Why Did Crime Reporting Change?

January 26, 2021 by Kate Nadolski

Why Did Crime Reporting Change?

Properly collecting, storing, and managing data is a critically important process for law enforcement.

Without the collection and analyzing of data, agencies would have limited means for gathering insights that help improve public safety.

For years, public safety agencies understood the importance of data – but couldn’t access or utilize their data. That’s why the FBI created a system to help collect information from agencies around the country. This system is what we now call Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR).

UCR requires each agency, regardless of their state, to collect data from crimes committed in their jurisdictions. That information is then fed to the FBI and analyzed, helping authorities use true crime statistics to identify trends and important insights. This data helps law enforcement agencies enact proactive policing tactics and protect their communities by replacing theories with facts.

However, UCR is not without its challenges.

One of the challenges of UCR is that not every crime committed is recorded and reported to the FBI. Under UCR requirements, officers are only required to submit to the FBI the highest crime a perpetrator commits.

For instance, imagine if a suspect committed larceny, arson, and homicide. The agency handling this case would only be reporting the homicide charge to the FBI – as it would be classified as the most severe – and the other two charges would not be included in that specific report. In turn, under UCR, it is challenging to present true crime statistics or portray accurate crime within a community.

This inaccuracy in reporting is the main reason law enforcement agencies and the FBI have since begun moving away from using UCR and creating new practices.

The FBI is now requiring agencies to adhere to requirements under Incident-Based Reporting (IBR). With IBR, agencies must report each crime a perpetrator commits to the FBI, instead of just the top offense. While moving from UCR to IBR is not mandatory, funding can be jeopardized for agencies not adhering to FBI standards of reporting.

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