Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) is a program that was initiated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1929 in order to provide a reliable and uniform crime statistics for the country. Generally, this program is a cooperative initiative for city, state, county, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies to provide a country-wide perspective of crime. These agencies basically participate in the program through the provision of summarized reports on several crimes that are known to law enforcement and information regarding arrested people. In addition, these agencies also give reports on the assaulted and killed law enforcement officers as well as information on hate crime.
In most cases, these law enforcement agencies provide the crime reports every month to a common crime records facility within their respective state. Through uniform crime definitions, the state's UCR Program transfers the information to the national UCR Program in the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The information is then compiled, published, and distributed to the participating agencies, other UCR Programs, and interested parties in the country's crime data. Uniform Crime Reporting has been used for a long period of time since its inception because of its effectiveness in providing crime data.
History of Uniform Crime Reporting:
Before examining the effectiveness of Uniform Crime Reporting, it's important to analyze the history of the program and its development to the current state. The commencement of this program can be traced back to 1927 when the International Association of Chiefs of Police established the Committee on Uniform Crime Records. This committee was set up because of the growing need for national crime statistics and as a means for gathering statistics about uniform police.
The initial discovery of the committee was that the number of crimes that are known to law enforcement would be the most suitable means of the country's criminality despite of whether the offenses involved an arrest or not. Following this discovery, members of the committee analyzed several offenses depending on their severity, rate of occurrence, pervasiveness within an area, and possibility of being reported to law enforcement agencies. The results of the analysis led to the identification of seven offenses to be reported to the program. These crimes were auto theft, rape, robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, aggravated assault, and felonious homicide ("Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook," 2004).
Since the beginning of their work, the committee discovered that the differences in criminal codes prohibited a simple aggregation of state statistics to achieve a national total. In addition, there were difficulties in identifying the difference between misdemeanor and felony offenses due to different punishments for similar crimes across state codes. Consequently, standardized crime definitions were formulated to avoid the problems and present a nationwide standard in crime reporting. Notably, the established crime definitions provided the basis with which law enforcement agencies were to provide criminal data while disregarding local statutes.
The main achievement of the Committee's work occurred in 1929 when the Uniform Crime Reporting manual for police records and statistics was published. The publication detailed crime definitions for Part I and Part II offenses and detailed procedures for completing monthly return of crimes known to law enforcement. This move was a huge success as law enforcement agencies in 400 cities within 43 states provided crime statistics to the International Association of Chiefs of Police in 1929. The submission of these statistics resulted in the publication of the first monthly Uniform Crime Report in America. As the Congress enacted legislation for the collection of criminal information in 1930, the Federal Bureau of Investigations assumed the responsibility for managing the program in the same year.
Development of Uniform Crime Reporting:
Since its inception in late 1920s, the scope of Uniform Crime Reporting Program has continued to expand in response to various recommendations from advisory groups within the law enforcement agencies. Uniform Crime Reporting has also expanded its scope over the years in attempts to adhere to federal mandates. Some of the major changes that have occurred to it include the incorporation of the national Crime Index in 1958 and the establishment of Supplementary Homicide Report in 1962. The expansion is also evident in the program's commencement of collecting specific information on incidents where police were assaulted or killed in 1978.
As changes continued to occur in the criminal justice field, law enforcement agencies began advocating for the total overhaul and transformation of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. These calls led to the development of a national data collection system to gather information regarding every criminal incident. The culmination of the developments was the complete implementation and operation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in the 1990s. The main purpose of NIBRS is to capitalize on the available crime data stored in today's records systems within law enforcement agencies. This system generates wealthier and more meaningful information as compared to those produced by the conventional summary UCR system.
Methods for Uniform Crime Reporting:
In the recent years, the Uniform Crime Reporting Program has developed to the point that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has stopped direct gathering of information from individual law enforcement agencies within a state. Consequently, local law enforcement agencies are mandated with the responsibility of forwarding crime data to the national program via the state data collection agency. The systems are designed in a way that ensures consistency and comparability of the submitted data to the national program and in a way that provides normal and timely reporting of this data to the national program. Some of the established conditions include the need to conform to UCRs definitions, standards, and information requirements and the establishment of an acceptable quality control technique. Other conditions are the need for the state agency to have enough staffs to carry out audits and regular submission of the collected data to the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
There are three major areas that form the basis or methods for Uniform Crime Reporting as explained below
Reporting procedures are an integral part in Uniform Crime Reporting methodology as law enforcement agencies throughout the country are required to tabulate the number of crimes brought to their attention on a monthly basis in Crime Index or Part I offenses. One of the most important aspects of reporting procedures in UCR methodology is that the agencies report to the FBI the seven crimes that were previously mentioned. In cases where the offenses are regarded as false or unfounded through investigations, they are removed from the agency's count. This is followed by reporting of the actual number of known crimes to the FBI despite of any arrests, recovery of stolen property, or undertaken prosecution.
Reporting procedures also consist of another important part which is the submission of the complete number of real Crime Index offenses that were cleared. Clearance of the crimes occurs either through the arrest, prosecution, and charges of a criminal or when certain exceptional beyond the agency's control prohibits an offender's arrest. The agencies also report the number of Crime Index clearances that involve juvenile offenders only, the value of stolen or recovered property, and comprehensive reports on homicide and arson.
Every report presented to the Uniform Crime Reporting Program is usually subjected to thorough analysis and evaluation for deviations and arithmetic accuracy that may detect errors. The monthly reports are compared to previous reports and similar agencies in order to detect any abnormal fluctuations in the crime count. In cases where large variations of crime are detected, the crime levels may be an indication of incomplete reporting, altered records procedures, or changes in the geopolitical structure of the jurisdiction.
Since data reliability is a fundamental aspect in the Uniform Crime Reporting methodology and procedures, the identified arithmetical alliterations and deviations are notified to the agency through correspondence. Any changes in reporting procedures or annexations that impact crime level may contribute to the exclusion of crime categories or total figures from trend tabulations ("Uniform Crime Reporting Methodology," n.d.).
The national UCR program tries to help participating agencies to comply with the established UCR standards through offering instructional materials like the Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook and training seminars in crime reporting procedures. The training sessions are held in consultation with law enforcement personnel and state programs. However, the accuracy of the provided statistics is usually dependent on basic compliance with the established reporting standards.
The final stage in Uniform Crime Reporting methodology is conversion of crime data into the NIBRS format. In most cases, many states have adopted an implemented the crime data in the expanded NIBRS format. However, there is a NIBRS database that was designed for conversion of data in order to support the ongoing UCR long-running time series.
Effectiveness of Uniform Crime Reporting:
As previously mentioned, Uniform Crime Reporting basically entail the actual collection of counts on seven crimes in order to provide crime statistics for administration, management, and operation of law enforcement. Generally, the UCR program releases a preliminary report during spring with a detailed and final report during fall on an annual basis ("Crime,"…