Each month, law enforcement agencies report the number of known index crimes in their jurisdiction to the FBI. This mainly includes crimes reported to the police by the general public but may also include crimes that police officers discover and those known through other sources. Law enforcement agencies also report the number of crime cases cleared.
Every year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI, compiles crime statistics nationwide and publishes the results. The results of this data are known as the “Crime Index” or the National Uniform Crime Report (UCR). Not all crimes are included in the index or the report. Instead, the FBI has narrowed its list to eight primary crimes for which data is collected and reported.
The FBI does not independently investigate how many crimes are committed and what type they are. While the FBI is responsible for making the annual report of the crime index or report, they rely on data collected from local and state law enforcement agencies to publish law enforcement trends and safety guides.
This allows the FBI to provide meaningful statistics to the general population and law enforcement agencies by comparing the types of crime that are categorized, defined and charged similarly across the states.
The UCR itself warns that it reflects crime reports by police, not later adjudication. In other words, it tracks arrests, not convictions. Because reporting quality, arrest likelihood, officers per capita, and funding vary by jurisdiction, the data should not be used to compare crime rates or frequencies between reporting agencies.
What Information is Collected?
The Crime Index contains a compilation of the volume and rate of violent and property crime offenses for the nation and by state. Data at the level of local law enforcement agencies is also provided for those agencies that supply the FBI with 12 months of complete offense data. This report includes arrests, clearances, trends, and law enforcement employee data.
What are the Crimes that are Listed in the Crime Index?
In Part I, eight crimes are delineated. These eight have been consistently studied across jurisdictions and reported yearly for several years. They are divided into violent crimes (numbers 1-4) and property crimes (numbers 5-8):
- Forcible rape
- Aggravated assault
- Larceny-theft (i.e., general theft)
- Motor vehicle theft
Because the first four crimes are considered the most serious, they are reported with the most reliability and almost always to the police before other agencies.
In Part II, the following categories are tracked:
- Simple assault
- Curfew offenses and loitering
- Forgery and counterfeiting
- Disorderly conduct
- Driving under the influence
- Drug offenses
- Liquor offenses
- Offenses against the family
- Public drunkenness
- Sex offenses
- Stolen property
- Weapons offenses
The FBI also keeps track of:
- Law enforcement officers killed and assaulted
- Hate crime statistics
- Cargo theft
Two property reports are also included. The first is the”Property Stolen by Classification” report. This report details the number of actual crimes of each type and the monetary value of property stolen in conjunction with that crime.
Burglaries are further divided into three categories:
- Forcible entry
- Unlawful entry – no force
- Attempted forcible entry
The second property report is the “Property Stolen by Type (of Property) and Value” report. The monetary value of both stolen and recovered property is totaled and classified as one of eleven property types:
- Clothing and furs
- Consumable goods
- Household goods
- Jewelry and precious metals
- Locally stolen motor vehicles
- Office equipment
- Televisions, radios, stereos, etc.
The FBI began recording arson rates in 1979. This report details arsons of the following property types:
- Single occupancy residential (houses, townhouses, duplexes, etc.)
- Other residential (apartments, tenements, flats, hotels, motels, dormitories, etc.)
- Storage (barns, garages, warehouses, etc.)
- Other commercial (stores, restaurants, offices, etc.)
- Community/public (churches, jails, schools, colleges, hospitals, etc.)
- All other structures (outbuildings, monuments, buildings under construction, etc.)
- Motor vehicles (automobiles, trucks, buses, motorcycles, etc.)
- Other mobile property (trailers, recreational vehicles, airplanes, boats, etc.)
- Other types (crops, timber, fences, signs, etc.)
What Other Data is Collected for Crime Reporting?
Other areas of interest in law enforcement data gathering by the FBI include:
- Rate of occurrence or number of police or other law enforcement agents who are killed in the line of duty
- Hate crime trends, including the number of incidents that occurred related to race, gender, religion, nationality, religion, etc.
- Cargo theft reporting, including imported and exported goods that are transported nationally and in or around U.S. waterways
How Does Uniform Crime Reporting Affect the Community?
The FBI’s report tells you the crime rates in different parts of your city. You can learn which areas of your city have higher crime rates and what crimes are occurring. With this information, you can research or gauge the safety of your residential neighborhood, the area around your workplace, and the neighborhood where your child’s school is based on the data reported in the Crime Index.
You can protect yourself and your family by using this information to decide about buying the right house, choosing the safest school for a child, or what route to commute to your job.
How Does Uniform Crime Reporting Affect Me if I am a Defendant?
Your judge will learn where you live and work. If you have been charged with a crime that is reported on the Crime Index, particularly if it is a violent index crime, your bail review conditions can be affected by the Crime Index.
Bail is granted if the court is convinced that you are not a flight risk and that you will not commit another crime while you are out on bail. If you live in a dangerous neighborhood, it is more likely that the people you know and spend time with could be criminals than if you lived in a safer section of the city. Bail may be denied if the judge believes allowing you to return to your dangerous neighborhood could tempt you to commit another crime.
Areas of the criminal process that are affected by the index can include:
- Whether you are released on bail or bond due to the severity of the crime charged
- Whether the crime charged will be treated as a misdemeanor or felony
- Minimum jail sentences that may ordered
- Whether you will qualify for probation or parole
Because the index can influence the way local law enforcement investigates and how it is prosecuted, the way the index is categorized can affect how states handle your case.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Help Me with an Index Crime?
An experienced criminal defense lawyer familiar with your state’s criminal laws can help defend you. A lawyer can advise you of your rights and explain how the Crime Index or the annual National Uniform Crime Report may impact your case.
A lawyer can prepare your case, including any defenses available to you, and will represent you in court. Violent crime offenses are serious charges, and it is recommended that you consult an experienced lawyer immediately upon arrest or being charged to ensure your rights are protected.