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Small Police Agencies Need Help To Report Detailed Crime Data

The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) was started in the 1990s to add depth to the FBI's historic system of collecting crime totals from local police departments.

It was only in 2015 that the FBI said it would require local agencies to use NIBRS by 2021. Only about two-thirds of departments were compliant by the deadline, covering just over half of the U.S. population

NIBRS compliance in 2022 increased to over 70 percent of agencies, that percentage should jump again a fair amount when 2023’s figures are reported later this year, crime analyst Jeff Asher writes on Substack.

The biggest issue may be mostly solved, but a new issue that could hinder the nation’s ability to reach the overarching goal of NIBRS reporting at the 90 to 95 percent of agencies that reported data via the old system each year.

While larger cities and counties are becoming NIBRS compliant, compliance in smaller cities and counties is still comparatively low and not growing as fast.

Cities of all sizes started at roughly the same place in 2017 in terms of NIBRS compliance. While 80 percent or so of larger police departments were NIBRS compliant in 2022, just over half of smaller police department were.

Asher believes that agencies not close to being NIBRS compliant probably need some help getting there.

Some agencies may need more funding to purchase a new records management system while others would need technical training of staff on how to use NIBRS. Making the NIBRS switch for many agencies is going to require a proactive push (financial and otherwise) from outside parties.

New York City(population 8.5 million) and Littleville, AL (population 1,040) each have one police department.

Providing outside assistance to achieve NIBRS compliance requires a certain floor of resource allocation no matter who is being provided the assistance. Obviously helping a large department achieve compliance would require far more resources than a small one (and Littleville is NIBRS compliant), but if help is available to only a finite number of agencies then it’s more efficient to add a few larger agencies than many more smaller cities with smaller aggregate population.

Asher says there are many advantages to smaller agencies becoming compliant, especially for academics and researchers, but those advantages might be harder to come by if larger agencies are almost all compliant and smaller agency compliance plateaus at a significantly lower rate.


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