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Statistics: Reporting Systems and Methods - Accessing Official Reports

crime information data provides

One of the most significant changes in using crime data over the past decade reflects the means of access to official crime statistics. Traditionally, in order to gather official crime figures one has either to rely on published documents (e.g., the annual UCR) or to contact the agency (federal, state, or local) that is the repository of the data and request access to the appropriate information. With the expansion of the Internet, many of these same agencies have placed their crime data online.

At the federal level, one example among many is the Bureau of Justice Statistics (www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/). The BJS provides aggregate level data for the United States, in both absolute figures and rates for index and non-index crimes. The BJS also provides data by region. Thus information, such as the UCR, can be accessed directly and within a format that allows for easy comparison between regions and over time.

Likewise, various state agencies have started to provide crime and criminal justice information on their web sites. For examples, the California Attorney General (www.caag.state.ca.us/) provides information on crimes within the state from 1988 until the present and presents comparative information on other states over the same period of time. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (www.tdcj.state.tx.us/) not only provides information on crime rates within the state, but also gives statistics on demographic and offense characteristics of prisoners, including those on death row.

Even local agencies, such as city police departments, provide crime statistics. For examples, the San Diego Police Department (www.sannet.gov/police) provides a breakdown of total aggregate crime citywide, the respective rates of each crime, and the geographic distribution of crime citywide and for specific areas within the city. The Dallas Police Department (www.ci.dallas.tx.us/dpd/) presents a map of the city divided into "reporting areas" that allows the viewer to select an area in which they are specifically interested and to gather the relevant crime data.

The expansion of the Internet and its utilization by law enforcement agencies facilitate access to criminal justice data sources and statistics within minutes rather than days or weeks. The information is provided typically within a spreadsheet format or simple tables. This makes the utilization of information on crime much easier, for law enforcement, researchers, and the public.

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