PERF report on the changing nature of crime and investigations

05, 2018

There are meteoric changes occurring in the nature of crime, and in police agencies' ability to stay ahead of it. Bank robberies are becoming obsolete, because thieves have found ways to steal from banks online.  Instead of selling drugs on street corners, dealers are buying toxic drugs like fentanyl on the "dark web" and having it delivered to them by the U.S. postal service! Then they sell it to addicted people online, ship it by mail, and the result is a national epidemic of overdose fatalities.

The UCR system tracks murder, robbery, rape, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft, but is being overrun by crimes like credit card fraud and ransomware, which go uncounted. Millions of crimes are being committed across borders, and no one knows which police agency has responsibility for investigating them.

A new PERF report, The Changing Nature of Crime and Criminal Investigations, is a wake-up call for law enforcement agencies at all levels of government. We need a new national commitment to counter this rapidly growing menace.  

This report is available on PERF's website at  

PERF's report was featured today in a New York Times story by Al Baker: An 'Iceberg' of Unseen Crimes: Many Cyber Offenses Go Unreported.

In our report, we explore how criminal offenders are committing new types of crime.  In many cities, criminal gangs are shifting away from the types of crimes they have committed in the past, because they can make more money, with less risk of getting caught, by committing online crimes like identity theft and credit card fraud.

The jobs of police officers and detectives are changing. In the past, detectives responding to a homicide or other serious crime focused on getting to the scene quickly, collecting physical evidence, and interviewing witnesses.  Today, there are new types of evidence to uncover, particularly the wealth of information that can be gleaned from the smartphones of victims and suspects.

PERF brought together nearly 200 police officials and other leaders in the field last August to discuss these issues. PERF's new report summarizes what they told us, as well as what we learned from additional research. Our new report offers guidance on specific steps that every police or sheriff's department should take immediately, in order to catch up with these fundamental changes in the types of crimes that are being committed, and how criminals are committing them.