The UCR: Crunching the Numbers on Crime
To address a problem, you must first understand it. That sentiment inspired the creation of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program more than 80 years ago.
The UCR program gathers statistical data from nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States. The FBI, which has administered the program since 1930, uses the data to monitor and analyze the nature of modern crime.
Although the main objective is to provide law enforcement with a source of dependable information, the UCR data is also seen as a way to measure social indicators. Criminologists, elected officials, journalists and many others use this information for planning and research purposes.
Every year, the FBI works to make the Uniform Crime Report the most comprehensive analysis of its kind. As of 2009, the combined jurisdictions of the participating law enforcement agencies represented 96.3 percent of the U.S. population.
Who supplies the data?
The agencies that contribute information to the UCR include departments representing:
- Colleges and universities
- Tribal reservations
- State and federal government
The definitive yearly report
Every year, the FBI issues a publication called Crime in the United States (CIUS). This comprehensive report provides a broad statistical overview of crime rates on the national and state levels.
To compile the CIUS report, and others like it, the FBI uses data drawn from the UCR. The list of UCR publications covers topics ranging from hate crimes to assaults against law enforcement personnel.
A nationwide advisory network
The National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) provide vital links between the FBI and local law enforcement agencies. Both organizations encourage local agencies to take part in the UCR program, in addition to serving in an advisory capacity regarding the program’s operation.
Along with other advisory groups, the NSA and the IACP promote interest in the program and encourage responsible use of the uniform crime statistics.
A brief history of the UCR
In the 1920s, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) formed the Committee on Uniform Crime Records. The goal was to provide a source of national crime statistics.
After researching state criminal laws and record-keeping practices, the Committee completed an initial plan for crime reporting that would later grow into foundation of the UCR program. The plan provided standardized definitions for different kinds of crimes, including property crimes such as burglary and violent offenses such as murder and aggravated assault.
The UCR program began officially began in 1930, with participation from 400 police agencies representing nearly 20 million citizens. Also in 1930, Congress authorized the U.S. Attorney General to gather information on crime statistics. The Attorney General designated the FBI to serve as the national clearinghouse for crime data.
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