Arguments over crime statistics have been raging ever since governments began counting criminal activity. In 1930 the United States congress authorized the attorney general of the United States to survey crime in America. The Federal Bureau of Investigation was chosen to implement the program. (Schmalleger p.
38) The Uniform Crime Reports is the survey taken by the FBI. This measure of crime in America depends on reports to the police by victims of crimes. The UCR Program was developed by the FBI for the purpose of serving law enforcement as a tool for operational and administrative purposes. Through the International Association of Chiefs of Police (I ACP), the UCR Program was developed. Later, the National Sheriffs' Association (NSA) endorsed the program and acts in an advisory capacity today. Prior to 1930, no comprehensive system of crime information on a national scale existed.
Now, for close to sixty years, the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program has been collecting crime date from participating states, either from the individual agencies within the states or directly from state programs. Statistics are gathered on what is referred to as the "index crimes." The seven offenses comprising the crime index are murder, rape, robbery, aggravate assault, burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft. Arson was added to the offenses in 1978. Whenever complaints of crime are determined through investigation to be unfounded or false, they are eliminated from an agency's count. The number of actual offenses known is reported regardless of whether anyone is arrested for the crime, stolen property is recovered, or prosecution is undertaken. In addition, the Summary UCR Program follows what is known as the "Hierarchy Rule" which requires counting only the most serious offense in an incident, ignoring all others.
However, this rule only applies to crime reporting and does not affect the number of charges for which a defendant may be prosecuted in the courts. Arson is an exception to the "Hierarchy Rule." One of the problems with the Uniform Crime Reports is that many citizens do not always make official reports. For example, many women refuse to report rapes because they do not want to relive the ordeal. Some citizen's feel that the police will not be able to do anything about a crime committed against them therefore they do not report it. Another problem with the Uniform Crime Reports is that Victimless crimes are rarely reported. These are crimes like prostitution, gambling, and drug use.
Since many of these crimes are not reported, then the UCR becomes somewhat vague and incomplete. When reviewing crime data, it is important for the reader to note the difference between offenses and arrests. Offenses relate to events and arrests relate to persons. A single offense may involve no arrestees; may involve one arrestees; or may involve many arrestees.
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the Nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization. Twice each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of roughly 49, 000 households comprising about 100, 000 persons on the frequency, characteristics, and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States. The survey reports the likelihood of victimization by rape, sexual assault, robbery, assault, theft, household burglary, and motor vehicle theft for the population as a whole as well as for segments of the population such as women, the elderly, members of various racial groups, city dwellers, or other groups. The NCVS provides the largest national forum for victims to describe the impact of crime and characteristics of violent offenders. The problems with the National Crime Victimization Survey are that some victims are afraid to report crimes even to non police interviewers. Another problem is that people being interviewed may engage in malingering when describing the account of a crime committed against them.
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports program, which began in 1930, collects information from monthly law enforcement reports or individual crime incident records transmitted directly to the FBI or to centralized State agencies that then report to the FBI. In 1994, law enforcement agencies active in the Uniform Crime Report Program represented approximately 249 million U. S. inhabitants - 96% of the total population. The Uniform Crime Reports Program provides crime counts for the Nation as a whole, as well as for regions, States, counties, cities, and towns. This permits studies among neighboring jurisdictions and among those with similar populations and other common characteristics.
Each program has unique strengths. The Uniform Crime Reports provides a measure of the number of crimes reported to law enforcement agencies throughout the country. The Uniform Crime Report's Supplemental Homicide Reports provide the most reliable, timely data on the extent and nature of homicides in the Nation. The NCVS is the primary source of information on the characteristics of criminal victimization and on the number and types of crimes not reported to law enforcement authorities. It is difficult to say which report system is the better of the two, they both have strengths and weaknesses.
I fee that the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) Program and National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) were designed to complement each other. The Uniform Crime Reports Program's primary objective is to provide a reliable set of criminal justice statistics for law enforcement administration, operation, and management, as well as to indicate fluctuations in the level of crime in America. The NCVS was established to obtain and provide previously unavailable information about victims, offenders, and crime (including crime not reported to the police). While the two programs employ different methodologies, they measure a similar subset of serious crimes.