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Trying to find accurate Statistics on different types of criminal acts can be hard. There are so many different way one can find and come up with numbers. When dealing with statistics it is important to understand where the numbers are coming from, and if they stack up to the majority of information on the specific crime. There are three different programs that provide data on individual crimes. The names of the programs are, Uniform Crime Report (UCR), National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), and National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS). These three programs provide the most accurate data on crimes in society. They are three different programs and in this paper I am going to focus on the similarities and differences within these programs.
According to the text Crime Victims, the definition of Uniform Crime Report is "an annual, national compilation based on a total number of crimes known to local police departments" (pg. 57). There are two parts to this report, and both parts have been limited to only looking into the victims than actually looking into the crime or the criminal. Part one of the UCR looks at eight index crimes and these crimes are illegal acts, but only dealing with street crimes. Part two deals with provides data about the criminals that are being arrested, but the UCR is only dealing with twenty one different crimes. When looking at UCR there are many positive and negative aspects of the program. Victimologist's look at the UCR method they see a lot errors that will cause incorrect numbers to show up on the report. There are five specific errors that stand out. The first one is under-reporting, and this deals with people who do not report crimes that have happened to them. This means that the statistics on the number of crimes that were committed is substantially lower than the accurate number. The second issue would be that UCR only focuses on accused offenders but does not keep any information on the individuals who have reported the crime. The third issue would be that the UCR mixes reports on attempted crimes and crimes that were actually completed. The fourth error would be when trying to figure out the number for crime in different parts on the world, the FBI mixes all the information together. So when looking at the numbers it will look like certain areas have a high crimes rate, which in fact might not be correct. The final issue would be the hierarchy rule. The FBI tells the police departments to use this rule when it comes to reporting incidents. This means that when there are numerous crimes committed at one time only the more serious crime is counted in the UCR data. All of these issues can cause the data on crime to be incorrect.
The National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) goes hand in hand with UCR. The NIBRS is an incident-based reporting system, and this means that there is data collected for each individual crime that is committed. All the data comes from local, state, and federal records. According to the NIBRS, "the NIBRS collects data on each single incident and arrest within 22 offense categories made up of 46 specific crimes called Group A offenses." From that only specific types of facts are reported from each of the crimes that have been committed. There are many different benefits that come from this program. The big benefit is that the NIBRS can furnish information on the majority of criminal justice issues that are facing law enforcement today. Which includes terrorism, white collar crime, weapons offenses, missing children when criminality is involved, drug/narcotic offences, drug involvement in all offenses, hate crimes, spousal abuse, elder abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, juvenile crime/gangs, parental abduction, organized crime, pornography/ child pornography, DUI's, and alcohol-related crimes (fbi.gov). Since the NIBRS deals with so many different areas of crime it can provide more meaningful and detailed data. There is one similarity between UCR and NIBRS and that is when collecting data and also reporting data both use the UCR handbook, since it is also acceptable with NIBRS. There are many differences between UCR and NIBRS. The NIBRS is a lot more detailed when it comes to its reporting system and the UCR reporting system is not as detailed. When dealing with rape NIBRS includes both men and women in their data, and when it comes to UCR they only include women in their data. UCR does not separate attempted and complete crimes and NIBRS does. When it comes to the hierarchy rule UCR does use it and the NIBRS does not. Cyber-crime is also put into the NIBRS and the UCR does not include cyber-crime. Also the NIBRS uses more detailed data on drug related crimes than UCR does. With the differences stated it is clean that the NIBRS uses more detailed data when it comes to specific crimes and also covers a larger variety of criminal acts.
The next program is the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The definition in the text Crime Victims is, " an annual undertaking that attempts to determine how frequently certain crimes take place, who suffers, and what proportion of victims report the incidents to the police" (pg. 60). The police use self-report surveys, and these surveys prove that there are more people breaking the law than what is actually reported to the police. The benefit of the survey is that it eliminated the futility of attempting the impossible. Interviewing 250 million people 12 years old or older living in 118 million households in the entire United States in 2006 to find out how people fared in the past year (Karmen pg. 61). This meant that people were able to admit to crimes that have happened over the year that they failed to report to the police department. People believed that this technique would provide better information than the UCR, but was later found out that it did not provide the most accurate information. In finding with this type of survey are only reliable to a certain extent. It would mean that the group of people surveyed would have to represent the population of the whole entire country. This could cause many problems with the data. Also it is hard to tell if the people taking the surveys are actually telling the truth. The people taking the surveys might not feel comfortable talking about what happened around them or even to them. Another issue would be memory decay, which is when somebody forgets about a crime that has happened in the past year. This is usually dealing with little crimes that did not directly interfere with a person's life. Also over-reporting might interfere with reserving correct data. A person might extend the truth on what actually happen to them or they might also hold out very important information. Forward telescoping is another issue that this survey has to deal with. This is when a person has had a very traumatic event happen to them and when they are taking the survey it comes back into their memory and they believe it has happen more recently than it actually did. This situation contributes to over-reporting, because an individual might have already reported the crime when it actually occurred. So with these disadvantages the surveys come with the data that is given is not 100 percent correct.
When looking at UCR and NCVS side by side it is easy to understand which data to look at for a certain crime. When a person is looking for information on murder the UCR would be the place to look since the NCVS does not include questions on their survey about homicide. The UCR has information on police officers that are killed in the line of duty and students that are harmed on college campuses. When trying to find data on crimes in specific areas UCR would be the place to look. It deals with crimes in different regions in the country and the NCVS data is calculated for the country as a whole and only four geographic regions, but are not available for specific cities, countries, or states like the UCR is. When looking for data that is more inclusive for what happened within a given year and that have not been reported to the police department NCVS would be the place to look. With all the similarities and differences both of these programs have, when looked at together a person is able to tell which crimes happen the most and in what part of the world.
These three programs can provide a person with the most accurate data when it comes to crime in an area. It is important to remember that the data retrieved is not 100 percent correct and should always be questioned. It is impossible to have data on crimes that is correct and the reason for that is not all crimes are going to be reported to law enforcement. When using UCR, NCVS, and NIBRS law enforcement is one step closer to understand what types of crimes are committed the most, and also who the victims usually are.
Karmen, Andrew. "Sources of Information about Crime Victims The UCR and the NCVS." Crime Victims: An Introduction to Victimology. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2010. 51-67. Print.
"NATIONAL INCIDENT-BASED REPORTING SYSTEM (NIBRS)." Federal Bureau of Investigation National Incident-based Reporting System. U.S. Department of Justice, 2010. Web. 08 Feb. 2013.
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