U.S. Rape Clearance Data

This data was collected as part of an investigation by Newsy, Reveal, and ProPublica into how police process rape cases. Scripps/Newsy requested internal case management data from every major law enforcement agency in the United States serving a population of at least 300,000 people. The data provided in this download includes annual counts of total rape cases and number of clearances by type (arrest, unfounded, and exceptional) for each jurisdiction, as well as the columns in the data provided by the agencies that were used to distinguish rape cases from other crimes, to divide the data by reporting year and to tally case dispositions as either unfounded, cleared by arrest or cleared by exceptional means. (A complete description of the included fields is included with the download.)

To create this data, we sent record requests to 103 law enforcement agencies and as of November 14, 2018, we had received data from 67 agencies. (A copy of the request sent to each jurisdiction is also included with the download. As more requests are filled, we will continue to update the rows for those districts.) The requests were for the years 2014 through 2016 and included the incident number of the offense, the date, the type of offense, whether it was unfounded, the date it was unfounded, the date it was cleared, the arrest date, the type of clearance and the reason for exceptional clearance if applicable. We parsed data from the FBI’s summary and NIBRS master files for the three years and calculated reported FBI clearance rates alongside our own analysis of the internal data from each jurisdiction.

We found that it was common for agencies to use a reporting category called “clearance by exceptional means” to mark rape cases as cleared without making an arrest, inflating the clearance rates that are often cited as a measure of police effectiveness. The FBI reporting system used by most agencies nationwide does not distinguish between the two types of clearance. These data provide a window into how often these agencies are using exceptional means to clear rape cases, as well as the prevalence of unfounded rape reports for jurisdictions that do not report that total to the FBI.

Additional data available upon request

Upon request, Newsy can provide additional files containing additional data provided by each agency on rape cases. In many cases, Newsy/Scripps has aggregated the data from multiple files. The columns are as provided with the exception of any column named “YEAR,” which was added when data were provided in separate files or tabs for each year, and any column starting with the letters “MF,” which are columns that were added in the course of processing the data. All of the files have been restricted to rape cases as defined in the analysis file and data dictionary, and in some cases fields have been dropped from the originals to remove personal identifiable information.  

Information about how to request these additional files is included in the download.

NOTE: This data has also been archived with Big Local News, which provides support for data collection and analysis for local journalists. For more information, contact Cheryl Phillips.


Provided in collaboration with Newsy

ProPublica & Newsy

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Part of these collections:

Police Districts, Cities, and Crimes

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