April 15, 2015
Originally published in the April 2015 edition of the CJIS Link, Volume 17, Number 1
While most law enforcement agencies continue to submit their crime data to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program via the Summary Reporting System (SRS), the FBI and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) aim to change that through the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X). The goal of the NCS-X, which was initiated in June 2013, is to accelerate the pace that agencies join in to report their statistics through the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
In the 1980s, the FBI’s UCR Program launched the NIBRS, a modernized alternative to submitting crime data via the traditional SRS. NIBRS enriches the quality of UCR data collected by allowing agencies to capture detailed information on each single crime occurrence.
Through the NCS-X, the FBI and the BJS plan to share with the nation’s law enforcement agencies the wealth of data that can be collected in each incident via the NIBRS, and the benefits these data can have for each. The data collected in NIBRS include crimes (murder, rape, robbery, etc.) that have routinely been reported to law enforcement in the nearly eight and a half decades of the UCR Program, as well as crimes that have been increasingly brought to the attention of law enforcement, such as hate crimes and domestic abuse. NIBRS is also structured to collect specific information on the victims and offenders of all crimes. (The SRS is able to capture only victim and offender data concerning homicide.)
Reporting these more complete, incident-based accounts of crimes equips agencies with vital information needed for law enforcement administration, operation, and management. For example, NIBRS captures expansive data on drug activities, such as whether an offender was suspected of using drugs during the commission of another offense; the type and quantity of drugs seized in an incident; as well as the age, sex, race, and ethnicity of offender(s) and arrestee(s) of drug violations. This information is also beneficial to those who sit outside of law enforcement, but have an interest in the scope of crime in America. Criminologists, sociologists, legislators, municipal planners, the media, and other students of criminal justice use the data for varied research and planning purposes.
Where NIBRS is and Where NCS-X Wants to Be
Currently, 33 states are certified to report data via the NIBRS, and 16 of these states include agencies that report all of their crime statistics through the incident-based reports. Nationwide, approximately 6,300 agencies (one-third of those that participate in the UCR Program) submit data via the NIBRS, while the rest report data in the summary format.
The NCS-X Team is working with agencies, such as the Chicago Police Department and the DC Metro Police Department, and has commitments from the states of Minnesota, New Jersey, and North Carolina that are developing incident-based reporting systems. However, that is just the start. The NCS-X Team’s goal is to expand participation by combining data from existing NIBRS participants with data from a scientific sample of 400 additional agencies, which includes 72 of the nation’s largest agencies. When aggregated, the increase in NIBRS participants will generate nationally representative crime statistics that will provide a clearer, more complete picture of the nature of crime in the United States. The more comprehensive data will also better prepare law enforcement agencies to fight crime within each of their jurisdictions.
Want to Know More About NCS-X or NIBRS?
For questions about how an agency or state can participate in the NCS-X initiative, please contact Kevin Strom by telephone at (919) 485-5729.
To learn more about NIBRS, please contact Drema Fouch, NIBRS Coordinator, with the FBI’s UCR Program by telephone at (304) 625-2982 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To view the NIBRS publications, go to www.fbi.gov/stats-services/crimestats.
FBI Director James B. Comey Endorses NIBRS
“I believe that NIBRS is the pathway to better data—to richer data—that we can all use to have informed conversations about the most important issues we face. But I also hope you’ll give me feedback—you’ll give us feedback—about other ways to collect that data, if there are better way[s] to incentivize people to collect that data. We need that advice and that feedback. But there is no escaping, we must do better and collect information so we can have informed conversations in this country about the most important work we do. So I’m going to make it my personal mission to continue to push to get us better data so we can have better conversations.”