Office of Justice Programs
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do crime statistics come from?
The most commonly cited measures of crime are provided by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED). Whenever a crime is reported to law enforcement, the responding officer fills out an incident report, portions of which are forwarded to SLED. SLED compiles the information in a file known as the South Carolina Incident Based Reporting System (SCIBRS). This information is used for state level statistical reporting is also sent to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for national crime reporting purposes. SLED produces an annual report summarizing crime called Crime in South Carolina based on this information. The FBI produces a similar report, Crime in the United States which provides crime statistics at the national level. You can view each of these reports on the respective agency’s website (see Links).
How is crime measured?
The most widely cited sources of national and state crime, Crime in the United States and Crime in South Carolina, rely upon summary crime reporting. Basically, summary reporting uses the most serious offense in an incident to provide a count and provides little additional information beyond that. However, with SCIBRS, South Carolina can provide much more information about criminal activity in the state. SCIBRS is compatible with the FBI’s national crime reporting system, the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS). States that use NIBRS compatible crime reporting systems have a great deal of additional information about the crime incident including all crimes involved in the incident, demographic information concerning victims and offenders, involvement of drugs, alcohol or weapons, the relationship between the victim and offender, time, place and other important factors. This allows for detailed levels of analysis that would not be possible with summary data. It also allows for data integrity checks and edits that are not possible with summary data. South Carolina is one of only fifteen states (as of September 2010) that has 100% participation in the NIBRS. Even more notably, SLED worked with the FBI for South Carolina to serve as the pilot site for NIBRS reporting in 1991 and the state has had 100% participation since then resulting in a wealth historical crime data dating back to that point in time. It is important to note that there are other measures of crime in addition to crime reports. Chief among them is the National Crime Victimization Surveys (NCVS) conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (see Links) which provides estimates of the nature and extent of crime based on a survey of the national population. Unfortunately, NCVS survey results cannot be used to provide state level estimates.
Where does South Carolina rank among the states in crime rates?
Based upon the FBI’s Crime in the United States 2012, the most recent year available, South Carolina ranked (a ranking of first represents the highest crime rate, a ranking of fifty represents the lowest crime rate) as follows:
Violent Crime – Third
Murder – Fourth
Rape – Thirteenth
Robbery – Twenty-third
Aggravated Assault – Third
Property Crime – First
Breaking & Entering – Seventh
Larceny – First
Motor Vehicle Theft – Seventh
Besides crime reports, what other sorts of statistics are available on crime and criminal justice in South Carolina?
Agencies charged with specific areas of responsibility in the criminal justice system such as courts, prisons, dealing with juvenile offenders and supervising offenders in the community collect a great deal of information about what they do. Much of that information is made available on their websites (see Links) or in annual or special reports. Additionally, the SAC compiles an overview of criminal justice in a publication called South Carolina Criminal and Juvenile Justice Trends. For national data or data from other states, the Bureau of Justice Statistics provides a wealth of information and the Justice Research and Statistics Association provides links to the Statistical Analysis Centers for other states (see Links). Additionally, there are many other possible sources of information including reports by local agencies, as well as special studies or surveys undertaken by academicians or other researchers. However, no comprehensive list of all statistical sources exists and there is no substitute for diligence and perseverance.