2010-12-10 / Top Stories

FBI Tool Makes Crime Research Easier

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, which collects and publishes crime statistics, has developed an online database tool to make it easier to search for crime data going back to 1960.

The publisher of the annual Crime in the United States report today rolled out the UCR Data Tool, which lets users perform queries on custom variables like year, agency, and type of offense. Until now, making comparisons of crime data required searching the annual reports and then manually crunching the numbers. The new tool aims to make it easier for users — including FBI law enforcement partners who supply the data — to make use of the raw numbers.

“It’s a flexible, user-friendly way for our contributors and users to access the FBI’s UCR crime data,” said Robert Casey, chief of the Law Enforcement Support Section in the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, which manages the UCR program.

The FBI has administered the UCR program since 1930, when law enforcement organizations in 400 cities in 43 states (representing 20 million people) started sending the FBI data on crimes classified as Part I offenses — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft. Since then, the program has expanded along with the population and the number of police departments serving them. Today, the population represented by law enforcement agencies participating in the UCR program is more than 295 million people, or 96 percent of the U.S. Participation in the program is voluntary and varies from year to year.

The online database contains crime offense statistics from 1985 to 2009 (the most recent reporting year) for city law enforcement agencies with populations of 10,000 and over, and for county agencies with populations of 25,000 and over. Estimated crime counts from 1960 to 2009 for national and state-level data are also included in the UCR Data Tool. (Because not all law enforcement agencies provide data, the FBI estimates some crime counts.) Figures for arson, which was added to the UCR program as a Part I offense in 1979, are not included in the database.

The tool makes it easier to look at longitudinal data — data over a period of time. Users can export results in a universal format for easy display on spreadsheets or graphics programs.

“We’re working hard to modernize and revitalize UCR,” Casey said. “The Data Tool is one step toward that goal.”

The UCR program publishes a number of statistical reports each year. The most recent annual Crime in the United States report was released in September; next month we’ll post preliminary statistics for the first six months of 2010 will be posted. Other annual UCR reports include Hate Crime Statistics and Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted. The dual aims of the reports are to provide information to the public, and to provide data-driven insight that might help law enforcement agencies tailor their programs and training and allocate resources.

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