As of January 1, 2021, the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) became the national standard for law enforcement crime data reporting in the United States. The transition to NIBRS represents a significant shift – and improvement – in how reported crime is measured and estimated by the federal government.
NIBRS captures detailed data about the characteristics of criminal incidents, including:
- a broad array of offenses
- types and amount of property lost
- demographic information about victims, offenders, and persons arrested
- what type of weapon, if any, was used in the incident.
NIBRS data more accurately reflect the types of crime addressed by police agencies, like simple assault, animal cruelty, destruction of property, intimidation, and identity theft. The broad scope of the information collected in NIBRS will greatly improve the nation’s understanding of crime and public safety.
Measuring Crime Reported to Law Enforcement using NIBRS Data
The 2021 data year will mark the first time that the FBI and BJS estimate reported crime in the United States based solely on NIBRS data. Those crime estimates will be derived from data submitted by states and local agencies that were certified to report data in the 2021 data year.
As of June 2022—
- all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia are certified to report crime data to NIBRS
- 66% of the U.S. population is covered by NIBRS-reporting law enforcement agencies
- 62 NIBRS-certified agencies serve cities with a population of 250,000 or more, covering a total population of more than 37 million persons.
The map below depicts the percentage of the population covered by NIBRS-reporting agencies in 2021, by state.
In late 2012, BJS funded the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) Initiative to study the feasibility of producing national estimates of reported crime that included offense details and characteristics. NIBRS captured the crime elements needed to make those estimates, but the collection was not national in scope. Initial efforts showed that NIBRS data could be used to generate national estimates of reported crime using a sample-based strategy for expanding the number of reporting agencies.
BJS and the FBI partnered to implement NCS-X with the goals to—
- expand the number of law enforcement agencies contributing crime data to NIBRS and
- develop the statistical methodology to describe the details and context of crime across the United States.
This partnership leveraged the FBI’s existing NIBRS program infrastructure, allowing BJS and the FBI to recruit agencies for NIBRS participation, including all the nation’s largest jurisdictions not yet reporting to NIBRS.
See the National Crime Statistics Exchange (NCS-X) program page for more information.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) developed the Law Enforcement Agency Reported Crime Analysis Tool (LEARCAT) to provide access to incident-based data on crimes recorded by law enforcement. LEARCAT uses data from the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), as well as contextual information from other federal data sources, such as the U.S. Census Bureau.
LEARCAT enables users to—
- examine NIBRS data at multiple levels of geography, including state, county, and agency levels
- produce custom views of the NIBRS data that provide information on various attributes of crime
- produce custom datasets for analysis
- generate univariate statistics and perform basic cross-tabulation analyses, among other functions.
LEARCAT includes NIBRS data from 2016 to 2021. BJS will enhance or expand data within the tool, based on the availability of data and resources.
Listen as Erica Smith (BJS) and Edward Abraham (FBI) discuss the significant improvements the transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) offers in this Justice Today podcast.