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What do crime statistics tell you about crime in the United States?

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One primary thing that crime statistics indicate is where a crime was reported and investigated. The US legal system includes jurisdictions from the level of municipality through national. Law enforcement also includes tribal and university agencies. In addition to crimes committed within the country, several US agencies compile statistics on internationally based crimes that involve US citizens and residents.

A useful source for obtaining statistics on crime at all levels is produced annually by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program compiles information that is primarily intended for law enforcement use. However, this publicly available data also can be used to analyze social conditions. There are four separate data collections, each of which has a published annual report.

Within the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), information is compiled on single crime incidents, each of which may include additional, separate offenses. This information includes victims, known offenders, and the relationship between them, as well as person(s) arrested and any property that was involved. Because different jurisdictions college data differently, some factors—such as race and ethnicity—are not consistently available.

Also functioning through the NIBRS, the Hate Crime Statistics Program has information about crimes that were motivated by bias related to race, gender, gender identity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, and ethnicity.

The using the Crime Data Explorer (CDE), an interactive online tool, both the public and law enforcement can analyze UCR data. It provides charts and graphs in which data is sorted in numerous ways. The increase or decrease in particular types of crime, such as violent crime and specific offenses, are among the trends that can be analyzed. In 2018, for example, violent crime nationwide decreased 3.9 percent from the previous years.

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