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How Crime is Measured
Have you ever wondered how crime in the United States is measured? It was not until the early 1930's that Congress gave this any serious consideration. During this time, Congress passed a law authorizing the Department of Justice to gather crime statistics throughout four regions of the United States. (South, Midwest, Northeast and West).

Through a partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (I.A.C.P.) crime data is received on a voluntary basis from thousands of police departments from around the country. This crime data is annually published in the Uniform Crime Report titled "Crime in the United States." Eight serious crimes called index crimes are measured each year. They include(2005 data) murder( 16,692) Rape(93,934), Robbery(417,122 ) aggravated assault(862,947) Burglary(2.1 million) Theft(6,000,000) Motor vehicle Theft(6,776,807) and arson(25,601). Part II crimes include public order offenses and other minor crime offenses.

Since the inception of the Uniform Crime Report, we have made significant progress in our measurement of crime. In earlier periods, we measured crime under the rule of "hierarchy". Under the rule of hierarchy, crime was summary based instead of incident based, hence only the most serious single crime was recorded during one crime incident. With today's contemporary use of the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRIS), all crimes committed within one single event are recorded. Under the NIBRS system, a police administrator might record both a robbery and a murder that occurred during one single event. The NIBRS system provides a detailed understanding of the particulars of crime.

In addition to the Uniform Crime Report, we measure crime through the National Victimization Survey which randomly surveys 103,000 individuals or 77,000 households relative to recent criminal victimization. Trained interviewers query random members of the population in order measure crime not reported to the police. Due to the reluctance of victims to report crime to the police, certain groups believe the National Victimization Survey is a more accurate method of defining the actual rate of crime in the United States.

A third method of collecting crime data is through self reported offender data. Although this method is the least of any method used, some criminal justice practitioners continue to query offenders as to their frequency and involvement in crime. It remains arguable if self report data is credible and reliable data.

Most experts agree that a true measurement of crime will be multidimensional and provide a variety of criminal justice perspectives. It remains important that the reader develop an understanding of the various measures of crime in order to truly capture the picture of crime in the United States. With economic uncertainty looming, many project that a spike in the national crime rate that will continue beyond the year 2010.


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