April 27, 2017

Going NIBRS: Two States Share Their Stories

Georgia’s Movement Toward NIBRS (Part 2 of 2)

Although the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI’s) retirement date of January 1, 2021, for the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Summary Reporting System (SRS) seems far from now, law enforcement agencies need ample time to prepare for the implementation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Both the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) have been working to achieve their transitions to NIBRS well ahead of that deadline. In this two-part series, these agencies (the BCA, featured in part one and the GBI, featured in part two) share their challenges and successes for other agencies preparing to make the change.

In Georgia, law enforcement executives have paid close attention to the issue of the NIBRS transition with the GBI’s representation on the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board (APB). The GBI’s director, Vernon M. Keenan, decided in August 2015 that the GBI would complete its transition to NIBRS within the five-year timetable. Director Keenan based the decision on the goal for the GBI to gather more robust statistical data and better use law enforcement data-sharing systems. As Director Keenan states, “The collection of crime data statistics is vitally important in modern day policing and shaping public policy. As technology advances, it is crucial that the methods used to track crime advance as well. The GBI is fully committed to working with the FBI and our local partners to implement NIBRS by the end of 2018.”

Georgia has historically embraced a creative, innovative approach to law enforcement. As part of this forward-thinking law enforcement philosophy, the GBI maintains representation in the Southern Working Group of the FBI’s CJIS Advisory Process along with representatives from 12 other southern states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. In addition to its membership in the CJIS APB, the GBI actively participates in other nationwide criminal justice-related programs such as the National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact Council. Director Keenan’s decision for the GBI to make the transition to NIBRS ahead of many other law enforcement agencies continued Georgia’s progressive stance.

Graphic depicting outline of state of Georgia with National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) logo and words Minnesota Transition. (From CJIS Link article.)

The GBI’s NIBRS Transition Plan

In January 2016, the GBI formulated a high-level schedule for its NIBRS transition, identifying key milestones of progress. Director Comey’s announcement on February 9, 2016, reinforced the importance of Georgia’s timetable to transition its 600 local and state law enforcement agencies from the SRS (in which it has participated since 1975) to NIBRS. With Georgia Crime Information Center personnel in charge of the NIBRS transition initiative, the GBI spent February and March of 2016 meeting with service providers, operational staff, and representatives of other states to determine what products were available, what the system requirements would be, and what actions other states had taken toward their own NIBRS transitions.

Initially, the GBI tentatively planned to develop its NIBRS system with its own personnel and resources, as it had successfully done with its earlier implementation of an SRS-compatible system. However, after research and deliberation, the GBI decided to seek the services of a provider that had already successfully developed NIBRS-compatible systems for other agencies. The agency’s reasoning was an experienced service provider reduces the risks associated with the design and implementation of the new system. Also, the service provider could deliver a user interface for direct data entry while offering an interface document that local law enforcement agencies could use for reference. These local law enforcement agencies will use the interface document as reference while integrating their own records management systems with the GBI’s NIBRS application.

To meet its aggressive timetable, the GBI structured its system requirements so that the service provider would first focus on compatibility with the FBI’s NIBRS fields and requirements. Ideally, the service provider would include any additional data elements to satisfy Georgia’s requirements. However, as a matter of priority, if the inclusion of any auxiliary data elements would delay the transition to the FBI’s NIBRS model, then the service provider would not include those elements until a later phase of development. This decision to prioritize compatibility with NIBRS would likely prevent the initiative from being delayed by deliberations over extraneous requirements, a problem that commonly plagues organizational projects that do not establish priorities from the outset.

Uniform Crime Reporting Logo

Meeting Challenges

The plan for the GBI to make the transition to NIBRS has faced financial challenges, and the FBI acknowledges that other agencies may face some in their own efforts to the NIBRS transition. The GBI’s monthly report for June 2016 declared the state’s plan to effect a transition to NIBRS. The advanced notice allows these agencies time to plan for the associated costs of NIBRS transition. While the GBI will assume the costs associated with the implementation of the state data system, local law enforcement agencies could incur costs if they wish to integrate their local records management systems with the GBI’s NIBRS-compliant system. In August 2016, the GBI issued a Request for Proposal to procure a service provider to implement a state NIBRS system.

The GBI expects education to be another challenge. Because local law enforcement agencies contribute UCR data to the FBI, the GBI considers the preparation of local law enforcement agencies to be a key factor in the GBI’s success in achieving the transition. Once the GBI has deployed its NIBRS application, it plans to give local law enforcement agencies that use a records management system for UCR data submission one year to develop and test an interface between their systems and the state system.

Representatives of the GBI actively promote the state’s NIBRS transition plan at conferences, on its Web site, in regular training activities, and in meetings and onsite visits with local agencies. The GBI has advised local agencies that Georgia intends to implement the transition to NIBRS by the end of 2018. The GBI intends to address the topic of NIBRS transition at meetings with the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police and the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association.

The GBI’s Goal for its NIBRS Transition

Once Georgia is fully NIBRS-compliant, the state and its agencies hope to gain several advantages over the current system. By gathering more robust statistical data, agencies in Georgia can formulate well-informed public policies and policing strategies to more effectively combat crime and protect communities. The incident-based reporting can provide information that is useful for tactical decision-making, strategic planning, crime mapping, and research. By participating in NIBRS, the GBI can both benefit from other states’ crime data and provide data that will benefit other states. Also, by developing the system for incident-based reporting to the FBI’s NIBRS, Georgia agencies can more readily participate in other incident-based law enforcement data systems such, as the FBI’s National Data Exchange.

The GBI has set an ambitious goal to achieve full participation in NIBRS well ahead of the FBI’s January 1, 2021, deadline. Having embarked upon their transition to NIBRS, the GBI has this advice to offer other agencies that are planning their own NIBRS transitions: Get started now!

To help your agency get started in making the transition to NIBRS, contact your state agency, e-mail the FBI’s UCR Program at UCR-NIBRS@ic.fbi.gov, or call the NIBRS staff line at 304-625-9999.

Image of first page of National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) quick facts document; full document can be found at  https://ucr.fbi.gov/nibrs-in-brief. (From CJIS Link article)

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