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Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics

Appendix 3

Crime in the United States

Definitions of terms

Note: The following information has been excerpted from the U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 1996 (Washington, DC: USGPO, 1997), pp. 389, 390, 395-397. Non-substantive editorial adaptations have been made. See U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook (Washington, DC: USGPO, 1984) for further definitions and information on classification and counting rules.

Population definitions

For purposes of statistical presentation, the cities and counties in the United States are divided into groups based on population size. The population group classifications used by the Uniform Crime Reporting Program are shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Population group, political label, and population coverage

I City 250,000 and over
II City 100,000 to 249,999
III City 50,000 to 99,999
IV City 25,000 to 49,999
V City 10,000 to 24,999
VI Citya Less than 10,000
Countyb -
Countyb -
aIncludes universities and colleges to which no population is attributed.
bIncludes State police to which no population is attributed.

Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)--This includes a central city of at least 50,000 people or an urbanized area of at least 50,000. The county containing the central city and other contiguous counties having strong economic and social ties to the central city and county also are included. Counties in an MSA are designated "suburban" for UCR purposes. An MSA may cross State lines. Due to changes in the geographic composition of MSAs, no year-to-year comparisons of data for those areas should be attempted. New England MSAs are comprised of cities and towns instead of counties. In this publication, New England cities and towns are assigned to the proper MSAs. Some counties, however, have both suburban and rural portions. Data for State police and sheriffs in those jurisdictions are included in statistics for the rural areas. MSAs made up approximately 80% of the total U.S. population in 1996.

Rural counties--Rural counties are those outside MSAs and are comprised of mostly unincorporated areas. Law enforcement agencies in rural counties cover areas that are not under the jurisdiction of city police departments. Rural county law enforcement agencies served 12% of the national population in 1996.

Suburban areas--These areas consist of cities with populations of less than 50,000 in addition to counties (unincorporated areas) that are within an MSA. Suburban areas can, therefore, be divided into suburban cities and suburban counties.

Other cities--Other cities are urban places outside MSAs; most of these areas are incorporated. These cities comprised 8% of the 1996 national population.

Community types:

Cities Cities
Counties (including

As a general rule, sheriffs, county police, and many State police report on crimes committed within the limits of counties, but outside cities; local police report on crimes committed within city limits.

The major source of Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data is the individual law enforcement agency. The number of agencies included in each population group will vary slightly from year to year due to population growth, geopolitical consolidation, municipal incorporation, etc. For 1996, the national and State population counts are U.S. Bureau of the Census July 1, 1996 provisional estimates. For jurisdictions within each State, the populations were adjusted based on the 1996 State growth rate as supplied by the U.S. Bureau of the Census. Table 2 shows the number of agencies within each population group in 1996.

Table 2. Population group and number of agencies

Population group Number of
I 65
II 152
III 384
IV 731
V 1,793
VI 8,008a
VIII (Rural county) 3,627b
IX (Suburban county) 2,038b
Total 16,798
aIncludes universities and colleges to which no population is attributed.
bIncludes State police to which no population is attributed.

Table 3. Total U.S. population, 1960-96a

1960 179,323,175
1961 182,992,000
1962 185,771,000
1963 188,483,000
1964 191,141,000
1965 193,526,000
1966 195,576,000
1967 197,457,000
1968 199,399,000
1969 201,385,000
1970 203,235,298
1971 206,212,000
1972 208,230,000
1973 209,851,000
1974 211,392,000
1975 213,124,000
1976 214,659,000
1977 216,332,000
1978 218,059,000
1979 220,099,000
1980 225,349,264
1981 229,146,000
1982 231,534,000
1983 233,981,000
1984 236,158,000
1985 238,740,000
1986 241,077,000
1987 243,400,000
1988 245,807,000
1989 248,239,000
1990 248,709,873
1991 252,177,000
1992 255,082,000
1993 257,908,000
1994 260,341,000
1995 262,755,000
1996 265,284,000
aPopulation figures are U.S. Bureau of the Census provisional estimates as of July 1 for each year except 1960, 1970, 1980, and 1990, which are the decennial census counts.

Regions and divisions

The United States is divided into four regions; these regions are further divided into nine divisions. The following is a list of States within divisions and regions.

New England--Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont.
Middle Atlantic--New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania.
East North Central--Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin.
West North Central--Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota.
South Atlantic--Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia.
East South Central--Alabama, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee.
West South Central--Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas.
Mountain--Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming.
Pacific--Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington.

The Crime Index, Part I, and Part II offenses

The Crime Index

The following offenses and attempts to commit these offenses are used in compiling the Crime Index: (1) murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, (2) forcible rape, (3) robbery, (4) aggravated assault, (5) burglary, (6) larceny-theft, (7) motor vehicle theft, and (8) arson. Arson was added as the eighth index offense in October 1978. (Manslaughter by negligence and simple or minor assaults are not included in the Crime Index.)

Offenses in the UCR program are divided into two groupings, Part I and Part II. Information on the volume of Part I offenses known to law enforcement, those cleared by arrest or exceptional means, and the number of persons arrested is reported monthly. Only arrest data are reported for Part II offenses.

Part I offenses

Criminal homicide--a. Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter: the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. Deaths caused by negligence, attempts to kill, assaults to kill, suicides, accidental deaths, and justifiable homicides are excluded. Justifiable homicides are limited to: (1) the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty and (2) the killing of a felon by a private citizen. b. Manslaughter by negligence: the killing of another person through gross negligence. Traffic fatalities are excluded. While manslaughter by negligence is a Part I crime, it is not included in the Crime Index.

Forcible rape--The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Included are rapes by force and attempts or assaults to rape. Statutory offenses (no force used-victim under age of consent) are excluded.

Robbery--The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.

Aggravated assault--An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Simple assaults are excluded.

Burglary--breaking or entering--The unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft. Attempted forcible entry is included.

Larceny-theft (except motor vehicle theft)--The unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another. Examples are thefts of bicycles or automobile accessories, shoplifting, pocket-picking, or the stealing of any property or article which is not taken by force and violence or by fraud. Attempted larcenies are included. Embezzlement, "con" games, forgery, worthless checks, etc., are excluded.

Motor vehicle theft--The theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle. A motor vehicle is self-propelled and runs on the surface and not on rails. Specifically excluded from this category are motorboats, construction equipment, airplanes, and farming equipment.

Arson--Any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, etc.

Part II offenses

Other assaults (simple)--Assaults and attempted assaults where no weapon is used and which do not result in serious or aggravated injury to the victim.

Forgery and counterfeiting--Making, altering, uttering, or possessing, with intent to defraud, anything false in the semblance of that which is true. Attempts are included.

Fraud--Fraudulent conversion and obtaining money or property by false pretenses. Included are confidence games and bad checks, except forgeries and counterfeiting.

Embezzlement--Misappropriation or misapplication of money or property entrusted to one's care, custody, or control.

Stolen property; buying, receiving, possessing--Buying, receiving, and possessing stolen property, including attempts.

Vandalism--Willful or malicious destruction, injury, disfigurement, or defacement of any public or private property, real or personal, without consent of the owner or persons having custody or control.

Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.--All violations of regulations or statutes controlling the carrying, using, possessing, furnishing, and manufacturing of deadly weapons or silencers. Attempts are included.

Prostitution and commercialized vice--Sex offenses of a commercialized nature, such as prostitution, keeping a bawdy house, and procuring or transporting women for immoral purposes. Attempts are included.

Sex offenses (except forcible rape, prostitution, and commercialized vice)--Statutory rape and offenses against chastity, common decency, morals, and the like. Attempts are included.

Drug abuse violations--State and local offenses relating to the unlawful possession, sale, use, growing, and manufacturing of narcotic drugs. The following drug categories are specified: opium or cocaine and their derivatives (morphine, heroin, codeine); marijuana; synthetic narcotics--manufactured narcotics that can cause true addiction (demerol, methadone); and dangerous non-narcotic drugs (barbiturates, benzedrine).

Gambling--Promoting, permitting, or engaging in illegal gambling.

Offenses against the family and children--Nonsupport, neglect, desertion, or abuse of family and children.

Driving under the influence--Driving or operating any vehicle or common carrier while drunk or under the influence of liquor or narcotics.

Liquor laws--State or local liquor law violations, except "drunkenness" and "driving under the influence." Federal violations are excluded.

Drunkenness--Offenses relating to drunkenness or intoxication. Excluded is "driving under the influence."

Disorderly conduct--Breach of the peace.

Vagrancy--Vagabondage, begging, loitering, etc.

All other offenses--All violations of State or local laws, except those listed above and traffic offenses.

Suspicion--No specific offense; suspect released without formal charges being placed.

Curfew and loitering laws (persons under age 18)--Offenses relating to violations of local curfew or loitering ordinances where such laws exist.

Runaways (persons under age 18)--Limited to juveniles taken into protective custody under provisions of local statutes.

Offense estimation

The inability of some State UCR Programs to provide forcible rape figures in accordance with UCR guidelines and other problems at the State-level have required unique estimation procedures. In addition, because of efforts to convert to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), it has become necessary for the Source to estimate totals for some States.

The Illinois (1985 to 1996), and Michigan and Minnesota (1993 only for both States) State UCR Programs were unable to provide forcible rape figures in accordance with UCR guidelines. The rape totals were estimated using national rates per 100,000 inhabitants within the eight population groups and assigning the forcible rape volumes proportionally to each State.

In recent years, a number of States have been involved in the NIBRS conversion process. During the conversion process, little or no data were available from law enforcement agencies in these States. The following is a list of States that provided either incomplete data or no data for certain years: Iowa in 1991; Illinois and Kansas in 1993; Illinois, Kansas, and Montana in 1994 and 1995; Delaware and Pennsylvania in 1995; and Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, and Montana in 1996. State totals were estimated using procedures based on data availability specific to each State, and the population group and geographic division to which the State belongs. The Iowa conversion was successful and post-1991 State figures are available. Illinois, Kansas, and Montana are continuing conversion efforts.

An aggregated Florida State total for 1996 was provided by the State-level UCR Program.

It also should be noted that due to reporting problems at the State level, no usable data were received from law enforcement agencies in Florida and Kentucky for 1988; these State totals also were estimated by the Source.

Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics