As of January 1, 2021, the FBI officially retired the collection of crime data through the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s traditional Summary Reporting System (SRS). The FBI has encouraged a nationwide implementation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in each agency as it enhances the overall quality of crime data collected by law enforcement.
With this new style of data reporting, however, comes new communication challenges. Not only does NIBRS analyze more offenses than SRS, but it also captures more detailed crime data during a single incident, including information on relationship between victims and suspects; demographic details; property descriptions; suspected drug use; and more. Because NIBRS reports have become more detailed, some context is needed to illustrate the differences in the reports due to system changes rather than increased crime.
To meet this concern, the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) partners have created technical assistance documents to equip agencies with the knowledge necessary to proactively communicate with the public regarding crime data.
Transparency is a key factor in today’s policing profession. Opening to community members and stakeholders regarding the benefits of NIBRS can positively influence how an agency’s crime statistics are received. NCS-X’s Talking About NIBRS: Messaging About Crime Data to Stakeholders tackles this issue by providing best practices on how to properly communicate an agency’s transition to reporting NIBRS crime data.
While the document identifies tips for NIBRS messaging, such as educating personnel and staff on the benefits of NIBRS and anticipating potential questions from data users, it also lays out important messages that answer how incident-based reporting (IBR) is different from SRS. These will help stakeholders to better understand why the switch to NIBRS data is a positive change. The document explains how crime data provides meaningful insight for addressing public safety issues and builds positive relationships and trust with the community, as well as several fast facts about NIBRS.
Curious on how to begin the communication process? Talking About NIBRS provides a list of potential ways for an agency to reach out and engage with the public while also discussing how to best utilize these options. Among this list are social media, press releases, city council meetings, or annual reports.
In the aforementioned technical assistance document, issuing a press release to announce an agency’s transition is identified as an important communication tool to help inform stakeholders of NIBRS crime data.
In its companion piece, NIBRS Transition Press Release Template, the NCS-X team has identified the five key components of writing a press release:
1. Describe what is changing;
2. Explain why the change is necessary;
3. Communicate when the change is happening;
4. Describe how the change will affect the community; and
5. Emphasize the benefits of the change.
The document also provides sample text and formatting to illustrate these five elements in a developed press release.
While there has been a great push to transition each agency to NIBRS, there are still many throughout the country who have not made the switch. The FBI, BJS, and the NCS-X team has remained committed to assisting all agencies during their transition process.