FBI Overhauling 1930s-Era UCR To Get More Crime Data


The FBI overhauling its signature crime tracking program, reports USA Today. Federal authorities are attempting to convert hundreds of law enforcement agencies to an alternate reporting system that would account for perhaps scores of offenses that have never been recorded in the bureau’s Uniform Crime Report. Assistant FBI Director Stephen Morris, said there is no estimating the number of ”lost” offenses. “You don’t know what you don’t know,” he said. Murders may be the most consistently tracked offenses, but an unknown number of other crimes often committed in the course of those deaths — rapes, robberies, assaults, arson and others — go unrecorded. Long-standing reporting limitations allow for tracking only the most serious single offense from each incident, regardless of how many other offenses have been committed.

The UCR crime summary tracks 10 specific offenses, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. It does not record crucial details about race, gender and relationships involving both victims and offenders. Giant holes in the reporting method call into question the reliability of a measure that often determines how hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money is spent in an attempt to bolster public safety. “We don’t have a good sense at all of the relationships involved in crime because we are still using a 1930s tool,” said University of South Carolina criminologist Geoff Alpert. “It’s horrible that we have had the ability to do this, but for some reason, we just haven’t done it.” In place of the summary crime report, the FBI is expanding the capacity of a National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, that has the potential to account for much of what is lacking.

For previous coverage of this issue by The Crime Report, see this story.

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