OPD switches crime reporting program to retain federal funding

Posted on Feb 8 2018 - 7:58am by Jordan Holman

The Oxford Police Department will be switching over from the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) system it currently uses to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) within the next year. Overall, OPD hopes the new system will make its annual crime reports to the FBI more detailed.

With the UCR program, the department summarizes its reports under the hierarchy rule, so in a potential multi-crime incident, only the most serious crime is reported to the FBI. The new NIBRS system will allow OPD to include each crime reported in a multi-crime incident in addition to detailing the relationship of the victim to the perpetrator and the date, time and location of the crime.

“Under UCR, if someone broke into your house, stole your TV, jewelry, assaulted you and busted out your windows, only the burglary would be included in our state reports,” OPD Maj. Sheriden Maiden said.

This system can thus be problematic in its lack of detail, Maiden said. It can deflate crime statistics, making it appear as though fewer crimes occur in an area than actually do. When crime statistics are inaccurate in such a manner, local and state law enforcement have difficulty knowing where and how to allocate their resources.

“UCR has been in use since the 1940s,” Maiden said. “Society has evolved, and (UCR) has served its purpose. NIBRS is much more useful now.”

OPD plans to implement the system not only to make Oxford’s crime statistics more accurate but also to comply with new federal laws. According to the FBI, if local law enforcements do not implement the NIBRS method of reporting by Jan. 1, 2021, they will lose federal funding. For OPD, this would mean a cut for many of its current programs.

“If we lost federal funding, we could keep doing what we’re doing,” Maiden said. “But we would not be able to do it as effectively.”

To avoid this, OPD plans to implement the system by the end of the year. It is applying for a federal grant to fund the change; however, if it is not awarded the grant, the department will have to either reevaluate its budget in October – when it plans for the next fiscal year – or ask the city to subsidize the transition.

Upon implementation of the NIBRS, OPD officers will have about 18 hours of training to learn how to use the new software. This will ultimately cost the department money spent on the training and on officers not spending that time working.

According to Maiden, the switch will have little effect on the community of Oxford.

“Crime statistics won’t rise or fall,” Maiden said. “The way we report incidents is just going to be a little bit different.”

The switch from the UCR system of reporting to NIBRS will clarify and improve crime statistics across the state of Mississippi, not just the city of Oxford. Currently, 39 states have successfully adopted the NIBRS; Oxford’s adoption will offer the state and city a clearer picture of how resources should be spent.