Crime Data Modernization is Top Priority for Uniform Crime Reporting Program

For some time, the FBI and the law enforcement community have expressed the need for crime data modernization and specifically the need to upgrade and modernize the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. To meet these needs, the UCR Program’s Crime Data Modernization (CDM) initiative was generated. Through the CDM, the UCR Program will realize its goal to efficiently collect and publish more complex and relevant crime data.

Assigned to the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, the CDM initiative is aimed to improve the reliability, accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness of UCR statistics and to expand the depth and breadth of the collected data. According to CJIS Assistant Director Douglas E. Lindquist, “this initiative will lead to better information that will help us—law enforcement and the citizenry—better understand the crime issues we face in our communities. And the more we understand them, the better we can address them.”

Currently, the UCR Program does not collect all of the comprehensive data that law enforcement, researchers, and policymakers need to effectively deal with crime in modern society. Therefore, at the recommendation of the CJIS Advisory Policy Board, the FBI embarked on the modernization effort to address this problem and to enable informed discussions and knowledge-based decisions.

The results of the modernization effort are being realized through a five-factor approach:

1. The transition of local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies from the Summary Reporting System (SRS) of crime data to the more detailed and exacting National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

2. The development of the National Use-of-Force Data Collection to gather statistics on incidents of use of force by law enforcement at the local, state, tribal, and federal levels. Developed in collaboration and with the advice of the law enforcement community, the Use-of-Force Data Collection is slated to begin gathering data later this year.

3. FBI participation in the UCR Program in compliance with the Uniform Federal Crime Reporting Act (UFCRA) of 1988.

4. The facilitation of other federal agencies’ participation in the UCR Program in compliance with the UFCRA.

5. The development of an online Crime Data Explorer (CDE), a portal for public access to UCR data. The CDE will make nationwide crime statistics available to the American public in a flexible and timelier manner through a web interface.

“This initiative will lead to better information that will help us—law enforcement and the citizenry—better understand the crime issues we face in our communities.”

Douglas E. Lindquist, assistant director, FBI CJIS Division

The CDM staff continually collaborate with members of the law enforcement community and with various groups and individuals within the FBI who work in capacities relating to statistics, information technology, logistics, liaison, and other specialties. Staff members also network with law enforcement stakeholders (such as the CJIS Advisory Policy Board and the Association of State Uniform Crime Reporting Programs) and provide them updates on progress, as well as keeping members of Congress, the Office of the Attorney General, FBI executives, and other government officials in the loop.

Since beginning this journey to richer crime data, a number of significant accomplishments have been made through the CDM initiative:

  • The CDM has distributed automation funding (via the National Crime Statistics Exchange) for 10 state programs and 16 large law enforcement agencies, i.e., those with 750 or more sworn officers, to plan and implement solutions to participate in NIBRS.

  • The National Use-of-Force Data Collection interface will be available later this year as a tool in the Law Enforcement Enterprise Portal.

  • The FBI has formulated a plan to utilize the Sentinel record-keeping system to report FBI incident-based data to the UCR Program.

  • Twenty other federal agencies that investigate crimes have made firm commitments to participate in the UCR Program.

  • The CDE portal will become available for public use later this year.

Still, there is much work to be done and many challenges. However, CJIS Assistant Director Lindquist says that “CJIS is committed to meeting [each of] them to bring about the positive, lasting changes needed.”

Logo of the Uniform Crime Reporting program.