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Is your agency ready to transition to NIBRS?

Agencies need to embrace this change and understand this type of information is critical to crime prevention and crime-solving

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Agencies need to embrace the move to NIBRS and understand this type of information is critical to crime prevention and crime-solving.


The FBI is responding to law enforcement’s call to upgrade and update the nation’s crime statistics by transitioning from the Summary Reporting System (SRS) to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) by January 1, 2021. This article outlines key considerations for an agency to successfully transition to NIBRS.


According to the FBI archives, the Uniform Crime Reporting system was established with influence from the International Association of Chiefs of Police dating back to 1927. The UCR was essentially passed by Congress on June 11, 1930. Several decades later, over 17,000 law enforcement agencies leverage UCR in their practice. This will change in 2021 with the sunsetting of UCR in favor of NIBRS.

FBI guidance

The FBI recognizes this is a monumental shift in practice, which is why they gave several years’ notice, from February 9, 2016, to be exact, to law enforcement agencies.

An early announcement, coupled with cooperation from member organizations of the FBI CJIS Advisory Policy Board, federal agency partners (e.g. BJA, COPS, BJS) and information on their website, will help agencies make the necessary adjustments to their business processes of data collection, analysis and reporting.

Below are some key considerations agencies need to weigh during their transition to NIBRS.

Key considerations

  • Grant funding: In 2018, the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grants indicated that states that are not compliant with NIBRS by 2021 must dedicate a 3% set-aside of their JAG award toward achieving compliance. Through the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, several million dollars’ worth of grant funding has been awarded to almost half of the states in the country to assist with the transition to NIBRS. Agencies should continue to see funding opportunities from various DOJ government bodies.
  • Software procurement: Software procurement is a resource-intensive effort. It takes due diligence, the capturing of business requirements, a methodical review of solution providers, training end-users and on-going maintenance. It’s never a plug-and-play solution. Failing to procure the right software based on agency requirements and NIBRS requirements will lead to a financial loss and a decrease in morale among agency personnel. The FBI offers a two-page summary of steps that agencies need to take to guide them in the right direction.
  • State UCR contacts: Each agency should contact its state UCR contacts to find out what technical specifications should be used. Contacting the state UCR representative is a great first step for a briefing about the business process changes that they should expect.
  • Capturing and migrating data to NIBRS offense codes: Incorrectly mapping data would be a nightmare. Every law enforcement IT professional understands the importance of data mapping and how time-consuming and detail-oriented this task is. Agencies need to plan for this accordingly. The agency needs to work with the state UCR officials to ensure they are conforming to the correct state standards. The FBI provides a one-page summary of additional factors agencies need to consider when mapping their data.
  • Review of current RMS capabilities: Agencies will need to review the capabilities of its current RMS to determine if it has the functionality to accurately capture, store, share and export NIBRS data. If the RMS does not have this capability, then the agency will need to determine if a software upgrade is needed. This can be accomplished with a thorough review of the current RMS, documentation of the findings and documenting the agency’s business requirements for capturing NIBRS data. Agencies can conduct this assessment in-house or use a third-party to conduct the review (e.g., a consultant).
  • Testing before go-live: The agency will have to create a testing schedule with its IT team, end-users and possibly other agencies (e.g., state agency, FBI) to make sure everything is technically sound before going live. The agency needs to account for delays and schedule in time in its NIBRS conversion schedule to allow for any bug fixes.
  • NIBRS certification requirements: According to the FBI, agencies and state programs must submit incident-based data for six consecutive months and meet certain criteria to become NIBRS certified. The FBI created a one-page summary of criteria agencies will need to adopt from capturing LEOKA and hate crime data to sustaining “an error rate of 4 percent or less for three separate, consecutive data submissions.”

While any changes of this magnitude are going to be resource-intensive, agencies need to embrace this change and understand that this type of information is critical to crime prevention and crime-solving. The FBI has provided reasonable guidance with what agencies need to know, grant funding is being made available, and there are points of contact at the state and federal level to assist agencies during their transition.

Additional Resources

Heather R. Cotter has been working with public safety professionals for 20 years and understands the resource challenges and constraints agencies face. Heather is a Captain in the United States Army Reserve and holds two master’s degrees from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. Contact her at