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What Is Incident-Based Reporting and NIBRS?

The incident-based reporting (IBR) of criminal offenses or incidents is a data collection strategy that differs markedly from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's traditional  summary-based Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program. In IBR systems, law enforcement agencies maintain a database of the details of criminal incidents that are reported to them and report these details to their state UCR programs. In summary reporting, most local law enforcement agencies provide a monthly count of offenses and arrests for certain offense categories to their state UCR systems, which in turn report these totals to the FBI. Localities with IBR can fulfill the summary reporting requirements of the FBI's UCR program by aggregating selected incident level data.

IBR systems, which are defined at the local and state levels, involve comprehensive data collection at the incident level on the various aspects of reported criminal incidents. Depending upon the design of the particular system, the information collected can include details about the incident location, offense(s), offender(s), victim(s), property, and arrestee(s). These systems can provide a solid foundation for tactical decision-making, strategic planning, offender tracking through the criminal justice system, research, and reporting. Localities and states with IBR systems can perform crime mapping, produce annual and special reports, and respond to ad hoc requests. Some states with IBR maintain Internet sites that display standard reports and/or provide downloadable data or reports.

In 1985, the FBI introduced the National Incident-Based Crime Reporting System (NIBRS), which is a standardized IBR system. Agencies that adopt NIBRS can choose to enhance the system to accommodate local requirements and still meet NIBRS reporting standards. Since NIBRS core elements are standardized across states and localities, large data sets can be obtained for analysis. For more information on NIBRS, visit JRSA's Incident-Based Reporting Resource Center. More information on the status of NIBRS implementation in the states can be obtained from BJS or on the SEARCH (National Consortium for Justice Information and Statistics) NIBRS Web site. Information about NIBRS data reporting requirements and the certification process can be obtained from the FBI's Web site.

The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) was developed by the FBI to improve the statistical reporting and analysis capabilities of the law enforcement community. The specifications for NIBRS are the result of a collaborative effort between the FBI and local, state, and national criminal justice agencies and professional organizations.

The FBI certifies states for incident-based reporting. For a list of the states certified, testing, or developing NIBRS, see BJS's status listing. Within each state, the number of reporting agencies varies. Law enforcement agencies with an existing incident-based reporting system can modify their systems to satisfy NIBRS requirements. Alternatively, agencies that implement NIBRS can expand its capabilities to meet internal agency requirements and still be NIBRS compliant.