Michigan State University

Criminal Justice: Data and Statistics: Intro & General Sources

Two Major U.S. Crime Measures

1.  Uniform Crime Reports
The Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) provide official crime counts for the United States since 1930.  It is a program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The UCR Program is a voluntary city, university and college, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement program that provides a nationwide view of crime based on the submission of statistics by law enforcement agencies throughout the country.  Data is collected on known offenses and persons arrested. 


2.  National Crime Victimization Survey
The National Crime Victimization Survey is the Nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization. Each year, data are obtained from a nationally representative sample of 76,000 households comprising nearly 135,300 persons on the frequency, characteristics and consequences of criminal victimization in the United States.  It is a program of the Bureua of Justice Statisticsand began in 1973.


The Nation's Two Crime Measures
This two-page Department of Justice statement describes the purposes and advantages of the Uniform Crime Reports of the FBI and the National Crime Victimization Survey of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. After summarizing the collection methods that the two statistical programs use and highlighting the aspects of crime that each measures, the statement concludes with similarities and differences.

Statistical Indexes & Databases

Bureau of Justice Statistics

Press releases from the US Bureau of Justice Statistics.

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Introduction to Crime Statistics

"The statistics of crime are known as the most unreliable and difficult of all statistics.  First, the laws which define crimes change.  Second, the number of crimes actually committed cannot possibly be enumerated.  This is true of many of the major crimes and even more true of the minor crimes.  Third, any record of crimes, such as arrests, convictions, or commitments to prison, can be sued as an index of crimes committed only on the assumption that this index maintains a constant ratio of crimes committed.  The assumption is a large one, for the recorded crimes are affected by police policies, court policies, and public opinion."

(Source: Sutherland, E. (1947). Principles of criminology (4th ed.). Chicago: J.P. Lippincott. As cited in Mosher, J.C., Miethe. T.D., & Phillips, D. M. (2002). The mismeasure of crime. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.)

Like most other social statistics, statistics on crime must be critically assessed for reliability and validity.  Measurement of crime is prone to error due to differences in reporting systems, the likelihood that a crime will go unreported (i.e. the "dark figure"), inherent issues with self-reporting, etc.  Take the time to understand the methodology of the study or report you are citing to protect against false assumptions or conclusions.

General Sources

  • Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics
    This electronic book brings together data from more than 100 sources about many aspects of criminal justice in the United States. These data are displayed in over 1,000 tables. The site is updated regularly as new statistics become available. The Sourcebook is supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
    Data tables are organized into six topical sections: Criminal justice characteristics; public opinion; crime and victims; arrests and seizures; courts, prosecution and sentencing; parole, jails, prisons and death penalty.
    Previous print editions are available in the Government Documents Library, 3 West.
  • ProQuest Statistical Abstract of the United States (2013 - current) - Law Enforcement, Courts, and Prisons
  • Statistical Abstract of the United States ( - 2012)
    Law Enforcement, Courts & Prison
    .  This chapter includes tables on arrests, correctional facilities and prisoners, courts, crime and crime rates, criminal justice expenditures, criminal victimizations, fire losses, juvenile deliquency and child abuse.  Be sure to click the first link on the page to view the entire section; this will include the introduction with a short essay that provides an overview of how crime statistics are collected and reported.
  • City Crime Rankings 2010-2011
  • City Crime Rankings (1995-2010)
  • Crime State Rankings 2010: Crime across America
  • Crime State Rankings 2009: Crime across America
    Find out how your state fares in the fight against crime? Crime State Rankings 2009 compares the 50 states and Washington, DC in more than 500 crime-related categories. In this new edition the formula and methodology are discussed in a new narrative chapter allowing researchers to cite statistics with context.
  • Crime and Justice Atlas 2000
  • Compiled by the Justice Research and Statistics Association. The Atlas provides a graphical presentation of trends in crime and sentencing over the last 25 years for the nation as a whole, and for each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia individually.  Available in print (plus 2001 update).
    • Historical Statistics of the United States: Millenial Edition
      Go to Chapter Ec: Crime, Law Enforcement and Justice.   Essays give an overview of Crime & Victimization and Law Enforcement, Courts, and the Justice System.  Tables are presented for crime and arrests, homicides and suicides, incarceration and execution, victimization and deliquency of high school seniors, drug and alcohol abuse, firearm possession, courts and criminal justice.

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