Crime Data Sources Essay

Pages: 12 (3773 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Criminal Justice

Similarly, the National Incident-Based Reporting System has attracted huge concerns on data accuracy. While NIBRS does not involve the application of similar methods to aggregate crime count totals using its data, the data from this method has been criticized for being non-representative and incomplete. Therefore, both UCR and NIBRS have significant data quality and accuracy issues in measuring and dealing with crime.

Rules in Classifying and Scoring of Offenses:

There are some similar rules that are applied in both UCR and NIBRS with regards to the classification and scoring of offenses when reporting. Even though NIBRS has extended its definition of the hotel rule, this rule is applied in both methods of crime reporting. The second rule applied in both systems when classifying and scoring offenses is the separation of time and place rule. In both systems, law enforcement agencies use the rule to determine whether a combination of certain offenses should be reported as individual incidents. The rule is also used to clarify whether the group of offenses should be reported as a single incident in cases where multiple crimes took place.

Differences between UCR and NIBRS:

While Uniform Crime Reports and the National Incident-Based Reporting System have similarities in terms of methodological procedures and implications, these systems have huge differences between them. Some of the major differences between these methods include & #8230;

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Essay on Crime Data Sources in the Assignment

Police departments that participate in the UCR program are required to categorize and score reported crimes through translating offenses titles that are used in local and state criminal codes into the standardized definitions of UCR (James & Council, 2008). The standardized definitions in Uniform Crime Reports are classified into Part I and Part II offenses. During scoring and classification of UCR data, the statistics must reflect criminal counts rather than the decisions of a prosecutor and court findings. Scoring of crimes in UCR program involves differentiating between crimes against persons and crimes against property. The local police agency tallies the number of known crimes for every Part I crime and arrest data for Part I and Part II crimes, and present the aggregate counts every month to the FBI.

In contrast, the NIBRS does not involve the use of Part I and Part II crime classifications in the UCR since it is geared towards being a by-product of local incident-based reporting systems. Under this system, crimes are classified as being either Group A or Group B. crimes with Group A containing 22 crime categories for 46 different offenses and Group B. consist 11 different crimes. For all Group A crimes, police departments are required to provide incident reports that contain crime data from six sections. On the contrary, Group B. crimes require police agencies to provide only arrest reports that are made up of statistics from arrestee data section only (James & Council, 2008).

While UCR involves data aggregation, NIBRS does not aggregate crime data since data for every crime is handed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a separate report. Under this system, the participating police department collects data on 53 various data elements. Some of the major elements that these agencies should collect data on include the offense, offender, victim, arrestee, and any property involved in the incident.

Classifying and Scoring of Offenses:

UCR and NIBRS also differ in the classification and scoring of crimes though both systems have to classify and score crimes. One of the major differences in the classification and scoring of crime is the inclusion of the crime against society category in the National Incident-Based Reporting System. Similar to UCR, NIBRS classifies crime into crime against persons and crimes against property. However, the system includes a third category i.e. crimes against society, which is not included in Uniform Crime Reports. This category includes several offenses like gambling, prostitution, drug or narcotics, and pornography or obscene materials. Under NIBRS, the report police department should score one offense for every crime against society in a criminal incident.

Secondly, unlike UCR, NIBRS does not use the hierarchy rule to categorize and score crimes since police departments can submit reports for all crimes that took place in a criminal incident. Moreover, the Federal Bureau of Investigation expanded the definition of hotel rule in NIBRS to make it different from the definition under UCR. In this case, the definition of the hotel rule under NIBRS is applicable to rental storage buildings or facilities. Consequently, the system permits police agencies to report the number of premises entered.


UCR and NIBRS have significant differences in terms of their effectiveness when being used as primary sources of crime data. Since its inception, UCR program has been used as a major crime data source while its scope expanded over the years. As the first national, standardized system of measuring the occurrence of crime, UCR program help law enforcement agencies in fighting crime because it provided them with data that can be used for that purpose (James & Council, 2008). The effectiveness of UCR in fighting crime has not only been demonstrated in its help in fighting crime but also shown in its extensive use by academics and government officials for various purposes like policy, planning, and research.

Given the increase in complexity of criminal incidents, the effectiveness of UCR program in fighting crime has decreased significantly. The decrease in effectiveness has contributed to the emergence of several concerns and questions regarding the use of this source of crime data in the United States. Furthermore, the need for a more comprehensive version of this system has emerged in order to enhance law enforcements' efforts in dealing with offenses. The major factor that has made UCR to be largely ineffective in dealing with crime is the fact that it only considers criminal incidents that have been reported. As a result, the system does not consider numerous criminal incidents that do take place and are not reported for various reasons. Since they account for a significant portion of criminal activities, the consideration of reported crimes only contributes to increased ineffectiveness of the program. The other factor that contributes to the slight ineffectiveness of the program is the fact that some states do not have the requirements of mandated participation. This implies that the missing crime data hinders the effectiveness of the program by failing to accurately represent the country in its entirety.

On the contrary, the National Incident-Based Report System is more effective than UCR since it was introduced as a more detailed version of the latter. However, the full potential of this system is yet to be realized because of assumptions that its crime data is intrinsically biased (Addington, 2008, p.32). The natural bias of crime data from NIBRS is attributed to the system's lack of national coverage and over-representation of police departments that serve small populations. Nonetheless, the evaluation of the extent of non-response and bias in generating crime projections is yet to be carried out.

The improved effectiveness of NIBRS as compared to UCR is because NIBRS data is to act as the result of local incident-based reporting systems. Through these systems, local and state police departments can create their own programs that suit their specific needs and use those data to get involved in the national system. However, the data used to participate in NIBRS must comply with the requirements or specifications of the Federal Bureau Investigation. The ability of local and state police departments to develop systems that meet their needs enables them to add extra data elements or values.

Methodological Procedures:

UCR differs from NIBRS in terms of methodological procedures, especially the degree of detail in reporting, which is the biggest difference between the two systems. UCR can largely be regarded as a summary reporting system since police departments tally and aggregate the number of occurrences of crime across all categories of offenses before providing monthly summary reports to the FBI. The summary reporting system does not require combining arrests and outstanding clearances back to past submitted incident reports ("Data Collection Guidelines," 2000). As previously mentioned, the monthly summary reports under UCR are either provided directly to the FBI or indirectly via the state UCR systems.

However, NIBRS reporting involves collection of comprehensive data on individual crime incidents and arrests and provide them in separate reports. When providing these reports, police departments are required to use prescribed data components and values to define every arrest and incident. Unlike UCR, the National Incident-Based Reporting System involves incident-based reporting. Moreover, arrests and exceptional clearances associated with the previously submitted Group A incident reports are provided as updates to the past reports.

Notably, NIBRS uses mandatory and optional data elements through which data must be entered into elements of mandatory data in reports that are provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. In cases where such data is not entered in submitted reports, the reports are rejected by FBI's computer systems on grounds that they contain error. When using local incident-based reporting… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Crime Data Sources" Essay in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Crime Data Sources.  (2014, February 7).  Retrieved September 25, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Crime Data Sources."  7 February 2014.  Web.  25 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Crime Data Sources."  February 7, 2014.  Accessed September 25, 2020.