Crime Measurement Programs: History & Nature

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  • 0:03 How Is Crime Measured?
  • 0:53 The F.B.I.'s Uniform…
  • 4:54 National Crime Survey
  • 7:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Schubert

Jessica is a practicing attorney and has taught law and has a J.D. and LL.M.

Watch this lesson to learn about how crime is measured in the United States. Examine the two main sources of criminal statistics and discover what each source of information can reveal.

How Is Crime Measured?

Criminologists and other experts rely upon crime statistics in order to measure crime. These measurements can offer insights into how and where crime is increasing. Moreover, these measurements can provide information on emerging crime trends.

Now imagine that you are a criminologist studying property crime in the United States. You want to know about property crime statistics from 2012. You are interested in finding out the highest number of property crimes from 2012, where the crimes occurred and the average amount of money involved in the crimes. You are also interested in learning about unreported property crime. Let's see how you would go about getting this information and what information you can obtain.

The F.B.I.'s Uniform Crime Reports

The F.B.I. measures crime in its Uniform Crime Reports, also known as U.C.R. Every year, the F.B.I. publishes the data collected in the U.C.R. in a publication known as Crime in the United States. This data constitutes the official crime statistics for the United States.

The information contained in the U.C.R. is derived from local police department data as well as federal law enforcement agencies. The local police departments input the incidents of crime into a central database, which goes to the F.B.I. Thereafter, the F.B.I. compiles the information. The information is broken down and creates crime statistics. These statistics include:

  • Offenses by city
  • Offenses by county
  • Offenses by metropolitan area
  • Offenses by geographical areas of the United States
  • Offenses by age
  • Offenses by race
  • Offenses by gender

When the U.C.R. was originally established by Congressional action in 1930 instructing the U.S. Attorney General to survey crime in the U.S., it was limited. In its first year, approximately four hundred cities from forty-two states provided incident data. During the development of the U.C.R., a crime index was created, which included limited crime data. However, over time, there were concerns that the crime index was inaccurate due to the methodology used to create the statistics. As a result, in 1988, a new methodology was instituted to provide more detailed information and more specific statistics about each type of crime. The new system was referred to as the U.C.R./NIBRS.

NIBRS stands for National Incident Based Reporting System. Using this reporting system, information is gathered about each criminal incident. Such information includes:

  • Where the incident occurred
  • The type of weapon utilized
  • The type of property stolen or damaged
  • The value of the property stolen or damaged
  • The relationship of the victim and the offender

In addition, the U.C.R./NIBRS collects details on arrests for eight major crimes. These include murder, rape, robbery, arson, larceny, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. The crime report also includes data on forty-nine other offenses, which include a wide range of crimes, from kidnapping to vandalism.

Now let's review your property crime study under the U.C.R./NIBRS. What can the U.C.R./NIBRS reveal? First, according to the U.C.R./NIBRS, in 2012, 8,975,438 property crimes occurred in the United States. In addition, the highest number of property crimes was for larceny, followed by burglary. Furthermore, the rate of property crime in the U.S. decreased from 2011 to 2012 by 1.6%. Moreover, 74.5% of burglaries happened at residential properties. Also, 43.5% of robberies happened on highways. Finally, the typical amount of property stolen by larceny was $987 per each offense.

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