For more than 100 years, the FBI has been collecting crime data from local police departments through the Uniform Crime Reporting Program. By 2020, almost every law enforcement agency was included in the FBI’s database. Some agencies reported topline numbers, such as the total number of murders or car thefts, through the Summary Reporting System. It changed in 2021. In an effort to modernize the system, the FBI stopped taking data from the old summary system and only accepted data through the new National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Thousands of police agencies fell through the cracks because they didn’t catch up with the changes on time. More than 6,000 law enforcement agencies were missing from the FBI’s national crime data last year, nearly one-third of the nation’s 18,000 police agencies. This means a quarter of the population wasn't represented in the federal crime data last year. The old summary-level data reporting system, retired in 2021, was revived last year when the FBI announced that it would accept data through it again. It’s unclear how many police agencies took advantage of the opportunity.
Some large police departments began to report data to the FBI again in 2022, like the Miami-Dade Police Department. The two largest police agencies, the New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department, are still missing in the federal data. Los Angeles hopes to comply next year, and New York said it would use NIBRS "in the very year future." In Florida, only 49 of the state’s more than 500 agencies submitted data to the FBI last year, representing less than 8% of the state’s police departments. Some of the largest agencies, like the Miami Police Department, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, and the St. Petersburg Police Department, are missing. While Florida agencies had the lowest participation rate, Pennsylvania is a close second, with more than 90% of the state’s police agencies missing. That’s followed by New York State, where three-quarters of the agencies were missing from the federal database. When the FBI released its 2021 national crime data last fall, it couldn’t say if crime went up, went down, or stayed the same. The FBI concluded that all three scenarios could be possible because of the gaps in the data collection.