Changes in UCR

In June 2004, the CJIS APB approved discontinuing the use of the crime index in the UCR Program and its publications, and it directed the FBI to publish a violent crime total and a property crime total. The CJIS decided that the crime index and the modified crime index (the number of crime index offenses plus arson) were not true indicators of the degrees of criminality because they were always driven upward by the offense with the highest number, typically larceny—theft. The sheer volume of those offenses overshadowed more serious but less frequently committed offenses, creating a bias against a jurisdiction with a high number of larceny-thefts but a low number of other serious crimes, such as murder and forcible rape.

Other changes over the years in the reporting of crime statistics through the UCR Program included the FBI beginning to record arson rates, as part of the UCR Program, in 1979. This report details arsons of the following property types: single-occupancy residential (houses, townhouses, duplexes, etc.), storage (barns, garages, warehouses, etc.), industrial and manufacturing, and motor vehicles (automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc.).

The FBI also began collecting data on crimes motivated by gender bias and gender identity bias. This compilation of hate crime statistics came about in response to the Matthew Shepard and Janies Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. Also in response to the Shepard-Byrd Act, the FBI modified its data collection so that reporting agencies could indicate whether hate crimes were committed by, or directed against, juveniles. Therefore, in addition to reporting the number of individual victims, law enforcement began reporting in 2013 the number of victims who were 18 years of age or older and the number of victims under the age of 18.

At the fall 2011 CJIS APB meeting, the APB recommended, and FBI director Robert Mueller III approved, changing the definition of rape. Since 1929, the FBI had defined forcible rape as “the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2004, p. 19). Beginning with the 2013 data collection, the new definition for the violent crime of rape was modified to “penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim” (FBI, 2014, p. 1).

Where Do the Statistics for the UCR Program Come From?

In 2019, FBI UCR data were compiled from more than 18,000 law enforcement agencies, representing more than 98% of the population in the United States. Although reporting by law enforcement is not mandated, many states have instituted laws requiring law enforcement within those states to provide UCR data. The statistics in the UCR Program are based on arrest reports. These arrest reports are broken down by the type of crime for cities, counties, states, and regions of the country. In addition, the FBI collects auxiliary information about these offenses, such as the time of day of burglaries. The expanded offense data include trends in both crime volume and crime rate per 100,000 inhabitants. In regard to homicides, the UCR Program collects expanded homicide data, which includes information about homicide victims and offenders, weapons used, the circumstances surrounding the offenses, and justifiable homicides.

UCR and Violent Crime

Violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses that involve force or threat of force.

UCR and Property Crime

Property crime includes the offenses of burglary, larceny—theft, and motor vehicle theft.The object of the theft-type offenses is the taking of money or property; but there is no force or threat of force against the victims.

UCR and Clearances

Within the UCR Program, law enforcement agencies can clear, or “close,” offenses in one of two ways: by arrest or by exceptional means. Although agencies may administratively close a case, this does not necessarily mean that the agency can clear the offense for UCR purposes. According to the FBI, law enforcement agencies must meet the following four conditions in order to clear an offense by exceptional means.The agency must have

  • 1 Identified the offender
  • 2 Gathered enough evidence to support an arrest, make a charge, and turn over the offender to the court for prosecution
  • 3 Identified the offenders exact location so that the suspect could be taken into custody immediately
  • 4 Encountered a circumstance outside the control of law enforcement that prohibits the agency from arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offender (FBI, 2010a)

Examples of exceptional clearances include the death of the offender (e.g., suicide or justifiably killed by the police), the victims refusal to cooperate with the prosecution after the offender has been identified, or the denial of extradition because the offender committed a crime in another jurisdiction and is being prosecuted for that offense.

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