NIBRS: What Is It and How Can Police Departments Benefit from It

Data collection is the pillar of any criminal investigation, yet many police departments nationwide are yet to incorporate newer technologies for this purpose.

These departments still rely on the old Summary Reporting System (SRS), first established in the 1920s by the FBI—then the Bureau of Investigation— as part of the Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR). While it proved extremely useful for its day and age, it’s become obsolete to a certain extent. 

In today’s world, data analysis is king. And it so happens that the SRS doesn’t provide enough information through its crime hierarchy system to inform federal law enforcement agencies of crime trends, risks, and improvement opportunities. Consequently, the FBI recommended the nationwide implementation of NIBRS as a new framework for data collection. 

What is the National Incident-Based Reporting System?

Crime Scene Investigation - Gathering Evidence

The National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, was first introduced in 1985 through a joint report by the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics to improve the quality of crime data collected by law enforcement. NIBRS was the result of a three-year study that considered the many different ways in which state programs started collecting additional information to that required by the SRS. But it was only in 1991 that the FBI began collecting data for NIBRS. 

The main difference between the SRS and NIBRS is the report’s thoroughness, to put it mildly. Given that SRS limits the number of offenses committed within a single incident to just one, NIBRS demands greater specificity, as it requires all violations to be reported. 

Besides this, NIBRS collects information regarding date, time, expanded victim data—such as relationships to offenders and offenses, as well as the type of victim—, demographics, location, and property descriptions, whether the reported crimes were attempted or completed, use of drugs or alcohol, involvement of gang activity and whether computers were used.

Additional information requested by NIBRS includes context specifics for each crime, such as sex offenses, narcotics offenses, animal cruelty, identity theft, and computer hacking.

The benefits of NIBRS

crime scene with duct tape and police car

Federal public safety departments have been required to implement NIBRS as of January 1st, 2021, whereas state and local agencies have only been encouraged by the FBI to follow in their footsteps. But what are some of how police departments can benefit from NIBRS?

  • Information obtained from NIBRS can be used to identify patterns and design preemptive measures against future crimes.
  • A deep understanding of specific information on individuals who commit certain crimes can help law enforcement agencies solve similar cases.
  • Analyzing data provided by NIBRS can help police departments better prepare for the execution of warrants and the deployment of adequate resources.
  • Sharing the same data collection framework with other agencies can help improve cooperation.
  • Implementation of NIBRS aligns law enforcement agencies with FBI standards.

As you can see, NIBRS provides law enforcement with a firmer grasp on crime analysis, allowing police departments to protect and serve their communities even better. Even if the adoption of such reporting frameworks implies a great effort, in the end, it can only benefit everyone, citizens and officers alike.
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Categories : Big Data, Police Culture

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