Tagged: UCR

FBI 2020 Crime Data Shows Increase in Homicides and Aggravated Assaults

Today the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) released preliminary findings of their soon to be released annual report, Crime in the United States: 2020. While the final publication has not yet been released, the data can be accessed through the Crime Data Explorer. Additionally, publications from prior years are accessible online.

The preliminary data revealed that violent crime is up for the first time in four years, with 1,277,696 violent crimes reported to United States law enforcement in 2020. The violent crime rate (which accounts for population size) was 387.8 per 100,000 — a 5.2% increase when compared with 2019 rates (380.8 per 100,000). The violent crime increase appears to be a result of increases in aggravated assaults (+12.0%) and murders (+29.4%). However, not all types of violent crime increased from 2019 to 2020 — robbery decreased 9.3% and rape (revised definition) decreased 12.0%. Conversely, property crime is down, with 6,452,038 property crimes reported to law enforcement in 2020. The property crime rate (again, accounting for population size) was 1958.2 per 100,000, which decreased 8.1% when compared with 2019 rates (2130.6 per 100,000). The decrease in property crime appears to be driven by decreases in burglary (-7.4%) and larceny-theft (-10.6%). In contrast, auto thefts increased (+11.8%). It is important to note that crimes of arson are not included in property crime estimates, due to disparities in the agencies that submitted data for arson.

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The Future of Crime Data in Policing

January 1, 2021 marked the end of an era when the FBI officially retired the nearly 100-year old Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system in lieu of a more comprehensive option known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The UCR, otherwise referred to as “simple summary reporting” (SRS) was introduced in 1929, and essentially reported aggregated counts of crimes at monthly and yearly intervals for participating law enforcement agencies. NIBRS was introduced in 1982 in an attempt to modernize the UCR, emphasizing incident-level data collection rather than aggregate-level. The purpose of this was to provide more detail and context about each incident (e.g. details on victims or offenders of crime, characteristics of the incident) to improve crime data quality (and quantity). The comprehensive data collected via NIBRS would allow for more opportunities to analyze patterns of crime and apply it to the field. However, one downside of NIBRS is that data are more burdensome for law enforcement agencies to collect. Further, participation in both UCR and NIBRS is voluntary for law enforcement agencies, meaning that additional burden might affect participation rates. Not surprisingly, participation rates are typically higher for the UCR, making it the preferred official source for reported crime data up until very recently. Continue reading . . .

Defunding the Police: an Evidence-Based Approach?

In the months following the death of George Floyd, there have been an increasing number of protests aimed at taking a stand against police brutality and “defunding” the police. The slogan “defund the police” has since been adopted by various activist groups and is now being seriously debated by politicians and lawmakers across the country. Despite the fact that Americans are mixed on whether they support the idea, the slogan has nonetheless become an increasingly popular political talking point. While the argument that America’s police departments are in need of reform is not without merit, that does not mean that defunding the police is the answer.

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