(Compare and contrast the two primary crime data sources used in the United States, i.e., the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) and the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Focus on methodological procedures and implications).
UCR and the NIBRS.
As the US Government focuses on the alleviation of crime and its implications, the development and implementation of effective measures and strategies is of great importance. The Government implements various measures such as strengthening the different agencies of the criminal justice system and factors that influence the process of crime alleviation. Moreover, it understands the importance of efficient collection of crime data and statistics in the measurement of the rate of crime, the nature, and the effects on the country. As such, the government administers different programs for the purpose and implement the data, statistics, and outcomes in the development of more efficient measures of preventing and combating crime. The two major programs and sources of crime data/statistics in the country are the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). A critical comparison of the two programs through an analysis of their methodological procedures and implications is essential for a better understanding of the concern of crime in the US.
Background Information on the NIBRS and the UCR
The UCR program was developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) for the collection and recording of reliable and credible uniform crime data/statistics for the country. The FBI was then given the mandate of collecting, recording, publishing, and archiving the statistics for analysis and future use. The program collects the data from more than 17 000 agencies. The collected data involves eight crimes including rape, robbery, murder and non-negligent manslaughter, aggravated assault, theft of motor vehicles, larceny-theft, and arson. According to Biderman and Lynch (2014), the summary reporting system also records information about the counts of arrests for various offence categories summed up by the race, sex, and age of the arrestee. The UCR influences the analysis of local crime significantly. On the other hand, the NIBRS reports crime incidences placed at the attention of law enforcement agencies to the FBI. Developed in the 1970s, the system focuses on promoting detailed crime reporting for the enhancement of efficiency in fighting crime and its impacts on the society. It records incident and arrest and arrest information of Group A and Group B offence categories respectively. The NIBRS, just like the UCR, records crimes against individuals and property, and further reports crime against the society, which is not reported in the UCR program (Addington, 2006).
Comparative Analysis of the UCR and the NIBRS
The UCR and NIBRS compare and contrast in different ways. According to Biderman and Lynch (2014), the systems function under the same guidelines and general concepts but have multiple differences. The FBI regulates the two sources of crime data and while the UCR focuses on the collection of crime data relating to the eight mentioned crimes the latter depicts extensive crime data collection and reporting by recording Group A and Group B crime categories. Further, according to the National Institute of Justice, the application of the data collection programs allows policy decision-making and development (Cohen & Wright, 2011).
According to Nolan, Haas, and Napier (2011), the UCR involves the collection and reporting of aggregate crimes for the eight categories occurring on a monthly basis. The development of the program was meant for the identification of the crimes and reporting the rate of their occurrence throughout the US on a monthly basis (Riedel & Welsh, 2016; Biderman & Lynch, 2014). The UCR records the incidences of each of the crimes in accordance with the hierarchy rule. As Riedel and Welsh (2016) state, the rule suppresses the reporting or recording of counts of lesser crimes in case of multiple-offence incidences. While this is the case, the NIBRS program records all the incidences of the 46 crimes. The application of the NIBRS allows the integration of all the critical information concerning a case, with the prioritization of details concerning the offence, the offender, the victim, or the property. Each offence, whether including multiple-offence incidents, is recorded and reported. Therefore, unlike the UCR, the NIBRS does not apply the hierarchy rule (Barnett-Ryan & Swanson, 2008).
Another key difference between the UCR and NIBRS programs is the distinction of crimes. According to Barnett-Ryan and Swanson (2008), the UCR program places little emphasis in the distinction of completed and attempted crimes. The program identifies, records, and reports all the crimes reported to the law enforcement officers to the FBI without a clear distinction of the attempted and completed crimes. This influences the following processes of crime data analysis and the application of the data/information in the development of policies for alleviating crime in the country. The development of the NIBRS acknowledged the concern and integrated the need for the distinction of crimes. According to Nolan, Haas, and Napier (2011), the NIBRS program distinguishes between attempted crimes and completed crimes. The distinction plays a significant role in influencing the processes that succeed the collection, recording, and reporting the data to the FBI. For example, the distinction serves an essential role in the identification of the effectiveness of law enforcement, the rate of crime in the country, and the essential measures for alleviating crime.
The UCR and NIBRS differ in the way they define and record rape and the application of the hotel rule. The UCR defines rape as a case where the victim is a female while the NIBRS program identifies male and female victims of rape and records and reports the cases. Therefore, in the case of rape, the NIBRS is a development of the UCR as it acknowledges the harm the offence does to the victim irrespective of their gender. Further, the UCR integrates the hotel rule into the case of burglary. The hotel rule, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (2016), demands that if various units under the same management are burglarized and the offences reported by the manager then they should be categorized as a single crime. However, robbery of individuals in different parts of a premise are recorded as different offences even when under the same management. The two major crime data sources apply the hotel rule but the NIBRS advances it to include rental storage equipment. Therefore, while they are similar in the application of the principle, they differ in the way that the NIBRS integrates the rental storage facilities into the rule.
Further, the methodological comparison between the UCR and the NIBRS is evident in the collection of weapon information for violent offences and the provision of details on the arrest of offenders. The sources of crime data recording and reporting collect information for the weapons used for such offences as robbery, murder, and aggravated assaults, and violent offences. The UCR program focuses on the collection of weapon information on offences such as aggravated assault, robbery, and murder. The program offers a distinction between the attempted and completed crimes for forcible rape alone. While this is the case, Huff-Corzine, et al. (2014) asserts that attempts of murder are recorded as aggravated assault for the UCR, just as in the NIBRS. On the other hand, the NIBRS source of crime data collection collects weapon information on various violent offences provided for in the different offences that the program records and reports. Moreover, the two programs compare in the way they record violent offences. The UCR and NIBRS programs record and report violent crimes by recording each victim instead of, like in the case of UCR, recording the most serious offense and leaving the rest out (Addington, 2006; Barnett-Ryan & Swanson, 2008).
Implications of the UCR and NIBRS
The differences and comparisons between the UCR and the NIBRS have significant impacts. For example, the differences serve as major sources of the data discrepancies existing between the NIBRS and the UCR. According to (Riedel & Welsh, 2016), the major sources of discrepancies between the two major sources of crime data in the US include human error caused by the differences. The misclassification of major offences such as motor vehicle theft and aggravated assault causes significant errors in the recording and reporting of offences by the programs. Additionally, the implementation of the programs includes the consideration of hierarchy, which involves the suppression of various offences. The suppression of these crimes through the hierarchy principle impacts on the crime rate of the country significantly. Further, the application of the programs has resulted to operational influence such as the modification of offence definitions and the conversion of the state penal code to the Federal Bureau of Investigation definitions of crime among others (FBI, 2016). These have a direct influence on law enforcement.
The application of the NIBRS program has served a major role in the promotion of transparency in the criminal justice system. According to Biderman and Lynch (2014), the NIBRS data has in the past few years been used for the provision of higher transparency in the US law enforcement. The data collected through the program is critically important to the different law enforcement agencies and the public. The access to the data and the ability of the public to examine the detailed crime data of a jurisdiction serves an important role in the enhancement of the processes of transparency. Additionally, the application of the crime data allows the improvement of proficiency and credibility in the enforcement of the law. The data and information collected using the different data collection programs allows the effective inclusion of reliable data and information in dealing with related concerns or during the development of policies focusing on crime reduction.
The integration of records management software into the process of reporting NIBRS data lowers the chances of misrepresentation and false crime reporting. The management software allows the automated reporting of NIBRS crime data thus lowering the chances of false reporting to almost zero. According to Riedel and Welsh (2016), false reporting in the US has remained an issue of great concern as different law enforcement agencies continue to record false crime data to portray reduced crime even when the rate of crime remains high. The NIBRS program improved transparency in the process of reporting or recording crime data thus minimizing the possibility of data manipulation to depict low crime rates. Additionally, the enhancement of the aspect of credibility and transparency in the law enforcement has impacted positively on the public relations and the law enforcement. The NIBRS used the moves from the indicator-based UCR program to a technological accounting and incident-based system that promotes transparency. Additionally, the system is victim-focused and ensures the effective reporting of crime data. The increasing demand for higher levels of transparency and effectiveness may influence the development of more effective programs for crime data collection and reporting. The systems will integrate highly efficient technologies for higher effectiveness in all the processes. The contribution of the NIBRS and UCR programs have, therefore, influenced greater transparency in law enforcement and improved crime data collection and reporting.
The government works towards the enhancement of the efficiency of NIBRS to ensure the effective collection and recording of crime data. According to Riedel and Welsh (2016), the US Government has implemented various strategies for the achievement of success in the process. For example, the government focuses on ensuring that the program is effective enough to meet the public’s needs and demands for crime data. The implementation of strategies such as the development of a partnership between the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the National Academy of Science and the transition of the UCR program to exclusively the NIBRS will boost the efficiency of the program significantly. The partnership will serve the essential role of modernizing the country’s crime statistics and thus increasing the reliability, dependability, and the applicability of the data in the development of policies and strategies for curbing crime in the US. Further, Government works towards ensuring the provision of valid and reliable sample data concerning crime in the country through the creation of a partnership between the BJS and the NCS (National Crime Statistics) Exchange Project for the development of more efficient NIBRS crime (Cohen & Wright, 2011).
The NIBRS has served an important role in the improvement of the quality and quantity of crime data. The law enforcement agencies in the US focus on the effective collection of reliable and credible crime data. The application of the crime data collection programs such as the NIBRS improves the quality and quantity of the data collected. The program offers detailed information for the various crimes by outlining the crimes, their nature, perpetrators, occurrence and rate. According to Riedel and Welsh (2016), the implementation of the NIBRS has influenced the effectiveness of the law enforcement. The program’s precision in the identification and recording of crimes upon their occurrence makes it critical in the improvement of efficiency in the collection of crime data and the implementation of the data in policy development and law enforcement. As FBI (2016) asserts, the NIBRS program records the time and place of occurrence of a crime, its form or category, and the characteristics of the offender and the victims and thus the rate of crime in the specific areas and the US in general. The submission of the crime data to the FBI by the different law enforcement agencies allows the effective assessment of the country’s rate of crime.
Additionally, the NIBRS and the UCR furnish the crime information on the major criminal justice issues that influence law enforcement in the contemporary society. The implementation of the programs equips the government, through the law enforcement agencies to implement measures for tackling critical concerns facing the society such as white collar crime, terrorism, homicides, violence, and drug involvement, and drug and related offences among others. According to Riedel and Welsh (2016), the implementation of the various crime data collection sources makes the identification, analysis, and assessment of the various challenging crimes easier and effective and the development of policies to curb such concerns more efficient (Nolan, Haas, & Napier, 2011). For instance, while the integration of the discussed sources into the crime data collection has influenced the development of efficiency in law enforcement, its influence in the management of crime has been significant. The government has depicted increased effectiveness in dealing with crime since the creation and implementation of the NIBRS. Apart from the aforementioned criminal justice issues, the program has enabled the implementation of measures and strategies for curbing other concerns such as hate crimes, the different forms of abuse, abduction, and juvenile crime among other critical issues (FBI, 2016).
The influence of the UCR and NIBRS differ significantly. Existing for decades, the UCR was unable to achieve significant success in the promotion of efficiency in law enforcement and the reduction of crime in the American society. The creation of the NIBRS was meant to support the UCR by advancing its effectiveness in crime data collection to influenced improved efficiency in the enforcement of the law (McElreath & Doss, 2013). The UCR seemed limited to few categories of offences, some of which, like rape, were defined narrowly. The narrow definition and categorization of offense led to the unfair enforcement of the law. Moreover, it triggered the development of crime in the US. However, the creation and implementation of the NIBRS has triggered continued improvement of law enforcement and the enhancement of effectiveness in all the processes therein. The effective collection of crime data serves an important role in the development of an efficient platform for accessing information concerning crimes and the assessment of the crime level in a society (Vito & Maahs, 2012). The NIBRS program allowed all these and initiated an effective process of policy development and implementation of strategies for curbing crime.
UCR and the NIBRS differ and compare in different ways. The programs work under
similar principles and objectives but their methodologies depict significant
differences. The analysis of the similarities and differences offers an in-depth
understanding of the programs and their implications on the enforcement of the
law. The major differences include the application of the hierarchy rule and
the hotel rule. The UCR applies the hierarchy rule where it suppresses lesser offences
in cases where there are various incidences of crime. Additionally, the program
does not set a distinction between completed and attempted crimes. Moreover, the
UCR offers a limited definition of rape and engages in the collection of weapon
information in robbery, murder, and assault cases. On the other hand, the NIBRS
outlines 46 criminal offences and seeks to record and report details such as
the crime, the perpetrator, the victim, and the property. It records all
offences and offers a clear distinction between completed and attempted offences.
Moreover, it offers a clear definition of rape and integrates the hotel rule with
the rental storage equipment into the system. It, further, collects weapon
information for all manner of violent offences. All notwithstanding, the implementation
of the programs have great impacts on the law enforcement. The programs make it
possible for the development of efficiency in enforcing the law. In doing so,
the programs, especially NIBRS has managed to improve the process of dealing
with crime in the US.
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