March 3, 2020
What do the Camp Joseph T. Robinson Army Reserve Center in Arkansas, Bishop International Airport in Michigan, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Virginia have in common with thousands of federal, state, county, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies across the nation? They all participate in the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
Change is inevitable. That holds true in the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program, as the nation’s law enforcement agencies move from collecting crime data via the Summary Reporting System (SRS) to participating in NIBRS.
The FBI implemented NIBRS to improve the overall quality of crime data reported by law enforcement. NIBRS captures incident-level details about crime, including multiple offenses within the same incident, and information on victims, known offenders, relationships between victims and offenders, arrestees, and property involved in crimes. Unlike data reported through the UCR Program’s traditional SRS—which is an aggregate monthly tally of crimes and counts only one offense per incident—NIBRS delves much deeper into each incident to provide information about the circumstances and context of crimes, such as location, time of day, and whether the incident was cleared.
To illustrate NIBRS’ superiority over SRS, consider this scenario: A gang member kidnaps and robs his cousin at her home. In SRS, a law enforcement agency would count only the offense of robbery, because SRS categorizes kidnapping under “All Other Offenses,” which is below robbery in the SRS hierarchy rule. In NIBRS, the agency would count the kidnapping and the robbery, plus information about the offender’s gang affiliation, the residential location, and the relationship of the victim to the offender. This detailed data within incidents about the different types and number of offenses, as well as links between multiple offenses, makes NIBRS a potentially much more useful tool for understanding crime.
In December 2015, the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board passed a recommendation to transition all federal, state, county, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies from SRS to NIBRS by 2021. The FBI Director approved this recommendation in February 2016.
The FBI considers the transition to NIBRS a top priority because its implementation will enrich the nation’s crime statistics. Acknowledging the value of the data captured via NIBRS, major law enforcement associations have declared their support for the decision to transition to a NIBRS-only data collection. To push the transition forward even further, the FBI has engaged with law enforcement agencies and organizations, partnered with the Bureau of Justice Statistics through the National Crime Statistics Exchange, and coordinated efforts with state UCR Programs. The FBI has also published numerous articles online and dedicated resources to help law enforcement agencies transition to NIBRS.
Thanks to the education efforts of the FBI and its law enforcement partners, the response from law enforcement agencies has been increasingly positive. In the 2015 reporting year, before the FBI’s push to transition fully to NIBRS, 6,648 law enforcement agencies—representing 36 percent of law enforcement agencies that take part in the UCR Program—participated in NIBRS. By the 2018 reporting year, NIBRS participation increased to 7,283 agencies.
As the FBI continues to engage with the law enforcement community, a growing number of agencies plan to participate in NIBRS. Since 2018, the FBI has intensified marketing and engagement efforts, resulting in more than 4,500 agencies notifying their state UCR Programs of their commitment to transition to NIBRS by January 1, 2021. Some of these agencies have already started making the switch to NIBRS.
Agencies that wish to learn more about NIBRS participation can visit the FBI’s NIBRS page to find annual NIBRS publications, answers to frequently asked questions, and more helpful resources.
For guidance or assistance, local law enforcement agencies should contact their state UCR Program. Agencies can also contact the FBI at (304) 625-9999 or by email at email@example.com.