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Limits and Use of the Uniform Crime Reports (From Measuring Crime: Large-Scale, Long-Range Efforts, P 21-48, 1990, Doris Layton MacKenzie, Phyllis Jo Baunach, et al, eds. -- See NCJ-122173)

NCJ Number
V W Schneider; B Wiersema
Date Published
Although the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program has serious flaws, its unique qualities still make it a valuable data source when properly used.
A review of the history of the UCR Program shows that interest in a comprehensive system of collecting crime statistics began in the early 1920's. The UCR has been criticized for lack of direction provided by underlying criminological theory, which is particularly evident in operational definitions of the program. Not only are crime definitions too vague or general, but the data are not collected at a level of disaggregation that would permit analysis of detailed offense characteristics. It is difficult to compare data across jurisdictions due to varied interpretations of UCR definitions based on differing systems of criminal law and procedure as well as administrative policies governing data collection. Because UCR participation is not mandatory, varying levels of police-agency reporting exist. Advances in both knowledge about the UCR and its potential uses have been made possible by the recent availability of these data in a machine-readable form. Using computerized UCR data provides access to detailed characteristics at the most basic levels of official reporting and allows flexibility in analyses previously impossible with the FBI's printed reports. This chapter concludes with some suggestions for the management and use of computer-readable UCR data, using a demonstration.