NIBRS 101

The transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) will improve the accuracy and timeliness of our nation’s crime statistics, help identify crime patterns and trends, and aid in crime prevention.


Video Transcript

Narrator: The United States in 1930. The year Baby Face Nelson robbed his first bank, and Bonnie met Clyde. We got our news on the corner, our mail came in envelopes, and our crime statistics from a new publication—Uniform Crime Reports for the United States and Its Possessions.

This booklet provided information on seven offense classifications.

Screen text: Felonious homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, auto theft.

But even though multiple crimes may have been committed, only one offense per incident was reported.

It was originally produced by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, but was shortly handed over to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, or UCR. For nearly 60 years, the Summary Reporting System of UCR remained virtually unchanged. However, the volume, diversity, and complexity of crime steadily increased.

In 1989, the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, was implemented. NIBRS collects data about victims, offenders, property, and arrests.

Screen text: Breaking & entering: white male, 57; white female, 50; residence; 11:45 a.m.; March 22, 2015; Anywhere, USA; forcible entry

NIBRS provides for 52 offense classifications, with up to 10 offenses per incident.

Screen text: Armed robbery: white male, 57; 11:45 a.m.; March 22, 2015; Anywhere, USA; weapon – blunt object; jewelry, firearms, money; value - $7,000; stranger

This provides a more comprehensive view of crime in the United States with greater flexibility in the compiling of data.

Screen text: Kidnapping: white female, 50; 12:20 p.m.; March 22, 2015; Anywhere, USA; stranger

NIBRS isn’t just about names and numbers. It gives us a picture of the circumstances and who the victims are.

Screen text: Felonious homicide: white male, 57; approx. 12:10 p.m.; March 22, 2015; Anywhere, USA; weapon – blunt object; felony - stranger

Victims of domestic violence, identify theft, animal cruelty, and reports on cybercrime.

Although the FBI has maintained both the Summary Reporting System and NIBRS for several years, the time has come to make NIBRS the UCR data standard. Therefore, the FBI has declared NIBRS a top priority at the recommendation of the nation’s leading law enforcement organizations.

The International Association of Chiefs of Police, Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Sheriff’s Association, and the Major County Sheriff’s Association, along with the CJIS Division Advisory Policy Board, have joined with the FBI to establish the goal of transitioning to a NIBRS-only crime statistics collection system.

Many agencies have already seen the benefits of using NIBRS. Here is Colonel Ed Roessler, chief of Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia.

Screen text: Benefits of NIBRS: Greater specificity in reporting; no hierarchy rule; superior level of detail; more accurate description of crime.

Colonel Ed Roessler: So we started a journey back in July of 2013 to convert to NIBRS. What we methodically did over the next few months was to work with all of our elected officials and all our media staff that cover the greater metropolitan area that I work in. We did a side-by-side comparison to help them understand why do some of these categories look different, but also to talk about the benefits of NIBRS, where we could drill down and have deeper discussions about how we could fight crime in our community and use this information.

Narrator: Because of its value, NIBRS is becoming the data standard not only in large agencies but also in smaller agencies.

Screen text: Incident date and time; multiple victim types; victim data for all Crimes Against Persons Offender date for all Group A Offenses; relationships of victims to offenders and offenses; location data; property descriptions; drug types and estimated quantities; offenders suspected use of drugs or alcohol; involvement in gang activity.

Here is Chief Luke Thompson with the Byram Police Department in Mississippi.

Chief Luke Thompson: Our city was incorporated in 2009. And I was hired in 2010 to create our city’s very first police department.

We came into a community that didn’t have a really well defined problem. We knew that crime existed. We knew that we needed tools up front that would help us address those problems, help us to clearly define the problem.

I came from an agency that was a NIBRS agency and saw how we used crime data there to solve problems and to fight crime in that city. So when we were looking at establishing a brand-new police department, NIBRS was kind of on the forefront of our mind.

We were able to find some state-level technology grant monies that allowed us to buy some computer servers and to actually purchase the initial software. And once we got through that initial set-up process and we got through that initial certification process, maintaining the NIBRS program has simply become an integral part of what we do.

Narrator: Our plan is to close out Summary Reporting no later than January 2021. As a result, we will see an improvement in statistical reliability, accuracy, accessibility, and timeliness. We will provide training opportunities and technical assistance to help agencies with their transition.

It is no longer 1930. Over the years, technology, like crime, has become more prevalent and complicated.

Recent advances are transforming how the news media collects and broadcasts their reports. And a surge of social media has put instant reporting into the hands of anybody with cell tower or Wi-Fi access.

We live on the same planet, but it is a new world. Our mail comes on the screen, our news comes as it happens, and our crime statistics reporting must catch up with available technology and public expectation.

The time to think about NIBRS was yesterday. The time to move to NIBRS is today.

Roessler: Clearly, in 2021, NIBRS will be the repository for the nation.

We need the chiefs and sheriffs across the country to convert, meet the deadline, because we need to show the picture of crime in America. We need to be transparent and tell our story. We need to be able to compare ourselves to similar jurisdictions of our own size throughout the country; to have metrics, to measure how are we doing: and how, as local communities, states, and the nation, can we combat these epidemics of crime that we have throughout our communities.

Screen text: For more information about NIBRS, contact the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program, Criminal Justice Information Services Division. Phone: (304) 625-9999. Email: UCR-NIBRS@fbi.gov.

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