How Can NIBRS Help Colleges and Universities?
January 21, 2020
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will transition the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program to collecting crime data solely through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) on January 1, 2021. This will be a major improvement to the nation’s crime statistics.
Why doesn’t the FBI keep using the traditional Summary Reporting System (SRS) data?
SRS has served as the main way of measuring crime for decades, but it has significant limitations. One of the main limitations is that SRS is primarily a simple tally of crimes for a few types of offenses. These crime counts are beneficial for measuring crime trends, but the data does not provide the comprehensive information that, when analyzed, may assist law enforcement in addressing increases in specific crimes. In the era of modern computing, the UCR Program can collect a more comprehensive dataset through NIBRS to better understand crime.
Why is the FBI trying to get colleges and universities to transition to NIBRS?
It’s crucial for law enforcement agencies to collect accurate crime data, but colleges and universities especially need good data for serving their diverse interests and constituencies. The reasons may include safety concerns, requirements to provide data based on federal or state legislation, or creation of crime prevention programs. The FBI and its law enforcement partners developed NIBRS to provide more detailed crime statistics to benefit all law enforcement agencies, including campus law enforcement. National participation in NIBRS, a vastly superior system of nationwide crime data than SRS, has the potential to benefit all law enforcement agencies.
What are some ways NIBRS is better than the traditional SRS?
NIBRS is superior to SRS in many ways, including:
SRS counts only the most serious offense in an incident, but NIBRS counts up to 10 offenses per incident.
SRS collects data on only 10 types of offenses, but NIBRS collects data on 62 offenses.
SRS gathers a few details about homicide offenses, but NIBRS captures details via 58 data elements per offense. In addition, SRS collects arrestee data on 28 offenses, and NIBRS collects it for all 62 offenses.
SRS does not allow agencies to correct or update reports in subsequent years, but NIBRS has mechanisms for modifying, deleting, or adding information to reports.
NIBRS allows greater insight into crime patterns for the needs of campus law enforcement. For example, NIBRS can provide data about sexual assaults that includes weapons used, victim-offender relationships, and locations. Using NIBRS, colleges and universities can also research questions about property crimes, alcohol-related crimes, and drug crimes.
How can NIBRS particularly help colleges and universities?
Using NIBRS, university researchers and campus law enforcement agencies can research crime trends and evidence-based crime prevention strategies. For example, a university researcher could use NIBRS data to answer the question, “How often is alcohol usage prevalent in acquaintance rapes at universities and colleges?” By using NIBRS data in this way, colleges and universities might be able to strategically address sex crimes by targeting alcohol usage.
To give college law enforcement and other agencies easier access to NIBRS data, the FBI has launched the Crime Data Explorer, an online, interactive data tool that provides data visualizations and downloadable datasets. Also, the CDE has tools for law enforcement agencies to produce their own customized crime reports; and the FBI plans to continue development of more custom features for the CDE in years to come.
How many colleges and universities are already participating in NIBRS, and is NIBRS a good choice for all colleges and universities?
As of the 2017 reporting year, 206 colleges and universities were participating in NIBRS. These colleges and universities are located in 25 states, and they have student populations ranging from a few hundred to many thousands of students. College and university participation in NIBRS continues to increase, with more schools beginning or committing to participate.
Is NIBRS participation compatible with the requirements of the Clery Act?
NIBRS participation is compatible with the overall intent and many of the functions of the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (which is commonly referenced as the Clery Act). While the Clery Act does not necessarily require colleges and universities to participate in the UCR Program, it directs these agencies to collect crime data for criminal offenses and hate crimes as defined by the FBI’s UCR Program and specified below:
Using the definitions from the Summary Reporting System User Manual, agencies must collect data for murder; rape; robbery; aggravated assault; burglary; motor vehicle theft; arson; weapon law violations; drug abuse violations; and liquor law violations.
Using definitions from the NIBRS Data Collection Guidelines, agencies must collect data for fondling, incest, and statutory rape.
Agencies must use definitions from the Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual to report hate crimes, particularly larceny-theft (except motor vehicle theft), simple assault, intimidation, and destruction/damage/vandalism of property.
As amended by the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA), the Clery Act also requires institutions of higher learning to compile statistics for incidents of dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Agencies must use the definitions established by VAWA for these offenses.
In addition to collecting these statistics, the Clery Act requires that agencies publish these data, as well as the policies, procedures, and programs pertaining to these incidents in annual security reports. (See Federal Register, Volume 79, No. 202; Monday, October 20, 2014, Rules and Regulations (pp 62752-62790); The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting; SRS User Manual; NIBRS User Manual; and Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual.)
The SRS definition of rape includes both sodomy and sexual assault with an object, while the NIBRS captures them as two separate offenses. Although wording varies slightly between the remaining SRS and NIBRS definitions, the definitions of the offenses are fundamentally the same. Reporting requirements vary slightly between offenses versus arrests for weapons law violations and drug abuse violations.
Offenses defined in the FBI’s Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual mostly align with NIBRS. The exception is intimidation, which includes the offense of stalking; so it currently cannot be extracted from NIBRS to meet the VAWA requirement in all cases. Because NIBRS includes a data element about an offender’s bias motivation for each offense, it surpasses reporting requirements of the Clery Act for hate crime. And even though NIBRS does not have a specific circumstance code for dating violence like it does for domestic violence in the case of murder and aggravated assault, NIBRS does capture the victim-offender relationship, such as boyfriend, girlfriend, or ex-spouse, when investigators can determine the relationship.
Although some work remains to more precisely align the data collections of the Clery Act and NIBRS, the reporting requirements of the Clery Act are in many cases a byproduct of NIBRS.
Because NIBRS and Clery reporting share common elements, those colleges and universities that participate in both NIBRS and Clery may find that the two data collections complement each other’s usefulness. For example, a researcher who wishes to study sexual assaults on campuses for purposes of addressing Clery statistics may be able to use NIBRS data to analyze sexual assaults on campuses to a greater degree of detail than Clery data alone could provide. Furthermore, transitioning from SRS to NIBRS will be a proactive measure for agencies that wish to continue participation in the UCR Program and have certain funding opportunities available to them after the national UCR Program no longer accepts SRS data.
If a college or university transitions to NIBRS, what will happen to the prior years of SRS data the school has collected?
The FBI will continue to make SRS data from prior years available after the 2021 cutoff. Past years of SRS data can be found in the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer (CDE), and this SRS data will remain available for several years past 2021 to make valid data comparisons possible.
Also, the FBI converts NIBRS data into SRS format for publication purposes each year, and this converted data is currently included in the FBI’s annual Crime in the United States publication. In addition to publishing NIBRS data to the CDE, the FBI will continue to convert NIBRS data into SRS format for publication to the CDE after the transition.
What will happen to colleges or universities that do not transition to NIBRS by 2021?
The FBI realizes that some colleges or universities might wish to make the transition ahead of the 2021 cutoff of SRS but not be able to accomplish the transition by then. For those schools that commit to the transition, the FBI will work with them to accomplish the transition as soon as feasible. However, for those colleges or universities that do not commit to the transition to NIBRS by 2021, their crime data will not be included in the FBI’s UCR statistics after the cutoff of SRS.
What is a scenario for a crime at a university or college that demonstrates how NIBRS would better capture crime data than SRS?
A female student received numerous e-mail messages from her ex-boyfriend over the course of two days. Although the male student pleaded with her to get back together in the e-mails he sent the first day, the messages he sent the second morning contained provocative nude pictures of the female student that he took without her knowledge or consent. The female student’s roommate urged the woman to report the ex-boyfriend’s behavior, and she said that she would think about it. When the female student left her last class later that evening, the ex-boyfriend was waiting outside of the building and he began to follow her. He apologized for his earlier behavior and asked if they could talk somewhere. They walked together to the back entrance of her dorm, where she swiped her identification card to enter the building, and she reluctantly permitted the man to follow her. As they ascended the back stairs to the second floor, the man grabbed her and kissed her. The woman refused his advances, and a struggle ensued on the landing. When the woman tried to run up the second flight of stairs, the man grabbed her foot, causing her to fall and hit her forehead. The man covered her mouth and began to rape her. A few minutes later, another female student came down the stairs, screamed when she saw the man sexually assaulting the woman and hit him in the back of the head in an attempt to stop him. The man stood up, punched the other student in the mouth, and fled. Hearing the commotion, other students came to the stairwell and called for help. Both the rape victim, who had a cut on her forehead, and the other female student, who suffered an apparent broken jaw, were taken to the hospital. The male student was arrested in his dorm room the next day.
Depending on the reporting method, campus law enforcement would report the following information to the UCR Program.
Rape (Count one offense known among aggregate monthly total on both the Return A and the Supplement to Return A reports).
Rape (Include one male arrest in the appropriate age category as well as in the monthly totals for Race and Ethnicity arrestees for rape among the aggregate monthly totals on the Age, Sex, Race, and Ethnicity Arrest Report).
Incident date and hour.
Pornography/obscene material, rape, and aggravated assault (include one each in the Group A Incident Report).
Offender suspected of using computer equipment.
No bias motivation.
Location of school-college/university.
Type criminal activity/gang involvement: transporting/transmitting/importing (for pornography)/none (for rape and aggravated assault because no gang involvement).
Type of weapon—personal for both rape and aggravated assault.
Victim #1—type as individual for the rape victim, as well as her age, sex, race, ethnicity, and resident status (also connected to the offense of pornography/obscene material).
Victim #2—type as individual for the aggravated assault victim, as well as her age, sex, race, ethnicity, and resident status.
Aggravated assault/homicide circumstance—other.
Type injury: apparent minor injury for rape victim; apparent broken bone for aggravated assault victim.
Relationship of victim to offender: rape victim was ex-relationship; aggravated assault victim was otherwise known (having seen each other before around campus).
Offender age, sex, race, and ethnicity (connected to all three offenses.)
Type of arrest—taken into custody.
Arrestee was unarmed.
Arrestee age, sex, race, ethnicity, and resident status.
Unquestionably, NIBRS provides more information than SRS. The value of these data is the added context they give for understanding campus crime. By considering incidents in the more complete context that NIBRS data can provide, law enforcement agencies may be able to develop better strategies for crime prevention.
How can colleges and universities get more information or guidance?
Those who wish to learn more about NIBRS can visit the FBI’s NIBRS webpage to find NIBRS-related articles, the NIBRS flyer, technical documentation, news, and more. College and university police departments wishing to participate in NIBRS should first contact their state UCR Program. Colleges and universities can also contact the FBI by email at UCR-NIBRS@fbi.gov or by phone at 304-625-9999.