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How to avoid the 4 major challenges of transitioning to NIBRS

Not preparing for NIBRS can pose huge challenges for your agency. Learn how to overcome them by preparing in advance

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The positive long-term effects and benefits that NIBRS will bring to both law enforcement agencies and citizens include greater transparency, reliability, accuracy and deeper understanding of crime data.

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By Steve Seoane for Police1 BrandFocus

Come January 1, 2021, the FBI will complete its transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) as its sole crime data collection method. With support from major law enforcement organizations like the International Association of Chiefs of Police and National Sheriffs’ Association, the FBI is requiring that every law enforcement agency in the country become NIBRS compliant. The positive long-term effects and benefits that NIBRS will bring to both law enforcement agencies and citizens include greater transparency, reliability, accuracy and deeper understanding of crime data to better understand trends and prevent future victimization. But as the NIBRS deadline approaches, some agencies worry about what exactly the transition will entail.

Here are some of the concerns and challenges law enforcement agencies know they’ll have on the road to transitioning to NIBRS and how to avoid them:

Apprehension that the increase of detail in crime reporting will create the perception of an increase in crime

Communities may worry about looking “worse” or misrepresented from the increased data collection, but NIBRS only represents a more accurate measurement of crime by reporting all incidents within a crime, not an increase in the crime itself. Of the agencies that have already transitioned to reporting with NIBRS, there is a minimal increase in crime statistics – only 10.6% of incidents involved multiple offenses.

Morale at an agency can suffer

During the transition to NIBRS, officers can get frustrated about the increased data entry, and records staff by their own increased workload. Officers who are accustomed to a specific reporting process will have to adjust to inputting the additional data now required. With the RMS Enterprise solution from CentralSquare, NIBRS code values are built into the software, expediting reporting. The system auto-generates NIBRS submission files, resulting in one less step for busy officers and records clerks and agency Terminal Agency Coordinators (TACs).

Report integrity can be at risk

As many officers are already aware, the integrity of report data can be called into question if it needs to be changed after the fact because the initial data input didn’t conform to NIBRS guidelines. Officers who are accustomed to classifying multiple offenses as part of the same offense – like sexual assault, motor vehicle theft and kidnapping/abduction all in one, for example – must now report each as a separate and distinct crime. If not correctly recorded, the report must be corrected which could create the potential for doubt in a courtroom. Only RMS Enterprise from CentralSquare provides auto validation, resulting in low error rates and improved data accuracy. An officer or data clerk who omits or enters data incorrectly will immediately see a prompt for a simple corrective action through RMS Enterprise.

RMS compatibility

Some smaller agencies may have budgetary concerns that come along with implementing any transition. But updating to a records management system vendor that facilitates the collection of the additional data elements that comes with NIBRS is vital for implementation success and cost-effectiveness. CentralSquare’s web-enabled solution takes RMS to the streets, where crimes happen. Officers can enter data while in the field, uploading directly to case files and reports. It’s simple and quick, ensuring that officers spend less time filing reports in the station, and more time on patrol.

Transitioning to NIBRS is a major time and resource commitment for any size agency, especially for the records division. It is seldom automatic, fast or without frustration, but as crime, technology, and legislation continually evolve, so must law enforcement. The benefits of the increased NIBRS details about criminal incidents will be instrumental to public safety efforts to analyze and develop strategies to reduce crimes and victimization.

NIBRS compliance is coming — is your agency ready?