The Dark Figure of Crime: Definition & Statistics

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  • 0:01 Definition of the Dark…
  • 0:54 Statistics
  • 1:42 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.

In this lesson, you'll learn what constitutes the dark figure of crime theory. Moreover, you'll review the definition of the theory. Finally, you'll examine several crime statistics.

Definition of the Dark Figure of Crime

Do you ever wonder how crime statistics are generated? Where does the data come from, and is it accurate? The dark figure of crime refers to a term utilized by criminologists and others. The phrase is usually used to refer to the number of crimes that are not reported, but also refers to crimes that are unknown to all outside parties or law enforcement not accepting that the law has been broken. Crimes go unreported for various reasons, whether it's from fear of reporting the crimes or from a fear of the police. The failure to report these crimes raises questions about the accuracy of crime statistics.

Based upon the dark figure of crime theory, the crime statistics do not include the dark figure of unreported crimes. Therefore, we do not truly know the specific details of the nature and extent of crimes which have been committed, so the statistics are, in actuality, inaccurate.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (also known as the FBI) Preliminary 2013 Semiannual Uniform Crime Report demonstrated that there was a decrease of 5.4% in the number of violent crimes for the first six months of 2013 as compared to 2012. In addition, property crimes for the first six months illustrated a 5.4% decrease in property crimes as compared to 2012. Lastly, arson decreased 15.6% as compared to 2012.

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