Journal of Quantitative Criminology

, Volume 26, Issue 3, pp 333–349 | Cite as

Digital Analysis of Crime Statistics: Does Crime Conform to Benford’s Law?

  • Matthew J. HickmanEmail author
  • Stephen K. Rice
Original Paper


Benford’s law suggests that the distribution of leading (leftmost) digits in data of an anomalous nature (i.e., without relationship) will conform to a formula of logarithmic intervals known as the Benford distribution. Forensic auditors have successfully used digital analysis vis-à-vis the Benford distribution to detect financial fraud, while government investigators have used a corollary of the distribution (focused on trailing digits) to detect scientific fraud in medical research. This study explored whether crime statistics are Benford distributed. We examined crime statistics at the National, State, and local level in order to test for conformity to the Benford distribution, and found that National- and State-level summary UCR data conform to Benford’s law. When National data were disaggregated by offense type we found varying degrees of conformity, with murder, rape, and robbery indicating less conformity than other offense types. Some tentative implications of these findings are discussed, as are areas for further research.


Benford’s law Uniform crime reports Digital analysis Crime statistics Fabricated data Data errors First digit Crime data Fraud detection Benford distribution 



This research was supported by a student research assistantship from the College of Arts & Sciences, Seattle University; the authors thank Laura Polson for her assistance in preparing this manuscript. The authors also thank James Lynch and the anonymous reviewers for their comments. Any errors are those of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Criminal JusticeSeattle UniversitySeattleUSA

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