The Push for Incident-Based Reporting
January 26, 2021 by
The push to move from Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) to Incident-Based Reporting (IBR) is here. So, where is this big push coming from, and what happens if agencies don’t conform? Why is adhering to IBR standards so important? How do agency’s make the transition? These questions and more are answered in this interview with former corrections officer, public safety software IT liaison, and implementation consultant Clark Nethers.
In terms of tracking crime, UCR was first and is still something many agencies use to this day. Walk us through what it entails for officers and agencies.
UCR was the FBI’s first attempt to gather consistent statistics regarding crime reporting across the United States.
What they were attempting to do was make crime reporting consistent because no two jurisdictions or states necessarily report crime in the same way. That’s because in some cases, the states can enforce crime in their own form and fashion; whereas, in other states, they cannot.
However, UCR takes the highest charge that was committed, and that’s what was reported as far as the crime for that incident that took place, even if several charges were issued. But only recording the top offense resulted in skewed crime statistics, which doesn’t benefit agencies or communities looking for a truly transparent view into the actual crime statistics for any given area.
When did Incident-Based Reporting come into play? Explain how IBR differs.
In the late 1970s to mid-1980s the FBI came up with IBR. With IBR, officers must report each offense a perpetrator commits. The only thing this doesn’t include are minor infractions like speeding tickets. For example, if a criminal commits a murder and robs a bank, both offenses will be recorded and submitted under IBR. With UCR, only the murder would be reported up. Reporting each individual offense provides a broader scope of what crimes are being committed across the county, which in turn provides the truest crime statistics for any area whose law enforcement agency is participating.
Is there any requirement for agencies to participate in IBR?
There is no requirement for any agency to participate in UCR or IBR, but agencies that do not participate in IBR are not eligible for any grant money. In other words, it's mandatory if they want grant money, which many agencies do, as funds are generally tight across the board. Plus, it’s important for agencies to have the capability to properly track and report on crime statistics for accuracy, transparency, and to enact change that can help make communities safer.
There is a large demand for agencies to switch from UCR to IBR. Why is this switch so important?
Like anything, there are many reasons to make a change; however, in this scenario, there are two reasons that really impact agencies and the communities they serve.
One is that UCR is not the best method for getting efficient crime reporting done. With IBR, you’re collecting and submitting more data to provide a clear picture of true crime statistics.
The second reason is timeliness. With UCR, you have several employees tabulating and reporting these statistics manually on a tight deadline. With IBR, the entire process is entirely automated.
The digital process saves employees time, reduces human error, and ensures data is reported in a timely manner.
What does it take for an agency to make the transition from UCR to IBR?
You've got police officers and departments whose entire career has been focused on one certain way of crime reporting.
It’s important to help those officers understand the change and learn to navigate through it and manage it. It is a new process, but after a few clicks here and there, they’re managing to do the same thing more efficiently in less time – as long as they’re using the right public safety software to get the job done easily.
In many cases, law enforcement is ingrained in the UCR process, so it’s important for agencies to look for a public safety software vendor that can take the time with professional services offered to consult agencies. These consultants can identify the best practices and how they can be implemented at any agency, which makes the process much easier to absorb and adopt.
What would you say to agencies fearful of the transition from UCR to IBR?
It’s change, but there are professionals out there to help you through all of it.
The first time an officer goes to create a report that used to take about 10-15 minutes could take longer, but that’s solely because he or she needs to get used to the new reporting processes and/or learn new software solutions.
What’s important is to work with a software vendor that offers professional services so that there is an expert on hand to help everyone in the agency navigate these changes and new ways of doing things. Agencies need someone to listen and help them manage the change.
It’s important for agencies to accept that there are better ways to do things – even if it means changing the way things have been done for years – that will really help them and their community in the long run.
What does Incode public safety provide for agencies going through this transition, and what features exist that help with the IBR process?
As I mentioned, it’s important for agencies to work with a public safety software vendor that is going to listen and be there for them as they make the change from UCR to IBR – and even make the change from one software system to another.
Incode public safety from Tyler Technologies eliminates many redundant reporting methods and brings everything an agency needs into one tool. Agencies can use this tool to collect, store, and share mission-critical data around the clock. This tool eliminates repetition of data entry.
Agencies using Incode can do the entire report at one time, and if possible, electronically submit that information, or print out that separate document to send to the state until that state agency can accept digital reports. The officers can do more entries with less effort because this process reduces redundancy.
When it comes to state reporting, it’s being auto checked for errors because it’s a digital process. Due to the efficiency and ease as they enter the report, the clerks and staff can focus on other tasks. The efficiency of these processes is beneficial for all involved.
Plus, agencies using Incode – and any Tyler solution – have a committed support team to help agencies from the moment they sign the contract to well beyond that go-live moment to the day-to-day operations. This commitment helps agencies facilitate and foster change, which makes any process easier, and ultimately, helps agencies improve services and make communities safer.