Demystifying Crime and Criminal Justice Chapter 1: The Myth of Accurate Crime Measurement The Myth One of the problems with assertions about crime levels and trends, theories of crime, and evaluation of crime polices is that these claims are often built upon questionable data. That is, the belief that crime statistics are an accurate measure of crime is a myth. There are three primary sources of crime statistics: office data (Uniform Crime Reports, or UCR), selfreport studies, and victimization studies (National Crime Victimization Surveys, or NCVS). The Kernel of Truth Official data and victimization surveys reveal somewhat different patterns with respect to changes in crime rates over time. The Truth or Facts Official Data (UCR) Currently, the major source of official data on crime and arrests in the United States is the FBIs Uniform Crime Reports. The FBI compiles records form these agencies and publishes annual data on crime and arrests broken down by the age, sex, and race of individuals arrested, and the city and region of the country where the crime was committed. It does not include information about the social class status of those arrested. Crimes are categorized on the basis of their alleged seriousness: serious crimes (homicide, forcible rape, aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larcenytheft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) are known as Index, or Part I, crimes; 21 less serious crimes and status offense are classified as nonIndex, or Part II crimes. Two major stages in the production of official crime statistics involve the reporting of crime citizens and the recording of crimes by law enforcement personnel. Research indicates that whether crimes are reported to the police depends on a number of factors, including: (1) the seriousness of the crime (the more serious the crime, the more likely it is to be reported); (2) the relationship of the victim to the offender (generally, crimes committed by family members or close friends are less likely to be reported to the police); (3) the possibility of selfincrimination; and (4) perceptions regarding whether the police can do anything about the crime. The next important issue is related to what happens once a citizen lodges a complaint with the police. Whether the police record these complaints as crimes is also subject to a number of factors. The greater the relational distance between the complainant and the alleged offender, the more likely the police are to file an official report. Hierarchy rule scoring of crimes when multiple offenses are committed at the same time by a person or group of persons; only the most serious crime is reported. NIBRS categorizes each crime incident and arrest into one of 22 basic categories that span 46 separate offenses, with great deal of additional information on the circumstances of the crime being collected. Since crime statistics are often used as a measure of police performance, departments can improve their paper performance by misclassifying or downgrading offenses.