What You Need to Know About the Move from UCR to IBR

By Jessica Barker

When you think of law enforcement technology, crime reporting may not be the first thing to come to your mind, but it is a major component of any agency’s processes. The ability to report on criminal activity at both the state and national level helps generate credible data for law enforcement agency administrators to use in their daily management and operations. In addition, it provides the public with a more robust understanding of crime rates in any given area, which helps citizens stay safe as they go about their day. But just like most processes, crime reporting has changed and must continue to change in the coming years to better serve both law enforcement and community members alike.

Reporting Up Until Now

Summary Reporting, more commonly known as Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), was established as the national crime reporting process in the 1920s as a way to help generate reliable and uniform national crime statistics. Since then, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been charged with collecting, publishing, and archiving these statistics. Currently, Summary Reporting collects crime data for only eight crime index categories: aggravated assault, forcible rape, murder, robbery, arson, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. In the 1990s, law enforcement administrators saw a need for more detailed reports and introduced the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) as the reporting protocol for the FBI, with Incident-Based Reporting (IBR) being the state level of reporting. Until recent years, there has been relatively slow adoption to this new way of reporting because of the simplicity of the current UCR system. But last year’s developments are about to change that.

In June 2016, the Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Advisory Policy Board (APB) issued a statement announcing that the FBI UCR Program would be transitioning to a IBR-only data collection process by January 1, 2021. The FBI is overseeing the progress of the goal each year, ensuring that all agencies are on track to convert to the new reporting style or at least working closely with the FBI to develop a transition plan and timeline that will work for each agency.

What’s the Difference Between UCR and IBR?

One of the main advantages IBR brings to the law enforcement community is that it features 49 offense categories to identify a crime, compared to the eight categories personnel currently use with UCR. Offenses such as animal cruelty, prostitution, and driving under the influence are just a few of the categories that personnel can now use in their reports. In addition, personnel using IBR are expected to report all offenses that occur within any given situation, rather than just reporting the most serious offense that took place during the incident, like with UCR. This provides national and regional departments with a comprehensive look into crime statistics for each jurisdiction. The newer IBR process also outlines what information is required for each report, allowing for standard data collection nationwide. This provides a comprehensive narrative for each incident, rather than the statistical-based Summary Reporting that only contains the information the officer or records clerk deemed important at the time.

Another major difference between IBR and UCR is the validation process. IBR requires that all reports be validated before they are submitted, which helps ensure that all necessary data is included in each report. However, keep in mind that this will also create a need for agencies to establish a workflow in their reporting processes, if they do not already have one in place. Working to establish a workflow now, even if your agency is not currently using IBR, could save you a lot of time and frustration down the road once IBR becomes the standard.

How will IBR Benefit Your Agency?

Even though switching to IBR could involve workflow changes, it also comes with important advantages. Having more detailed reports provides your agency, not just the FBI, with a more accurate depiction of crime trends in your specific jurisdiction, as well as surrounding areas. With IBR, your personnel will have access to all the data needed to identify when and where a crime took place and other related incidents, rather than only what crime occurred. These kind of details, such as the relationship between the victim and the offender or the relationship between the offender and other incidents, provide users with a clearer picture. Specifications on victims and perpetrators, including their relationships, can be kept on file, making it easy for you to go back later and use those details to clear up questions during an investigation.

IBR is meant to help your agency identify common problems and trends in your community faster, helping your personnel remain transparent and informative during the moments that matter. This improves your agency’s image to the public and helps ensure that your administrators are always aware of what information is being circulated in the community. Because IBR requires such detailed information, you can quickly build advanced reports from any data collected during the process. You can also easily compare data across similar jurisdictions using common data elements because all agencies will use the same reporting system. Your agency can then work together with neighboring communities to develop strategies and solutions to similar problems.

Finally, the new incident reporting process helps ease the burden on records clerks who have to try and interpret how an incident unfolded. With IBR, all crucial information is recorded upfront by your agency’s field personnel and is then verified by other parties during the reporting process. This gives all national and local agencies access to more accurate data and speeds up the reporting process for everyone involved.

Challenges You Need to Consider

As was mentioned earlier, new reporting mandates a change in data capturing and workflow processes within an agency. Your agency personnel may have to get used to capturing information in more detail than has been needed for reports in the past. However, a majority of agencies are already gathering the information needed for IBR and personnel simply need to get used to reporting the data in a new way. Agency administrators will need to be the driving force in making that a priority and ensuring that everyone understands what is expected when creating reports. You will also need to make sure that your software is setup to meet your state’s requirements. Having a system that incorporates IBR changes into the actual forms and reports will help you make sure you are capturing all needed information when you first enter the data. For example, Spillman Technologies’ Flex system creates a seamless integration process by highlighting fields in the Mobile Field Report to show which fields are needed for state requirements. Flex also displays an error message when personnel try to submit a report that is not complete, making it easy for users to quickly see what specific data needs to be edited before submitting the report. Software capabilities like these and others help create an easy-to-use validation process from the very beginning.

Will your current public safety software system be able to handle and help facilitate these new reporting processes? Take a custom demonstration to discover how Flex makes the move to IBR a little easier.