Church Crime Statistics
Analysis of Uniform Crime Reports from the FBI
by Chuck Chadwick
I don't know what sparked my interest in this subject again other than a little common sense.
The pioneer in church security statistics is Carl Chinn. He has been tracking violent crime in churches since 1999. Carl and I were talking about the enormity of trying to track crime statistics for churches.
There were several web sites using Goggle as there prime source of church crime tracking. Those are very helpful in making churches aware of the daily trends. But those numbers don't seem to reflect the bigger picture I was looking for. One study published put the number at approximately 1,200 for the total number of crimes at Christian churches in 2009.
Carl brought up the FBI's reports on Uniform Crime Reports (UCRs). (see foot note for details on UCRs)
Having over 17,000 departments inputting data on millions of crimes each year has got to be valuable data. All I had to do is find a way to sort out the Church crimes.
With a couple of days research into the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data I seem to have found it. The data files are huge and you can't import a 5.4 million record database into an Excel spreadsheet. You have to use a database product like Microsoft Access (at least)
The data file for 2008 has over 5 million records and among the data structure is a field called "Location".
Low-and-behold location code 4 is for "Church/ Synagogue/Temple".
There were over 24,445 crimes attributed to location code 4 (Churches/Synagogues/Temples).
I am willing to concede that not all are going to be Christian churches, but the majority would be.
We will be bringing you further analysis of the data soon.
Here is the breakdown for 2008 according to the FBI -
# of offenses
Destruction/Damage/Vandalism of Property
Burglary/Breaking and Entering
All Other Larceny
Theft From Building
Theft From Motor Vehicle Theft of Motor Vehicle
Motor Vehicle Theft
False Pretenses/Swindle/Confidence Game
Drug Equipment Violations
Forcible Fondling (Indecent Liberties/Child Molesting)
Weapon Law Violations
Credit Card/Automatic Teller Machine Fraud
Stolen Property Offenses (Receiving, Selling, Etc.)
Theft From Coin-Operated Machine or Device
Sexual Assault With An Object
Assisting or Promoting Prostitution
Info on UCR from the FBI Web Site
It is important for users of UCR data to remember that the FBI's primary objective is to generate a reliable set of crime statistics for use in law enforcement administration, operation, and management. The FBI does not provide a ranking of agencies but merely alphabetical tabulations of states, metropolitan statistical areas, cities, metropolitan and nonmetropolitan counties, and colleges and universities.
Law enforcement officials use this information for their designed purposes. Additionally, the American public relies on these data sets for information on the fluctuations in the level of crime from year to year, and criminologists, sociologists, legislators, city planners, the media, and other students of criminal justice use them for a variety of research and planning purposes. Since crime is a sociological phenomenon influenced by a variety of factors, the FBI discourages ranking the agencies and using the data as a measurement of law enforcement effectiveness.
To ensure these data are uniformly reported, the FBI provides contributing law enforcement agencies with a handbook that explains how to classify and score offenses and provides uniform crime offense definitions. Acknowledging that offense definitions may vary from state to state, the FBI cautions agencies to report offenses not according to local or state statutes but according to those guidelines provided in the handbook. Most agencies make a good faith effort to comply with established guidelines.
Finally, in a given year, approximately 17,000 agencies contribute data to the FBI; however, because of computer problems, changes in record management systems, personnel shortages, or a number of other reasons, some agencies cannot provide data for publication. The FBI appreciates the conscientious efforts made by law enforcement personnel throughout the nation to report accurate and reliable crime data. Their efforts make it possible for the FBI to provide assessments of the nature and type of crime in the United States.