Federal Crime Data

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This 2016 edition of the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Federal Crime Data updates data from last year’s report, adds new data, and signals the move to presenting federal data in a way more attuned with local, state, and tribal UCR data. Included again are the federal agencies that have submitted traditional UCR data for some time. (In past years, these agencies’ data were included in various tables in Crime in the United States.) This year, we again present employee and arrest data from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and we have added arrest and employee data from the United States Marshals Service (USMS). These additions indicate a widening of participation that the FBI intends to continue to build on, but this year’s publication also signals a wider development in federal data, as the data are framed to more closely fit the established UCR standard.

The traditional model of UCR

The concept of offenses known was adopted in 1929 by the International Chiefs of Police as the data that would be collected in the UCR Program. The aim was to get a true sense of crime in the nation. The UCR Program was designed to be an innate step for local and state agencies to report the crimes that were most common and most likely to come to the attention of law enforcement. However, because of the types of crimes federal agencies investigate, the way they investigate and build cases is often fundamentally different than that of local and state agencies. As a result, it has typically been difficult to fit the square peg of federal crime data into the round hole of UCR. 

A few agencies, for example the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and several agencies within the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), investigate and police in ways similar to local or state authorities. These federal agencies have long reported data to the UCR Program. However, other federal agencies, the FBI included, found it more difficult to fit into the UCR model. This annual report was originally designed as a stepping stone to finding ways to provide a similar transparency and access to federal crime data that the UCR Program has brought to local, state, and tribal crime data for nearly 90 years. 

This year’s edition of Federal Crime Data moves closer to that goal. The arrest data from the FBI, ATF, and USMS have all been mapped to correspond to the UCR’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) offense codes. This makes the overlay of federal data with local and state data much easier.

A fluid process

The UCR Program is committed to finding ways to present federal data which will add an important piece of the puzzle to the nation’s crime picture. As program administrators have stressed from the beginning, this process will be very fluid, and the data may change, grow, and shift from year to year. This means trending and comparability of data will be elusive for a while. That said, the desire for transparency and information-sharing negates waiting for total uniformity in order to provide federal crime data. The UCR Program is growing and refining federal crime reporting directly in the public eye. 

Federal Agencies Presenting Traditional UCR Data

The federal agencies (e.g., the DOI and the NIH) that have previously provided traditional UCR offense data and employee counts to the Program were for many years included in Table 11 and Table 81 of Crime in the United States. The data declaration pages, which will help the user better understand the data, and the methodology used for these two tables are located in the Data Declarations and Methodology section at the end of this presentation.

  • Federal Table 1 - “Offenses Known to Law Enforcement, by Federal Agency, 2016”
  • Federal Table 2 - “Full-Time Law Enforcement Employees, by Federal Agency, 2016”

Additional Federal Data

Comparability of federal data to state and local data

All crime data create some concerns regarding comparability. In UCR Statistics: Their Proper Use, the UCR Program cautions that “there are many factors that cause the nature and type of crime to vary from place to place.” It is important for users of UCR data, including federal data, to avoid drawing such simplistic conclusions as one area is safer than another or that one agency is more or less efficient than another based solely on crime counts.

The best approach to viewing the federal data offered in this compilation is to use it to gain an overall impression of the intensity of certain types of offenses within a specific area by overlaying the federal arrests in conjunction with the local and state information. As developments in the data collection continue to occur, more details will become available from federal agencies, and these impressions will become more sharply focused.

Federal crime data are often different from local and state data, not only in their collection, but also in their generation. The UCR Program has built its traditional data collection on three triggering events that are common to local and state agencies. Offense information begins with either, first, a complaint of a victim/citizen or, second, the observation of a crime in progress by a law enforcement officer. A third trigger for data is when an arrest is made and information related to that occurrence is reported.

For federal agencies, the initiation of investigation may be prompted in different ways. Many crimes, such as human trafficking and hate crime and their associated data, are brought to the attention of the FBI in much the same fashion:  
  • Reports from victims
  • Liaison with other law enforcement agencies
  • Information about victims (e.g., human trafficking, hate crime) brought to the FBI by nongovernmental organizations
  • Reports from the media 

The decision to handle a crime as a federal investigation or as a local investigation is determined on a case-by-case basis. Some of the factors that enter into the decision for federal agencies to pursue an investigation are the available evidence, the availability of resources at the local level, and, in the case of hate crime, statutory provisions that determine whether the U.S. Attorney will accept the case as a federal one. In addition, some states do not have a hate crime statute under which to pursue a case.

Why federal numbers are smaller than those of other UCR agencies

As mentioned previously, federal investigations, by nature, often begin under different circumstances and proceed and conclude on different timeframes than investigations conducted by local and state agencies. Just as federal agencies often do not have traditional offenses known to report, they also typically do not have a number of offenses to report until a case has been built and an arrest or indictment has occurred. Perhaps most impactful on the federal numbers is the fact that federal agencies often play a collaborative role with local and state agencies in crime investigations. Because the UCR Program has the “most local reporting” rule, which specifies that the agency involved that is the most local jurisdiction should report the incident to the UCR Program, investigations and arrests that federal authorities have worked on often are reported by city, county, state, or tribal agencies.

Why have the 2016 tables’ presentations changed?

Since its origination, this report’s aim has been to assimilate federal crime data into the UCR environment. UCR staff have been working since the beginning of this report series to align data from federal record keeping systems with the UCR model. This 2017 edition has finally accomplished that. The data that was previously presented in Federal Crime Data is still here, but is now mapped to NIBRS offense codes. As federal data presentation goes forward, the national UCR staff will continue to strive to make these data more wholly fit the UCR mold.  

Federal Arrest Data

The data declaration pages, which will help the user better understand the data presented in this report, and the methodology for all tables are located in the Data Declarations and Methodology section at the end of this report.

Federal Bureau of Investigation

This section provides federal data in the form of the number of arrestees by FBI field offices.

  • Federal Table 3 - “FBI Number of Arrestees, by UCR Offense Code, by FBI Field Office, 2016”
  • Federal Table 3A - “FBI Number of Arrestees for Child Exploitation, by FBI Field Office, 2016”

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

This section provides federal data in the form of the number of arrestees by the ATF within judicial districts.

  • Federal Table 4 - “ATF Number of Arrestees, by UCR Offense Code, by Judicial District, 2016”

United States Marshals Service (USMS)

This section provides federal data in the form of the number of arrestees by the USMS within judicial districts. The data are divided between two tables, one for arrests from federally-issued warrants and one for arrests from state-issued warrants.

  • Federal Table 5 - “USMS Number of Arrestees from Federally-Issued Warrants, by UCR Offense Code, by Judicial District, 2016”
  • Federal Table 6 - “USMS Number of Arrestees from State-Issued Warrants, by UCR Offense Code, by Judicial District, 2016”

Federal Law Enforcement Employment Data