Offenses Cleared

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Within the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, law enforcement agencies can clear, or “close,” offenses in one of two ways: by arrest or by exceptional means. Although agencies may administratively close a case, it does not necessarily mean that the agency can clear the offense for UCR purposes. To clear an offense within the Program’s guidelines, the reporting agency must adhere to certain criteria, which are outlined in the following text. (Note: The UCR Program does not distinguish between offenses cleared by arrest and those cleared by exceptional means in collecting or publishing data via the traditional Summary Reporting System.)

Cleared by Arrest

In the UCR Program, a law enforcement agency reports that an offense is cleared by arrest, or solved for crime reporting purposes, when all of the following three conditions have been met for at least one person:

  • Arrested.
  • Charged with the commission of the offense.
  • Turned over to the court for prosecution (whether following arrest, court summons, or police notice).

In its calculations, the UCR Program counts the number of offenses that are cleared, not the number of arrestees. The arrest of one person may clear several crimes, and the arrest of many persons may clear only one offense. In addition, some clearances that an agency records in a particular calendar year, such as 2008, may pertain to offenses that occurred in previous years.

Cleared by Exceptional Means

In certain situations, elements beyond law enforcement’s control prevent the agency from arresting and formally charging the offender. When this occurs, the agency can clear the offense exceptionally. Law enforcement agencies must meet the following four conditions in order to clear an offense by exceptional means. The agency must have:

  • Identified the offender.
  • Gathered enough evidence to support an arrest, make a charge, and turn over the offender to the court for prosecution.
  • Identified the offender’s exact location so that the suspect could be taken into custody immediately.
  • Encountered a circumstance outside the control of law enforcement that prohibits the agency from arresting, charging, and prosecuting the offender.

Examples of exceptional clearances include, but are not limited to, the death of the offender (e.g., suicide or justifiably killed by police or citizen); the victim’s refusal to cooperate with the prosecution after the offender has been identified; or the denial of extradition because the offender committed a crime in another jurisdiction and is being prosecuted for that offense. In the UCR Program, the recovery of property does not clear an offense.

Clearances Involving Only Persons Under 18 Years of Age

When an offender under the age of 18 is cited to appear in juvenile court or before other juvenile authorities, the UCR Program considers the incident for which the juvenile is being held responsible to be cleared by arrest, even though a physical arrest may not have occurred. When clearances involve both juvenile and adult offenders, those incidents are classified as clearances for crimes committed by adults. Because the clearance percentages for crimes committed by juveniles include only those clearances in which no adults were involved, the figures in this publication should not be used to present a definitive picture of juvenile involvement in crime.

Overview

  • In 2008, 45.1 percent of violent crimes and 17.4 percent of property crimes nationwide were cleared by arrest or exceptional means.
  • Of the violent crimes of murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, murder had the highest percentage—63.6 percent—of offenses cleared.
  • Of the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft was the offense most often cleared with 19.9 percent cleared by arrest or exceptional means.
  • Nationwide in 2008, 38.2 percent of arson offenses cleared by arrest or exceptional means involved juveniles (persons under age 18), the highest percentage of all offense clearances involving only juveniles.

Expanded clearance data

Expanded information regarding clearances for the offenses of forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson may be found in Table 27, “Percent of Offenses Cleared by Arrest or Exceptional Means, Additional Information about Selected Offenses by Population Group, 2008.”

Percent of Crimes Cleared by Arrest or Exceptional Means, 2008

What you won't find on this page

Arrest data are not on this page. In its calculations, the UCR Program counts the number of offenses that are cleared, not the number of arrestees.

If you have questions about these data

Contact the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division via e-mail at cjis_comm@leo.gov or by telephone at (304) 625-4995.

Advisory

Information is available regarding the UCR Program's statistical methodology and table construction.