FBI crime stats explained

By Doug McVay, Editor of Drug War Facts

The Uniform Crime Reports by the FBI don't include drug crimes in the Index offenses; they only track violent and property crimes. The annual UCR does have a section in which it details data on all arrests, including drug and other non-Index offenses, but the report issued at the half-year--which came out just recently--only discusses the Index crimes.

The UCR is being replaced by NIBRS, which is somewhat better but shares several of the shortcomings of the UCR. There are a lot of problems with the whole justice statistics and reporting system, frankly, though many (not all, unfortunately) of the criminal justice statistics people do try their best.

Sometimes the police 'fudge the figures' and sometimes lie outright in order to either look good or to look horrible so they can get more money. In some jurisdictions, including New York City, what they define as 'arrest' got changed. So if someone is simply busted, brought into the station, booked, fingerprinted, and held for 4 or 5 hours, then released by the desk sergeant before he gets arraigned or even sent to court, then it's not an arrest.

That's how to reduce 'crime' figures dramatically. Then, just discourage people from reporting crimes when they happen, and it looks even more like things are improving. By the same token, efforts to get people to report crimes like rape can, if successful, make it look like crime is on the rise, when actually it's only the reporting of crime that is on the rise.

The Razor Wire is a publication of The November Coalition, a nonprofit organization that advocates drug law reform. Contact information: moreinfo@november.org
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