This week, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released official numbers on the nation’s two crime measures: the Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The UCR measures crime that’s reported to the police, and the NCVS information is predicated on people’ reporting of previous victimizations. The primary power of the NCVS is that it may possibly measure unreported crime, and collectively the 2 datasets might be useful for figuring out reporting charges. The report launched by BJS exhibits crime charges measured by the UCR and the NCVS for the years 2011 by way of 2020. When evaluating the estimates, reporting charges are usually larger for violent crimes than property crimes, excluding motorized vehicle theft.
The UCR’s Abstract Reporting System (SRS), developed in 1929, tabulates crimes reported to the police occurring by month and yr. In 1982, the UCR’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) was launched in an try to modernize the UCR, emphasizing incident-level data collection to offer extra element and context about every incident (e.g. particulars on victims or offenders of crime, traits of the incident). Nevertheless, participation charges for NIBRS are nonetheless not ample sufficient to acquire correct national-level estimates. Thus, the UCR’s SRS is the first measure of crimes reported to america on the time of this report. Per the BJS, 2020 is the final yr that the UCR will current SRS estimates, so we are able to anticipate 2021 estimates within the NIBRS format. That being mentioned, the UCR estimates within the present BJS report are based mostly on SRS.
The UCR SRS offers a measure of the variety of crimes recorded by regulation enforcement businesses in america. It collects incident data on ten offenses: homicide, rape, theft, aggravated assault, human trafficking, housebreaking, larceny, motorized vehicle theft, and arson. Month-to-month crime information are compiled from regulation enforcement businesses who submit their information to the UCR program. Knowledge are compiled to tabulate nationwide crime counts in addition to particular person counts for states, counties, and businesses. The UCR additionally collects Supplemental Murder Stories to know the extent and nature of homicides within the nation. Just a few drawbacks to the UCR SRS are: 1) it depends on the hierarchy rule, which signifies that solely essentially the most critical crime per incident is reported (e.g., if there was a rape and a homicide, solely the homicide can be reported); 2) it doesn’t measure unreported crime; 3) regulation enforcement participation is voluntary; and 4) there isn’t any detailed data on offense traits.
The NCVS is the first supply of unreported crime and consists of information on the traits of nonfatal victimizations. The NCVS collects detailed data on the frequency and nature of a number of offenses, together with: rape, theft, aggravated assault, easy assault, larceny, housebreaking, trespassing, motorized vehicle theft, and different sorts of family theft. The NCVS additionally periodically conducts supplemental surveys which have questions on further crimes, akin to faculty crime, identification theft, stalking, and monetary fraud. Just a few drawbacks to the NCVS are: 1) it doesn’t seize homicide offenses; 2) it solely interviews folks age 12 and older; and three) folks don’t at all times precisely recall victimizations or know the precise time that they occurred.
Charges for violent crime and property crime are each larger when tabulated by NCVS relatively than UCR, suggesting a good quantity of underreporting. Violent crimes have been considerably extra more likely to be reported than property crimes, excluding motorized vehicle theft. These traits have been constant throughout all ten years of information. There aren’t any clear modifications in reporting charges over time, as they fluctuated up and down from 2011 by way of 2020 with none discernable sample.
In 2020, the reporting charge for violent crime was 24.4%, with UCR and NCVS estimates of 4 and 16.4 per 1,000, respectively. The reporting charge was larger for sure violent crimes although, akin to theft (47.3%) and aggravated assault (96.6%). With regards to property crime, the reporting charge was 20.7%, with UCR and NCVS estimates of 19.6 and 94.5 per 1,000, respectively. For sure sorts of property crime, this estimate was larger. For instance, reporting charges have been 32.6% for housebreaking and 58.1% for motorized vehicle theft.
Taken collectively, aggravated assault had the best reporting charge (96.6%), adopted by motorized vehicle theft (58.1%), theft (47.3%), and housebreaking (32.6%).
Sadly, as a result of the NCVS information introduced listed here are aggregated on the nationwide degree, it’s unimaginable to calculate reporting charges for particular person states or localities. That is problematic as a result of it prohibits our skill to know what components contribute to the “darkish determine of crime.” As a result of completely different locations have completely different insurance policies and native dynamics, it could be useful to know the way reporting charges differ from place to position.
The NCVS started amassing subnational estimates to assist with this downside, however the information are usually not accessible to the general public, nor are they reported right here. Whereas it’s doable to use for entry to restricted information, the method is so arduous and costly that it’s impractical. Only a few months in the past I attempted to take action, and I discovered that the method consists of submission of a three-page mission proposal, adopted by submission of a extra detailed proposal, and an estimated value of $20,000 per yr to entry the lab the place information are positioned.
Additional, when evaluating UCR and NCVS information, you will need to be aware that they differ in a number of vital methods. First, they serve completely different functions, as mentioned above. Second, the packages measure an overlapping however nonidentical units of crimes. Third, the definitions of some crimes (e.g. housebreaking) differ between the UCR and the NCVS. Fourth, the packages calculate crime charges based mostly on completely different populations: the NCVS charges are based mostly on households (for property offenses) and the inhabitants age 12 and older (for violent offenses), whereas the UCR charges (for property and violent offenses) are based mostly on the whole inhabitants. That being mentioned, variations in statistical estimates might end result.
This report offers us with a fundamental concept of reported and unreported crime in america, however the degree of element offered is unsatisfying. It will be useful if micro-level estimates (e.g., state or county) have been extra accessible for NCVS information, in order that it might be damaged right down to a unit akin to that offered by the UCR. Equally, the UCR information additionally suffers from a extreme lack of element by way of particulars on the crime offered. Whereas that is anticipated to enhance with NIBRS, the participation charge in NIBRS remains to be lower than supreme and varies broadly by area. At current, the present state of crime information on this nation remains to be haphazard and disappointing, nevertheless it has improved barely over time and I hope it continues to take action.