FBI 'strongly discourages' comparing crime rates between cities

Posted at 2:27 PM, Jan 16, 2020

Every year the, FBI releases data detailing "uniform crime reporting" in America. The data compiles reports from thousands of agencies, and indicates trends in criminal activity, and numbers of crimes committed nationwide.

While the data indicates the number of criminal reports taken by law enforcement agencies, the FBI said that the data could have pitfalls and give an incomplete picture of crime in America.

The FBI said due to a number of factors, comparing jurisdictions is discouraged. Here are some of the factors the FBI lists:

  • Population density and degree of urbanization.
  • Variations in composition of the population, particularly youth concentration.
  • Stability of the population with respect to residents; mobility, commuting patterns, and transient factors.
  • Economic conditions, including median income, poverty level, and job availability.
  • Modes of transportation and highway systems.
  • Cultural factors and educational, recreational, and religious characteristics.
  • Family conditions with respect to divorce and family cohesiveness.
  • Effective strength of law enforcement agencies.
  • Administrative and investigative emphases on law enforcement.
  • Policies of other components of the criminal justice system (i.e., prosecutorial, judicial, correctional, and probational).
  • Citizens’ attitudes toward crime.Crime reporting practices of the citizenry.

"When providing/using agency-oriented statistics, the FBI cautions and, in fact, strongly discourages, data users against using rankings to evaluate locales or the effectiveness of their law enforcement agencies," the FBI said in a statement.

While the FBI discourages comparing crime rates between cities, the FBI said its data can be useful in other ways.

"UCR crime statistics are used in many ways and serve many purposes," the FBI said. "They provide law enforcement with data for use in budget formulation, planning, resource allocation, assessment of police operations, etc., to help address the crime problem at various levels.

"Chambers of commerce and tourism agencies examine these data to see how they impact the particular geographic jurisdictions they represent. Criminal justice researchers study the nature, cause, and movement of crime over time. Legislators draft anti-crime measures using the research findings and recommendations of law enforcement administrators, planners, as well as public and private entities concerned with crime problems. The news media use the crime statistics provided by the UCR Program to inform the public about the state of crime as it compares to the national level."

If you would like to see crime data from 2018 for your area, click here .