FBI Uniform Crime Report: Definition, Pros & Cons

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  • 0:03 History
  • 1:46 Pros
  • 2:16 Cons
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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.

In this lesson, we'll look at the FBI Uniform Crime Report in depth and gain an understanding of what kinds of information are included in the report. You'll also learn the pros and cons of the FBI Uniform Crime Report.


Have you ever wondered how the police are able to identify, detect, and prevent crimes? What kinds of resources do the police utilize in order to achieve these goals? The Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) is a statistical recording system utilized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI. The UCR began in 1930, when Congress gave the U.S. Attorney General the power to survey the amount of crime occurring in the United States. The initial UCR contained particular characteristics which allowed for the tracking of crime in the United States. These characteristics included:

  • Monthly aggregate crime numbers
  • Gathered five categories of assault data
  • Gathered weapon data, which was limited to murder, robbery, and aggravated assault
  • Indicated data for eight major crimes and twenty-one offenses

Over the years, Congress started to recognize the importance of the FBI's ability to gather enhanced categories of data. Therefore, in 1988, the FBI started to utilize a crime information gathering system called the National Incident Based Reporting System, or NIBRS. NIBRS is still a part of the UCR, but it is a more thorough report. Characteristics of the UCR/NIBRS system include:

  • Individual incident reports for eight major crimes and thirty-eight offenses, which further breaks down the details of the incident such as the victim, the offender, and the property involved
  • Distinction between attempted crimes and fulfilled crimes
  • Weapon data for all violent crimes
  • Details of arrests for eight major crimes and forty-nine offenses


There are various reasons why the UCR/NIBRS is valued. The methodology utilized by the reporting system allows for specific, detailed information regarding crime and arrests. Moreover, this information can help identify crime trends. Additionally, the data may help to detect crime. Furthermore, the report can help the police prevent crimes from occurring by identification of the specific crime, offender, victim, and property involved in the specific crime.

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