Measuring national crime rates reflects two fundamental activities of government: to protect public safety and to document social indicators. Governments report data on crime in the same way that national statistics are collected for population, employment, education, income, consumer prices, and birth and mortality rates, along with countless other measures. Just as consumer prices are measured by an index that reflects the sorts of things people routinely purchase, an index of national crime is measured.
This chapter describes two national measures of crime in the United States. Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) are police-collected measures of crime compiled by the thousands of independent law enforcement agencies throughout the country. Largely because police-based measures have built in limits, victim-based measures of crime have been collected for more than thirty-five years. Each measures slightly different dimensions of crime.
UNIFORM CRIME REPORTS: CRIMES KNOWN TO POLICE
Begun in 1929, the Uniform Crime Reports, administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), serve several purposes. First, they provide national estimates of serious crime in the U.S. each year. Second, UCR data estimate annual arrests for serious crime and a variety of lesser offenses. Third, UCR data are reported for individual law enforcement agencies, in addition to totals for each state and the nation, which facilitates analysis below the national level. Fourth, the relatively long time period for UCR data makes it possible to examine short- and long-term trends in crime.