Are You Ready? The Countdown to NIBRS

U.S. law enforcement agencies will soon reach the FBI’s deadline to switch their crime statistics reporting system from the Summary Reporting System (SRS) to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). On January 1, 2021, the FBI will retire SRS as part of a major initiative to upgrade and update the nation’s crime statistics.

Below are answers to questions you may have about why the FBI is retiring SRS, how it will affect crime statistics, and the role of law enforcement agencies.

Will the FBI retire the UCR Program?

No. The FBI is discontinuing the SRS component of the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program to focus on the rich details NIBRS data can offer. You may be confused about the difference between SRS and UCR because, historically, the two terms have been incorrectly used interchangeably. SRS is the only mechanism of UCR data reporting being phased out. Other UCR datasets, such as Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted and NIBRS, will continue.

Why is SRS going away?

The transition to NIBRS is a top priority because its implementation will improve the nation’s crime statistics for reliability, accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness. The nation’s major law enforcement organizations support the decision to move to a NIBRS-only data collection.

What are the benefits of retiring SRS in favor of NIBRS?

NIBRS is a more detailed and comprehensive system than SRS. NIBRS collects more robust data and details of crime, making it a more effective tool for policymakers, analysts, and the public to understand crime and make informed decisions about how to address the problem.

SRS is limited, omitting some data in accordance with its Hierarchy Rule, which stipulates that agencies report only the most serious offense within a criminal incident. For example, if a robbery and a homicide occur in the same incident, SRS will only count the homicide. NIBRS collects data on up to 10 offenses per incident, as well as data on types of offenses that SRS does not count at all.

After January 1, 2021, will data from SRS disappear? Can analysts and the public still use SRS data?

Although the collection through SRS will stop, the SRS data will remain available. The FBI will keep the historical data on record, and the data will continue to be available even after 2021. Also, the FBI will convert NIBRS data and continue to publish the SRS data (in addition to the NIBRS publication), so agencies can continue to analyze trends through transition years.

What will happen if some agencies do not make the transition to NIBRS?

Those agencies that have committed to the switch but are unable to meet the deadline will collaborate with the FBI to develop a transition plan and timeline for conversion. Crime statistics from agencies that choose not to participate in NIBRS will be excluded from the FBI’s nationwide crime statistics. If agencies receive funding assistance based on participation in the UCR Program via SRS, they might lose this funding.

Will the NIBRS transition affect crime rates?

Because NIBRS eliminates the SRS Hierarchy Rule and captures more offenses per incident, as well as more offense categories than SRS, you may wonder if switching to NIBRS will cause an apparent increase in crime rates. A 2014 study showed that though some crime rates might be a little higher, the increase will likely be minimal. Because of its broader accounting of crime, NIBRS establishes a new baseline that captures a more complete picture of reported crime in a community.

What NIBRS transition resources does the FBI offer online?

The NIBRS page includes:

  • NIBRS interactive data map
  • Road to NIBRS Resources for acquiring and implementing a NIBRS-compliant records management system
  • NIBRS 101 video
  • Link to the NIBRS 2021 map for projected agency participation
  • Toolbox of additional NIBRS resources
  • Differences between NIBRS and SRS
  • Recent articles about the NIBRS transition

Who can I contact for information or assistance about NIBRS?

NIBRS support staff can be reached by email at UCR-NIBRS@fbi.gov or by phone at (304) 625-9999.