in the mid-1980s, is the UCR program’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). As the name indicates, data submitted to the FBI include the nature and types of crimes in each incident, victim(s) and offender(s) characteristics, type and value of stolen and recovered property, and characteristics of arrested individuals. In short, the NIBRS offers much more comprehensive and detailed data than the UCR.

The NIBRS, like the traditional UCR summary program, is voluntary, reflects crimes known to the police and gathers data on the same crimes as the summary program. Although the two systems share some characteristics, major differences exist. A significant difference is that the NIBRS has the capacity to collect incident-level details for all crimes covered. Another difference in the two programs is that the nomenclature of Part I and Part II offenses was discarded in favor of Group A and Group B classes of offenses in NIBRS. Group A crimes are substantially more inclusive than Part I offenses and consist of 22 crimes covering 46 offenses, some of which are listed here:

  • Homicide (murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, negligent manslaughter, justifiable homicide [which is not a crime])
  • Sex offenses, forcible (forcible rape, forcible sodomy, sexual assault with an object, forcible fondling)
  • Robbery
  • Assault (aggravated, simple, intimidation)
  • Burglary/breaking and entering
  • Larceny–theft
  • Motor vehicle theft
  • Arson
  • Bribery
  • Sex offense, nonforcible
  • Counterfeiting/forgery
  • Destruction/damage/vandalism of property
  • Drug/narcotic offenses
  • Pornography/obscene material
  • Prostitution
  • Embezzlement
  • Extortion/blackmail
  • Fraud
  • Gambling offenses
  • Kidnapping/abduction
  • Stolen property offenses
  • Weapon law violations

Group B comprises 11 offenses and covers all crime that does not fall into Group A offenses:

  • Bad checks
  • Curfew/loitering/vagrancy
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Driving under the influence
  • Drunkenness
  • Family offense/nonviolent
  • Liquor law violations
  • Peeping tom
  • Runaway
  • Trespass of real property
  • All other offenses

In the NIBRS, law enforcement agencies are categorized as full-participation agencies or limited-participation agencies. Full-participation agencies are those that can submit data without placing any new burden on the officers preparing the reports and that have sufficient data-processing and other resources to meet FBI reporting requirements. Fullparticipation agencies submit data on all Group A and B offenses. Limited-participation agencies are unable to meet the offense-reporting requirements of full-participation agencies. These agencies submit detailed incident information only on the eight Part I UCR offenses.

Yet another departure from the traditional UCR summary system is that although the NIBRS collects data on many of the same crimes, it uses some revised and new offense definitions. For example, in the traditional UCR summary program, only a female can be a victim of a forcible rape. The NIBRS redefines forcible rape as “the carnal knowledge of a person,” allowing males to be victims of these offenses. A new offense category of crime included in the NIBRS is called crimes against society; these include drug/narcotic offenses, pornography/obscene material, prostitution, and gambling offenses. An important difference between the UCR and the NIBRS is that the NIBRS enables one to distinguish between an attempted versus a complete crime. Previously, no distinction was available. A significant improvement of NIBRS data is the ability to link attributes of a crime. For instance, in the traditional system, with the exception of homicide, one could not link offender information, victim information, and incident victim information.With the NIBRS, one can link data on victims to offenders to offenses to arrestees.

In the NIBRS, the hierarchy rule was changed dramatically. In the traditional system, the hierarchy rule prevented one from counting an incident multiple times due to multiple offenses within the same incident. Using the hierarchy rule, law enforcement agencies determined the most serious offense in an incident and reported only that offense to the FBI. With the NIBRS, all offenses in a single incident are recorded and can be analyzed. Some researchers have reported that the hierarchy rule has been completely suspended in the NIBRS, but this is incorrect. Two exceptions to the hierarchy rule remain. First, if a motor vehicle is stolen (motor vehicle theft), and there were items in the car (property theft), only the motor vehicle theft is reported. Second, in the event of a justifiable homicide two offenses are reported: (1) the felonious acts by the offenders and (2) the actual nonnegligent homicide. In the NIBRS, the hotel rule was modified as well. The hotel rule states that where there is a burglary in a dwelling or facility in which multiple units were burglarized (e.g., a hotel) and the police are most likely to be reported by the manager of the dwelling, the incident is counted as a single offense. In addition, the NIBRS has extended the hotel rule to self-storage warehouses, or mini-warehouses.

C. Advantages and Disadvantages of UCR Data

The traditional UCR summary reporting system is characterized by many advantages. First, it has been ongoing for more than eight decades with remarkably stable methodology. This aspect allows meaningful trend analysis. Second, the UCR allows analyses at a variety of levels of geography. One can ascertain crime information for cities, regions, or the nation. Third, this system offers broad crime coverage, ranging from vandalism to homicide. Fourth, instead of focusing only on street crimes (i.e., homicide, robbery, and assault), the UCR offers information on other crimes, such as embezzlement, drunkenness, and vagrancy. Fifth, the UCR summary system has broad coverage from law enforcement agencies. All 50 states, the District of Columbia, and some U.S. territories report data to the FBI. Sixth and last, the UCR collects crime information regardless of the age or victim or offender. Some crime data collection systems (e.g., the National Crime Victimization Survey) gather crime data on restricted ages only. The NIBRS enjoys many of the UCR’s advantages and more. The greatest additional advantage of the NIBRS is that it offers incident-level details for every crime reported. With greater detail, one can disaggregate data by multiple victim, offender, and incident characteristics. One also can link various components of the incident.

Both the traditional summary system and the NIBRS have limitations that are important to recognize. First, both systems reflect only crimes reported to the police. Evidence is clear that many crimes are reported to the police in low percentages. For example, only about half of all violent crime comes to the attention of the police. In some cases, such as rape, fewer than 30% of the crimes are reported to the police. Second, because the data come from law enforcement agencies, they can be manipulated for political and societal purposes. Although this is not considered to be a widespread problem, it can and has happened. Third, because the UCR reporting systems are voluntary, they are subject to a lack of, or incomplete, reporting by law enforcement agencies. When information is not submitted or the submitted information does not meet the FBI’s guidelines for completeness and accuracy, the FBI uses specific protocols to impute data to account for this issue. The degree to which UCR data are imputed at the national level is sizeable and varies annually.

The NIBRS is characterized by some disadvantages not shared with the traditional UCR system. First, the NIBRS has limited coverage. It requires a lengthy certification process, and scholars have suggested that a result of this is slow conversion to the system. As of 2007, 31 states were certified and contributing data to the program. This represents reporting by 37% of law enforcement agencies and coverage of approximately 25% of the U.S. population. Furthermore, not all agencies within certified states submit any NIBRS data. In 2004, only 7 states fully reported NIBRS data. The agencies that do participate tend to represent smaller population areas. As recently as 2005, no agency covering a population of over 1 million participated in the NIBRS. Given this, it is clear that the NIBRS does not utilize data that constitute a representative sample of the population, law enforcement agencies, or states.

V. The Bureau of Justice Statistics and the NCVS

The second major publisher of national crime reports and statistics is the BJS, the primary statistical agency in the Department of Justice. This bureau was established under the Justice Systems Improvement Act of 1979. Prior to this, the office was recognized as the National Criminal Justice Information and Statistics Service, which was a part of the Law Enforcement Agency within the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. Currently, the BJS is an agency in the Office of Justice Programs within the Department of Justice. The mission of the BJS is to gather and analyze crime data; publish crime reports; and make available this information to the public, policymakers, the media, government officials, and researchers.

Although the BJS collects a wide variety of data related to all aspects of the criminal justice system, its major crime victimization data collection effort is currently the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS is the nation’s primary source of information about the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of victimization of individuals age 12 and older and their households in the United States. The survey was first fielded in 1972 as the National Crime Survey (NCS). The NCS was designed with three primary purposes. First, it was to serve as a benchmark for UCR statistics on crime reported to police. Second, the NCS was to measure what was called “the dark figure of unreported crime,” that is, crime unknown by law enforcement. Third, the NCS was designed to fill a perceived need for information on the characteristics of crime not provided by the UCR.

Shortly after the fielding of the NCS, work toward improving the survey began. Beginning in 1979, plans for a thorough redesign to improve the survey’s ability to measure victimization in general, and certain difficult-to-measure crimes, such as rape, sexual assault, and domestic violence, was started. The redesign was implemented in 1992 using a split-sample design. It is at this time that the NCS changed names to the NCVS. The first full year of NCVS data based on the redesign was available in 1993. Following the redesign, the NCVS measured almost the identical set of crimes gathered in the NCS. The only exception is that, after the redesign, data on sexual assault were collected.

In general, and as anticipated, the NCS redesign resulted in an increase in the number of crimes counted. Increases measured were not uniform across crime types, however. For example, increases in crimes not reported to the police were greater than the increases in crimes reported to the police. One reason for this is that improved cues for certain questions caused respondents to recall more of the less serious crimes—those that are also less likely to be reported to law enforcement officials. As a result, the percentage of crimes reported to police based on the redesigned survey is lower than the percentage calculated based on data collected with the previous survey design. This difference is particularly significant for crimes such as simple assault, which does not involve the presence of weapons or serious injury.

A. NCVS Methodology

NCVS crime data come from surveys administered at a sample of households in the United States. Households are selected via a stratified, multistage, cluster sample. The samples are designed to be representative of households, as well as of noninstitutionalized individuals age 12 or older in the United States. The NCVS is characterized by a very large sample size. In recent years, approximately 80,000 persons in 40,000 households were interviewed. The NCVS is also characterized by a rotating-panel design in which persons are interviewed every 6 months for a total of seven interviews. Interviews are conducted in person and over the telephone throughout the year.

NCVS surveys are administered via two survey instruments. The first is a screening instrument that is used to gather information to determine whether a respondent was a victim of a threatened, attempted, or completed crime during the preceding 6 months. If the screening instrument uncovers a possible victimization, a second incidentfocused instrument is administered to gather detailed characteristics about all victimizations revealed. These details include the victim characteristics, offender characteristics, and characteristics of the incident.

The details gathered on the incident instrument are used in two very important ways. Detailed incident information is used to determine whether the incident described by the respondent was a crime and, if the incident is deemed a crime, the type of crime that occurred. These assessments are made not by the field representative or the survey respondent but by statisticians using incident details during data processing at the U.S. Census Bureau, the agency responsible for collecting the data on behalf of the BJS.

B. Crimes Measured in the NCVS

Because one of the major purposes of the NCVS was to serve as a benchmark for UCR summary program statistics on crime reported to police, and to measure the “dark figure” of unreported crime, the offenses measured by the NCVS are analogous to Part I crimes measured by the UCR. NCVS criminal offenses measured include rape, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, pocket-picking and purse-snatching, property theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft.

The NCVS gathers far more than merely information on the types of personal and property crimes in the United States against persons age 12 or older. For each victimization revealed, extensive detailed information is collected. This includes the outcome of the victimization (completed, attempted); time and location of the incident; the number of victims, bystanders, and offenders; victim demographics; victim–offender relationship; offender demographics; offender drug and/or alcohol use; gang membership; presence of weapon(s); injuries sustained; medical attention received; police contact; reasons for or against contacting the police; police response; victim retaliation; value of retaliation; and so on.

C. The Future of the NCVS

Currently, the future of the NCVS is unclear. During 2007 and 2008, the Committee on National Statistics, in cooperation with the Committee on Law and Justice, reviewed the NCVS to consider options for conducting it. This need for review grew on the basis of evidence that the effectiveness of the NCVS has recently been undermined via the demands of conducting an expensive survey in a continued flatline budgetary environment. Given this situation, the BJS has implemented many cost savings strategies over time, including multiple sample cuts. Unfortunately, the result of sample cuts (in conjunction with falling crime rates) is that, for the last several years, the sample size is now such that only a year-to-year change of 8% or more can been deemed statistically different from no change at all. On the basis of the review, the panel concluded that the NCVS as it currently stands is not able to achieve its legislatively mandated goal of collecting and analyzing data. The review panel provided multiple recommendations regarding a redesign of the NCVS that are currently being studied. At this time, it is unclear what a redesign would entail, or even if a redesign will happen. One possibility—not embraced by the review panel—is the termination of the NCVS. Such an outcome would be unfortunate given that the survey provides the only nationally representative data on crime and victimization with extensive details on the victim, the offender, and the incident.

D. Advantages of the NCVS

A major advantage of the NCVS is that it provides data on reported and unreported crimes. As stated previously, many crimes (and in some cases, e.g., rape, most crimes) are not reported to police. A second advantage of NCVS data is that they offer a wide range of criminal victimization variables, including information about crime victims (e.g., age, gender, race, Hispanic ethnic origin, marital status, income, and educational level), criminal offenders (e.g., gender, race, approximate age, drug/alcohol use, and victim–offender relationship), and the context of the crime (e.g., time and place of occurrence, use of weapons, nature of injury, and economic consequences). A third advantage of NCVS data is the high response rates. Like all surveys, response rates in the NCVS have declined a bit in recent years; nonetheless, they continue to be relatively high. For example, between 1993 and 1998, NCVS response rates varied between 93% and 96% of eligible households and between 89% and 92% of eligible individuals. A fourth advantage of NCVS data is that the survey has been ongoing for over three decades with a stable sample and methodology. This makes trend analysis possible, and it allows one to aggregate data in an effort to study relatively rare crimes, such as rape, or relatively small populations, such as American Indians.

E. Disadvantages of the NCVS

The NCVS performs very well for the purposes designed; however, like all surveys, it has some limitations. First, the NCVS is designed to generate national estimates of victimization. Because of this, the data cannot be used to estimate crime at most other geographic levels, such as the state, county, or local level. In 1996, a region variable was added to the NCVS data, enabling crime estimates for the Northeast, South,West, andMidwest. On rare occasions, special releases of NCVS data have provided insight into crime in major cities. Limited age coverage is a second limitation of NCVS data. Because the data do not include victimizations of persons age 11 or younger, findings are not generalizable to this group. A third limitation is limited population coverage. Because one must live in a housing unit or group quarter to be eligible for the NCVS sample, persons who are crews of vessels, in institutions (e.g., prisons and nursing homes), members of the armed forces living in military barracks, or homeless are excluded from the NCVS sample and data. The fourth and final limitation is limited crime coverage. The NCVS collects data on the few personal and property crimes listed earlier and excludes many others. NCVS data tend to focus on street crimes, excluding other offenses, such as arson, crimes against businesses, stalking, vagrancy, homicide, embezzlement, and kidnapping. A limitation of the NCVS data stems from the fact that they are derived from a sample. Like all sample surveys, the NCVS is subject to sampling and nonsampling error. Although every effort is taken to reduce error, some remains. One source of nonsampling error stems from the inability of some respondents to recall in detail the crimes that occurred during the 6-month reference period. Some victims also may not report crimes committed by certain offenders (e.g., spouses), others may simply forget about victimizations experienced, and still others may experience violence on a frequent basis and may not view such incidents as important enough to report to an NCVS field representative. A final limitation is associated with what are referred to as series victimizations. Series victimizations are defined as six or more similar but separate victimizations that the victim is unable to recall individually or to describe in detail to an interviewer. Recall that crime classification in the NCVS is based on the respondent’s answers to several incident questions. Without information on each incident, crime classification cannot occur. To address series victimization, a specific protocol is used. This protocol states that if an individual was victimized six or more times in a similar fashion during the 6-month reference period, and he or she cannot provide the details about each incident, then one report is taken for the entire series of victimizations. Details of the most recent incident are obtained, and the victimization is counted as a singular incident. It is clear that the series protocol results in an underestimate of the actual rate of victimization.

VI. UCR Data and the NCVS Compared

Because of the similarities between the UCR and the NCVS, it is generally expected that each data source will provide the same story about crime in the United States. Although that does often happen, many times it does not. Since 1972, yearto- year violent crime change estimates from the NCVS and UCR moved in the same direction, either up or down, about 60% of the time. Property crime rates have moved in the same direction about 75% of the time. Given that the NCVS and the UCR have different purposes and different methodologies, study different populations, examine different types of crimes, and count offenses and calculate crime rates differently, a lack of congruence on occasion should not be surprising. This section of the research paper looks at some of the reason the two series do not always track together.

Perhaps the largest difference between the UCR and NCVS is that the UCR measures only crimes reported to law enforcement agencies; that is, if the crime was not reported to the police, that crime can never be reflected in UCR data. In contrast, the NCVS interviews victims of crime and collects information on crimes that were and were not reported to the police. A second major difference in the two systems is found in the population coverage. UCR data include all reported crimes regardless of victim characteristics. This includes crimes against young children, visitors from other countries, and businesses or organizations. In contrast, the NCVS provides data on reported and unreported crimes against people age 12 or older and their households. Not included in the NCVS data are crimes against persons younger than age 12, businesses, homeless people, and institutionalized persons.A third significant difference in the two systems is crime coverage. The Part I UCR summary reporting system includes homicide and arson, neither of which is measured by the NCVS. In contrast, the NCVS collects information on simple assault—the most frequent violent crime—whereas the UCR traditional Part I crimes excludes it. In addition, the NCVS and UCR define some crimes differently and count some crimes differently. As stated earlier, the UCR defines forcible rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” and excludes rapes of males and other forms of sexual assault. The NCVS measures rape and sexual assault of both women and men.

Yet another significant difference concerns the basic counting unit of the two data collection systems. In the NCVS, the basic counting unit is the victim. There are two types of victims in the NCVS: (1) the person and (2) the household. When considering personal or violent crimes, (i.e., rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, purse-snatching, or pocket-picking), the number of victimizations is equal to the number of persons victimized. When considering property crimes (i.e., property theft, household burglary, and motor vehicle theft), the number of victims is equal to the number of households victimized. Therefore, crime reports using NCVS data report rates of violent crime as the number of victimizations per 1,000 people age 12 or older. Likewise, property crimes are reported as the number of property victimizations per 1,000 households. In the UCR, the basic counting unit is the offense. For some crimes, such as assault and rape, an offense is equal to the number of victims. For other crimes, such as burglary or robbery, an offense is equal to the number of incidents. All UCR crime rates, regardless of the type of victim (i.e., individual or organization), are calculated on a per capita basis: the number of offenses per 100,000 people. For some crimes, the NCVS and UCR counting rules result in similar outcomes. For instance, if in a single incident two people were assaulted by a knifewielding offender both programs would count two aggravated assaults. In contrast, other times counting rules result in different outcomes. For example, if in a single incident five people were robbed by a gun-toting offender, the NCVS would record five robbery victimizations, and the UCR would count a single robbery. If, however, a bank teller was threatened by an armed assailant during a bank robbery, the UCR would record this as a robbery with a weapon, whereas the NCVS, which measures only crimes against people and their households, would classify the same crime as an aggravated assault victimization (assuming that no personal property was stolen from the teller).

VII. Conclusion

This research paper has provided an overview of crime reports and statistics, which are used to convey an extensive amount of information about crime. This includes topics such as the extent of crime and the nature or characteristics of criminal offenses, as well as how the nature and characteristics of crime change over time. Furthermore, official crime reporting systems, such as the UCR, the NIBRS, and the NCVS, allow insight into the experiences of crime and victimization for specific groups and how they may or may not differ from others or over time. Understanding what crime reports and statistics are requires an understanding of the agencies that gather the data and publish the reports. Furthermore, one must comprehend the intricacies of the data collection to fully appreciate the strengths and weaknesses of what the data (and resulting reports and statistics) offer.

Data from the UCR and the NCVS are essential to an understanding of crime. Because crime is not a directly observable phenomenon, no single measure can adequately convey or describe information about its extent and characteristics. Like other nonobservable events, such as the economy or the weather, no single measure suffices. One could not hope to understand the state of the economy by understanding only the unemployment rate. Neither could one fully realize the condition of the weather by understanding the percentage humidity only. Multiple measures are required for such phenomenon. These multiple measures are found in UCR data and the NCVS. Together, used in a complementary fashion, these data provide a more complete understanding of crime in the nation than either could alone.

See also:

Bibliography:

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