The Uniform Crime Report is a collection of crime statistics that are put together throughout the year to try and gauge the trends in crimes. The program is federally run, and it was first conceived during Prohibition as a way to try and measure national crime in America.
The Uniform Crime Report is currently one of the main ways that the federal government tracks crime trends and estimates how much crime is happening in the United States on an annual basis. While the Uniform Crime Report has a number of flaws, it is a very workable, by-the-numbers sort of system. It's also been tried and tested for over 90 years, which means that it has withstood the test of time as a system that provides a good estimate of crime count.
One of the major flaws of the Uniform Crime Report is that it only included crimes that were reported or detected. If for instance 3,000 rapes happened but none of them were reported, then those statistics won't be found in the Uniform Crime Report. So the UCR isn't giving you an accurate look at crime in the United States, but rather a look at the crime that was reported or detected.
Often the Uniform Crime Report statistics will show a large jump or drop in a given crime for a year. This might be because laws changed, or because the definition of a crime become more broadly (or narrowly) defined. For instance, if murder was extended to include first, second and third degrees as well as manslaughter then the classification changed, but changing that classification also changed the numbers and the representation. Or say that a new detection method arose that allowed a crime to be detected a larger percentage of the time. The crime isn't necessarily more frequent just because more instances of it are being found. It could just mean you weren't catching them before, hence a misleading UCR.
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