RTI International leads project to improve crime reporting among the nation’s law enforcement agencies

Department of Justice-funded program to create national coverage for more detailed crime reporting

man looking at evidence envelope

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC – As part of an effort to improve crime data reported among U.S. law enforcement agencies, RTI International is working with the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to increase the number of agencies participating in a national system of incident-based crime reporting. 

Recently the Chicago Police Department and the Dallas Police Department, two of the largest departments in the country, agreed to join the program.  In addition, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Major Cities Chiefs Association, National Sheriffs' Association, and the Major County Sheriffs' Association, recently released a joint statement in support of the national adoption of incident-based reporting. 

The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), administered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation under its Uniform Crime Reporting Program, provides a higher level of detail on crime than the current summary system that has been used since 1930. While about 6,500 agencies in the United States use this reporting system, current participants do not include many of the departments serving the largest populations and exclude certain states altogether.

"The summary system for measuring and tracking crimes reported to law enforcement is severely limited in this country," said Kevin J. Strom, Ph.D., project director for the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) and program director at RTI. "For example summary crime reporting does not allow us to measure or track specific forms of crime such as domestic violence or sexual offenses against children. As a result, our ability to fully understand how crime is changing and how it varies across places is not what it should be. By moving more agencies to NIBRS, we will be able to address important issues such as sexual violence, on a national, state and local level."

Under the direction of BJS, RTI is leading the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) project to increase incident-based reporting participation. Supported by the FBI, the project is targeting 400 law enforcement agencies, including all the nation's largest departments, in an effort to move them to NIBRS. This effort will enable nationally representative data on crimes reported to law enforcement agencies to be derived, and represents an important step as momentum builds to move state and local law enforcement agencies to incident reporting. 

NIBRS is designed to provide a more complete picture of crime and how it influences U.S. jurisdictions both urban and rural. The system covers a broad range of offenses and provides information on victim and offender characteristics, the relationship between victims and offenders, weapon use, victim injury, location, time of day, and arrest outcomes. It also increases police transparency and accountability in reporting and counting crime, serving as a single national standard for incident reporting.  

"This shift in reporting practice reflects a national movement to provide more detailed information on the nature of crime and law enforcement's response to it.  Such improvements will help local and state government leaders better evaluate the needs of their communities, assess the impact of programs and initiatives, guide policy development, and target scarce resources," Strom said.  

RTI is partnering on the initiative with a number of key organizations, including the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Police Executive Research Forum, the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute and the SEARCH Group.