The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program represents the coordinated efforts of more than 18,000 crime-reporting bodies throughout the United States. It comprises the voluntarily-reported data of law enforcement agencies at the city, state, university, county, federal, and tribal level. In place since 1930, the UCRP continues to amass statistical information about the frequency and types of crime brought to its attention. Each year, it provides data on the number of reported major crimes and Part 1 offenses, which include forcible rape, murder, aggravated assault, grand larceny, motor-vehicle theft, burglary, and arson. The UCRP also annually provides information about arrests made for Part 2 offenses, which are less serious than Part 1 offenses yet are nonetheless arrestable. These include drug offenses, curfew offenses, driving under the influence, prostitution, fraud, and loitering (“About the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program,” 2009).
The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) was officially implemented in 1989 to enhance the data collecting and reporting capabilities of the UCRP. Before the NIBRS was put in place, the UCRP only provided an overview of crime data. With the use of the NIBRS, however, crime data is submitted in a more detailed format which includes a basic data segment and additional data segments. These additional segments, of which there are nine in total, include an administrative segment (such as information about the date and time), offense segment (such as whether or not the offense was completed), victim segment, arrestee segment, and others that may or may not be filled depending on the nature of the crime reported. Traditional UCR reporting involves aggregate information about the number and type of crimes, and is considered only as summary reporting. NIBRS reporting, on the other hand, by definition involves incident-based reporting, and is thus more detailed and specific than the crime statistics reported under the traditional UCR program (Maxfield, 1999).
The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) has been collecting victim self-report information ongoing from 1973. The NCVS is therefore based on victim accounts of crime, rather than police accounts. The NCVS was first implemented by the National Opinion Research Center, and is today conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS). Survey respondents provide descriptive information about the crimes they have experienced in the previous six months, including nonfatal personal crimes (like rape, theft, and assault) and household property crimes (like theft) that may or may not have been reported to the police. The NCVS excludes data about crimes that were committed outside of the United States, however. Data from the NCVS tell us that the true rate of crime is higher than what UCR statistics indicate, and that all types of crimes are more prevalent than previously thought based on UCR statistics alone. The rate of crime reporting indicated by the weighted and un-weighted responses to the NCVS is higher than the rate of crime reporting by officers to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (“Data Collection: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS),” 2014).
These two systems work together to help tell the story of crime in America today, by aggregating reported data from two types of sources – police officers and crime victims – and extrapolating the data to generate national estimates of crime. Using data from a representative sample at local levels, they provide a basis for understanding the prevalence of crime on a national level, including the rates for all types of crimes.
“About the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.” United States Department of Justice. 14 January 2009. Web. 22 April 2016.
“Data Collection: National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).” Bureau of Justice Statistics. 2014. Web. 22 April 2016.
Maxfield, Michael G. "The national incident-based reporting system: Research and policy applications." Journal of Quantitative Criminology 15.2 (1999): 119-149.