The FBI released official 2021 crime statistics last month, but the data leaves major gaps in our understanding of national-level crime rates. Unfortunately, the numbers are incomplete this year because 36% of U.S. law enforcement agencies, some of them major cities, failed to submit their crime reports. This is largely because the FBI made major changes to the way that it collects crime data, making the submission process much more complicated. Rather than following the arduous process, many agencies simply declined to participate in last year’s data collection. In comparison, 2020 crime statistics included data from 85% of U.S. law enforcement agencies.
This post briefly reviews agency participation rates and discusses what that means for our current understanding of national-level crime. Then, using data from the years 2017-2020 (all of the years for which data from both systems are available), I examine whether the two systems produce similar violent crime estimates. Continue reading . . .