Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) is officially retiring on January 1, 2021. By that date, every law enforcement agency in the country will be required to use its replacement, National Incident Based Reporting Systems (NIBRS). A majority of agencies have already begun the transition to NIBRS, with many having successfully completed the transition. However, even a completed NIBRS transition requires additional input for it to be successful as it can take anywhere from a few weeks or months to sometimes years before officers feel as comfortable using NIBRS as they are with UCR.

The key to mastering NIBRS is understanding the main differences between the two reporting methods. Below are key changes agencies should keep in mind during their transition:

Changes in offenses

Both UCR and NIBRS collect data on homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft and arson. They both also collect data on the categories “crimes against persons” and “crimes against property.”  

Unlike UCR, NIBRS documents animal cruelty, extortion and identity theft offenses. NIBRS also documents the category “crimes against society” which do not actually involve an injured party or piece of property. Rather, they are prohibitions against engaging in certain types of activity such as drugs, gambling, pornography, prostitution and weapon law violations.

Elimination of the hierarchy rule

A key differentiating factor of NIBRS is the elimination of the hierarchy rule. UCR employs the hierarchy rule to recognize the most serious offense per incident, whereas under NIBRS, agencies are required to submit detailed information about all offenses committed in a single incident. With NIBRS, officers can collect data on up to 10 criminal offenses within an incident. An incident is considered one or more offenses committed by the same offender or group of offenders acting in concert at the same time and place.

To give an example of hierarchy within UCR, if a thief breaks into a home, steals several items and then rides off in the homeowner’s moped, only the most serious offense would be reported. In NIBRS, every offense would be included in one report, provided the offenses are separate and distinct crimes and each are mutually exclusive crimes.

Changes in classification

The most important difference between UCR and NIBRS is that Part I and Part II offenses are discarded in favor of Group A and Group B offenses, with Group A representing 20-plus indexed crime categories rather than focusing on eight indexed offenses in the UCR. It is important to determine which category an offense belongs to because this will clarify whether an arrest report or incident report will be required.

In addition, with UCR, attempted crimes are reported as a crime.  NIBRS focuses on whether the crime was attempted or completed. For example, with NIBRS, attempted assaults are classified and reported as aggravated assaults. There are five main segments for NIBRS incident reports: the offense, persons involved, property, vehicles and case management.

For multiple offenses, NIBRS does not allow duplicate offenses based on incident-based reporting (IBR) codes; possession of cocaine and a possession of heroin are not permitted. In a NIBRS report, it would be considered just one drug offense.

Also, an officer may report multiple offenses provided they are separate and distinct crimes, each mutually exclusive. It’s important to remember all Group A arrests must have a Group A offense and all Group A offenses must have a victim and offender, even if either or both victim and offender are unknown.

Ensuring success at the state level

Most states have their own flavor of NIBRS. Unlike other systems developed to the FBI’s 2019 specifications, an agency’s NIBRS system should be tailored to the individual state’s specifications. Each agency’s NIBRS program will ultimately be based on its state requirements as every state includes unique information in its reports to the FBI, like domestic data for example.

The agencies who have been most successful and certified quicker invested in training.  NIBRS training is an essential piece in successfully transitioning to NIBRS. In training your stakeholders and everyone involved in reporting, including your officers, it’s important that everyone understands the crosswalks between state and NIBRS offense codes. Through a trusted partnership with a technology vendor, agencies will be better positioned to identify the impact these key differences will have on their current protocols, and ultimately help prepare law enforcement personnel for the world of NIBRS that lies ahead.