Uniform Crime Reports: Crime Trends and Repeat Victimization

Information Gathering

Uniform Crime Reports are a collection of crime reports collected by law agencies within the country and submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). The main focus of UCR is the index crimes and they provide the basis of information gathering. These index crimes are forwarded to the FBI by law agencies from all jurisdictions within the country every month. The index crimes may either have been reported to law enforcement agencies or they may have been discovered by police officers. The number of cases investigated and cleared is also reported to the FBI. The FBI then summarizes and compiles all the forwarded data and publishes the crime statistics to the public.

Index Offences

There are 8 index offenses which are further subdivided into two categories, Violent and property.

Violent:

  1. Murder
  2. Rape
  3. Robbery
  4. Aggravated assault

Property:

  1. Larceny
  2. Burglary
  3. Motor vehicle theft
  4. Arson

Advantages and Disadvantages of UCR

The UCR Program has provided several advantages both to the general public and to law enforcement agencies and they include:

  • It can be used by people in deciding business investment decisions. A place where index crimes are low suggests that it is safe hence a good place to situate a business.
  • The police in an area can gauge their performance i.e. if a new method to combat crime is instituted its progress can be measured by studying the UCR index.
  • Uniform Crime Reports also inform the people on specific crimes prevalent in an area. This allows them to take specific measures to rectify the situation and also to request specific services from both the law enforcement agencies and their politicians.

The UCR program has also had several criticisms. Throughout the period it has been operational, it has been found lacking in some areas which include:

  • The accuracy of UCR reports is not reliable. This is because police records are voluntarily submitted to the FBI and a lot of crimes go unreported concerning robbery crimes and in some cases rape crimes.
  • Data is collected only from police offices and as such it is not uniform. Each state has its own definition of a crime and the level with which an act is a crime and as such, certain acts may be viewed as a crime in one state and not in another.

Total Index Crimes 2005

In 2005, a total of 11,565,499 index crimes were reported in the country. The number of violent crimes was 1,390,745 while property crimes reported were 10,174, 754.

National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)

Information Gathering

Data to be used in constructing the crime index for NCVS is gathered using surveys on random households. A total of about 77,000 households are interviewed each year about the frequency of victimization and the effects of victimization they have been through. NCVS mainly deals with the 8 index crimes used in UCR. After every 6 months, all members above the age of 12 are interviewed in the selected households and the household remains in the survey sample for a period of 3 years.

Type of information provided by NCVS

The survey provides various data about the index crimes. It samples the total number of crimes that one has been a victim of within the past 6 months. Also included are the aspects of the crime such as the nature of the crime, effect on the victim, Whether the crime was reported, if alcohol drugs or weapons were used by the offender, relationship between the offender and the victim, the characteristics of the criminal, results of the victimization, certain demographic information e.g. race of the victim and the offender, amount and kind of property lost and self-protective actions taken by the victim.

Crimes committed in 2005

In 2005 NCVS estimated that about 23 million property and violent crimes were committed against U.S. citizens aged 12 and above. The number of violent crimes committed was given as 5.2 million while the number of property crimes was about 18 million.

Crime reporting trends

From the comparison of the two reports it can be seen that while property crimes compiled are relatively close, the number of violent crimes stated by each varies widely. The crime that differed more was rape whereby NCVS reported a value of 188,960 while UCR reported a value of 94,347 showing more than half of rape cases were not reported. Larceny/theft crimes were also not reported as much since NCVS reported a value of 13,605,590 while UCR gave a value of 6,783,447. The most reported crime was motor vehicle theft. The number quoted by UCR (1,235,859) is greater than that given by NCVS (978,120) for motor vehicle theft.

Characteristics of a victim of aggravated assault

There are several characteristics most victims of aggravated assault share. Most young children who are victims of assault tend to share the same tendencies as their offenders mainly anti-social behavior and impulsive tendencies. According to NCVS, African Americans are more likely to be victims of aggravated assaults (twice as likely as the white population). The victims of aggravated assault are mainly between the ages of 12 to 25, those between 16 to 25 accounts for 50% of all aggravated assaults. The victims of aggravated assault are mainly male and NCVS also notes that are likely not to be married.

UCR and NCVS statistics about crime trends

Since 1960 crime has been on an upward trend. In 1960 UCR reported a total of 3.38 million crimes while in 2005 this figure had risen to 11.5 million. UCR data also shows a steady decline in the total number of crimes from the period 2005 to 2008. The figure given for 2008 is 11.1 million, 400,000 lower than that in 2005. The increase in crime since 1960 can be attributed to various factors. First is the rise in poverty levels in the country, due to the increasing number of poor people in this country, the number of criminals has been constantly growing. The second possible reason is the affluence that the country has been experiencing. Due to affluence, criminals have more targets to go after thus an increase in crime. The degradation of moral order and family problems can also be a cause for the increase in crime during this period. The reduction in crime levels can be attributed to better policing and stringent punishment for offenders. Most criminals acting in the year 2005 are now in jail and this can be attributed to the decrease in crime levels.

There is also a seasonal pattern to crimes. UCR and NCVS have showed us that aggression crimes increase during the summer while property crimes are usually high late in the year (September to December). The rise of aggression crimes can be attributed to increased interactions during the summer while property crimes mainly increase during the holiday periods due to increased opportunities.

Repeat Victimization

Sherman’s hotspots of crime findings

A hotspot can be described as a small geographical unit where crime is very common. It is a point where crime is concentrated and where many crimes usually of a predatory nature are repeatedly occurring. According to Sherman, hotspots arise because people tend to cluster into small nodes of activities (389). This allows offenders to select and target their victims easily thus favoring the given point as their base of attack. Crimes that are usually constrained in a hotspot include robbery, car theft, rape and domestic violence. Hotspots include places like intersections, parks, bus depots, etc. Sherman hotspots tend to look mostly on the place where a crime is repeatedly occurring than the offender.

The control of hotspots may offer a very effective way of reducing crime in a given area. Hotspots are chronic and stubborn, they attract more people and police efforts to curb them are usually in vain. Knowledge of hotspots may enable the general public to avoid these places and to collaborate with law enforcement agencies to clean out these sites.

Reasons for repeat victimization

There are two primary reasons why repeat victimization occurs. The first reason is referred to as the boost explanation. This refers to the role of repeat offenders in crimes being committed. The second reason is referred to as flag explanation. This refers to the attractiveness of victims to certain offenders or the vulnerability of victims to a particular crime. In the flag explanation, victims include corner properties prone to theft, taxi drivers prone to victimization (robbery or car theft), etc. In the boost explanation, specific offenders may have intimate details about their victims and due to their initial success, they are attempted to carry out the attack repeatedly.

Crimes likely to be of repeat victimization

According to the international victim’s survey, crimes mainly connected with repeat victimization include:

  • Sexual assault – 46% repeat offenses
  • Assault (Domestic, general) – 41% repeat offenses
  • Robbery – 27% repeat offenses
  • Vandalism to the vehicle – -25% repeat offenses
  • Theft from vehicle – 21% repeat offenses
  • Car theft – 20% repeat offenses
  • Burglary – 17% repeat offenses

Domestic assault both physical and sexual is the most common cause of repeat victimization.

Effect of time frame on repeat victimization

All repeat offenses share the same characteristic in that they usually occur quickly. In most cases the offense is repeated within one week of the initial attack. This early phase where re-victimization mainly occurs does not last long however and the risk of re-victimization usually declines rapidly to the point where it is equal to those who have never experienced victimization. When considering burglary, 60% of repeat offenses occur within the first month and by the second month this figure drops to 10%.

Recent research has introduced the notion of the bounce effect. This is where re-victimization occurs after the risk has been in the declining phase. This is mainly attributed to the offender taking some time off since he perceives the victim to be on high alert after the first attack. The time between two repeat offenses varies with the type of crime with domestic violence having the shortest period between attacks (15% occur within a day).

Cost of crime in dollars

The cost of crime is the total amount of money lost or spent in connection to a given crime (Miller 186). It is that amount of money that an individual and the general society have to part with, due to the situation brought about by a crime. It incorporates the cost of lost quality of life due to death and monetary value of non-fatal attacks and psychological injuries. The cost involved to both victims and the society includes:

  • Medical costs – these are the cost incurred during treatment of a victim after a crime due to bodily harm
  • Mental health costs – These are the cost incurred in dealing with post-traumatic stress and other psychological injuries
  • Victim Services – Most states have founded sites to care for victims e.g. shelters for battered women.
  • Emergency response cost – Cost incurred by police and ambulance services.
  • Productivity losses – This involves the money lost due to murders and also the workdays lost due to injuries of an attack.
  • Loss of quality of life – This involves the amount of money lost due to extra measures taken for security and the estimated amount a jury verdict would pay for pain, suffering and lost quality of life (Miller 189).

“Second Insult” to crime victims

Second insult describes the situation whereby victims of crime are subjected to more victimization by the authorities. This occurs mostly when law enforcement agencies having encountered many crimes; fail to understand that victimization is rare for most people. A victim being vulnerable after a crime is prone to many emotions and without the understanding of the authorities’ feels dejected, desperate, angry and confused as to why everyone is rude.

Criminal Justice System

Services/programs available to crime victims

The law has granted victims of crime various rights that aim to protect them. They include proper treatment by the authorities, the right to be heard, the right to press charges and the right to information about the particular case. Over the years, several programs have been instituted to help victims of crime. They include:

  • Office for Victims of Crime
  • Office of Justice Program Crime Victims Services
  • The Crime Victim Assistance Program
  • Crime Victims Compensation Program
  • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)

Services required from Prosecutors

  • Must act in a fair and impartial manner
  • Must ensure all evidence relating to a crime is collected and presented to the court in a timely manner
  • Must make a good faith effort to notify a victim of any plea agreement recommendation
  • Ensure the guilty are brought to justice and the innocent not unjustly sentenced.
  • Must ensure the victim’s rights are upheld in any case and have the right to inform the court of any objections the victims might so pose.

Which unmet needs for services do victims want the most?

According to the Office for Victims of Crime, there is an obligation (moral and legal) to respond to victims by our justice system that has not been effectively carried out over the course of history. This is one of the most unmet needs that victims require. The justice system should also provide swift justice while at the same time easing the suffering of the victims. Victims also require the following things:

  • Safety: Protection from offenders and re-victimization
  • Access: opportunity to participate in the justice system process
  • Information: Written and verbal information on the justice system and victims services is available in a friendly and concise way
  • Support: Assistance programs to help cope with the event and also assist in understanding the justice system
  • Voice: Victims need to be empowered to speak during their cases so that they can influence the laid out agency and system-wide policies.

Examples of emergency services, financial assistance, information, and referrals to community programs to be provided by the police, courts, and corrections

  • Office for Victims of Crime
  • Office of Justice Program Crime Victims Services
  • The Crime Victim Assistance Program
  • Crime Victims Compensation Program
  • Victims of Crime Act (VOCA)
  • Federal Victims and Witness Protection Act
  • Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act
  • Abuse victims Hotline
  • Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
  • Victim Services 2000
  • FBI Office for Victim Assistance
  • Outpost for Hope

Among these listed services and programs, the Office for Victims of crime has been of the greatest assistance to victims nationwide. It aims at reaching victims wherever they are, helping victims adapt and get through the crime, helping victims to understand and participate in the justice system, and also providing a safe environment for victims. The other two programs that are helpful are the abuse victim hotline and the FBI Office of Victims Assistance. The victim’s hotline helps those who may be ashamed to come public but are still in need to talk to someone. A lot of victims out there suffer alone without anyone to talk to since they are afraid of public opinion. The FBI office for victims’ assistance helps in helping those involved in federal cases and at times collaborates with the protection program to ensure victims of crime being investigated by the FBI are constantly informed on how the case is going and are also kept safe during this period.

Works Cited

Sherman W. Lawrence, Gatrin, R. and Buerger, M. “Hotspots of Predatory Crime: Routine Activities and the Criminology of Places.” Criminology 27 (1989): 27-55. Print

Miller R. Ted “Victim Costs of Violent Crime and Resulting Injuries.” Health Affairs 8.2(1993): 186-196. Print

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