Uniform Crime Reporting

It can be fairly said that crime is something which will always exist in society in one form or another, and as such, needs to be monitored. With this in mind, efforts are made to study the amount and variety of United States crime by using, among other tools, the Uniform Crime Reporting System (UCR), bringing about a consideration of the success or failure of the UCR.

In this position paper, supported arguments will be presented in opposition to the following statement: the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, through the Uniform Crime Reports collected by the FBI, provides a completely accurate indicator of crime in the United States. Argument 1: The Myth of Crime Epidemic To begin, it is possible to challenge the accuracy of the UCR on the most basic level- based on the very real possibility that, despite what the FBI is indicating, crime is not something which is increasing in leaps and bounds.

As a matter of fact, studies conducted outside of the scope of the UCR have indicated that from the early 1990’s to the first several years of the 21st century, violent crime in America was in fact on the decline from previous decades due in large part to urban revitalization, the use of technology to fight crime more effectively, and better coordination among law enforcement agencies to share information and combine efforts to bring dangerous criminals to justice (Zimring, 2007).

With this in mind, the logical question is why, then, would the UCR show exactly the opposite? One answer lies in the flaw of all surveying tools- respondent error and/or bias. It would seem that the occurrence of crime in the United States has not increased, but the reporting of crime in the United States has, thereby being reflected in the UCR and making the UCR inaccurate by its very nature. Argument 2: The “Chicken and Egg” Phenomenon

The UCR also can be scrutinized through the use of what is called the “Chicken and Egg” phenomenon by criminologists. Basically, what this phenomenon dictates is that within crime reporting, what is revealed is somewhat skewed data due to external factors which distort the data itself. For example, within the UCR, it is consistently reported that a majority of violent crime is committed by African-Americans.

However, other sources indicate that the majority of violent crime arrests occur among African-Americans because in many cases they are targeted by law enforcement, making them more easily caught when they do break the law (USA Today, 1999) and providing a false statistic within the UCR that can be viewed as prejudicial. Argument 3: Clarification of Statistics Finally, a decades old flaw in the UCR can be seen in the clarification of the statistics that it provides; in other words, if one would look at the occurrences of murder as a quick example, 1930 compared to 1980 may indicate that murder rates have skyrocketed.

However, when the statistic is adjusted to reflect increases in population, it can be seen that the percentage of the population that are murder victims has not increased, and in many cases, has in fact dropped (Wright, 1985). Therefore, within the UCR, what is revealed is often not as telling as what is concealed. Conclusion This position paper has presented several arguments that question the infallibility that the FBI claims for the UCR. However, as has been seen, the UCR, and indeed no other statistical analysis, is completely free from errors and omissions.

Therefore, in conclusion, it would seem that statistics should not be disregarded totally, but do need to be viewed with an open mind.


Is Crime “Profiling” a Reasonable Premise? (1999, August). USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education), 128, 12. Wright, K. N. (1985). The Great American Crime Myth. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. Zimring, F. E. (2007). The Great American Crime Decline. New York: Oxford University Press.