US Crime Recording Methods and Their Implications

There are three key methods of crime recording – National Incident-based Reporting System (NIBRS), National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), and self-report surveys (Siegel, 2015). All of these methods have their advantages and disadvantages. This paper discusses the important implications related to these methods of crime recording and investigates the relationship between them and the theoretical study of crime and crime causation.

National Incident-based Reporting System

The NIBRS program is utilized to identify the time and location of the crime. Also, it may help in defining the characteristics of criminals (Siegel, 2015). This data supports the functioning of the law enforcement agency and allows the police officers to fight crime using the most competent and effective approaches. This system may be characterized by several pros and cons. The biggest advantages of NIBRS include the flexibility of the data collection procedure, compliance with the local, state, and federal reporting requirements, and ability to investigate the incidents based on the collected and analyzed data (Beirne & Messerschmidt, 2015). Even though all the incidents and delinquencies are recorded, the biggest problem of the NIBRS crime recording method is the fact that the resulting data from the reports reveal more data concerning the police behavioral patterns and not lawbreaking. Another issue that is characteristic of this crime recording method is its inclination to collect irrelevant data (Beirne & Messerschmidt, 2015). For example, the use of weapons during a rape is not commonly documented while the use of firearms during a robbery is compulsory.

National Crime Victimization Survey

The NCVS is the biggest source of providing information concerning criminal victimization (Siegel, 2015). The most important advantage of this crime recording system is that it connects the information concerning victimization to the related victimization theories and provides the law enforcement agency with the data regarding victims’ characteristics and all the circumstances. Even if there is not a sufficient amount of information concerning the delinquencies, the existing data is still useful and may be utilized in practice by law enforcement officers (Wagner, 2013). One of the biggest problems with the NCVS is that it may undervalue one type of crime and overvalue the other. Sometimes, plaintiffs may perceive a noncriminal event as a delinquency and vice versa. The majority of the reports are focused on street crimes and not white-collar wrongdoings or any other types of offense. This ultimately leads to a situation where the NCVS is not able to provide accurate data concerning the criminals.

Self-report Surveys

Self-report surveys possess several critical advantages and disadvantages. The key point of this method is the good validity of the resulting data (Siegel, 2015). This may be explained by the direct interaction with the people involved in the accident. Self-report surveys are a great source of quantitative and qualitative data. At the same time, the law enforcement agency may collect the data quickly from large populations. Based on this information, we may conclude that the data from the self-report surveys may be considered reliable due to its replicability (Anderson, 2015). There are several critical disadvantages which include the lack of flexibility, low response rate, and societal appeal bias. These factors reduce the reliability of the data and may not be trustworthy from any point of view.

The relation between Crime Recording Methods and Crime Causation

The relation between the existing crime recording methods and crime causation can be described as a direct dependency. Despite their visually inconsistent effect and numerous drawbacks, all three crime recording methods majorly support the crime reduction initiatives. They also provide law enforcement agencies with the necessary information concerning the trending crime leanings and other imperative data. It is vital to maintain and develop these methods of crime recording to minimize the number of delinquencies at the local, state, and country levels.


Anderson, J. F. (2015). Criminological theories: Understanding crime in America. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Beirne, P., & Messerschmidt, J. W. (2015). Criminology: A sociological approach. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Siegel, L. J. (2015). Criminology: The core (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Wagner, W. E. (2013). Practice of research in criminology and criminal justice. New York, NY: Sage.