offense known to police | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

An offense known to police, in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) context, refers to a crime that has been reported to or discovered by law enforcement agencies and recorded in their official records.

Breaking Down ‘Offense Known to Police’

Let’s look more closely at this term, ‘offense known to police,’ and understand why it matters in the world of criminal justice. This phrase means that the police have become aware of a crime. It could be because someone reported it or the police themselves discovered it. After they know about it, they record the crime in their official records.

Reporting an Offense: The First Step

It’s vital to report a crime to the police, making it an ‘offense known to police.’ This is the first step in the justice process. Reporting a crime allows the police to investigate, gather evidence, and possibly arrest the person responsible. The report also provides a record of the crime, which can be important if the victim needs to make an insurance claim or apply for victim compensation.

Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR)

Now, let’s talk about Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR). This is a system that law enforcement agencies across the United States use to keep track of crimes in their areas. The FBI started it in the 1930s, and is still used today. The UCR system collects data on many different types of offenses, but it focuses mainly on eight major crimes, often called Part I offenses. These include crimes like murder, robbery, and assault.

How UCR Helps

By collecting and analyzing UCR data, law enforcement can better understand crime trends in their area. They can use this information to plan their strategies and allocate their resources more effectively. After all, to combat crime, law enforcement needs to know where, when, and how often crimes are happening.

The Limitations of UCR

While the UCR is a useful tool, it does have its limitations. It only includes crimes that are known to the police. That means many offenses, especially less serious ones, might go unreported and, therefore, not included in the UCR data. This issue is often referred to as the ‘dark figure of crime.’


In conclusion, an ‘offense known to police’ is a crucial component in our criminal justice system. This phrase simply refers to a crime that law enforcement is aware of and has documented. It is part of the broader Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system, which helps law enforcement understand and respond to crime trends. Despite its limitations, the UCR remains a vital tool in the ongoing effort to maintain law and order in our society.

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Last Modified: 03/10/2023


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