Accurate crime statistics expected with new reporting system

The Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office and other law enforcement agencies across the country are changing to a new system of crime reporting that is expected to generate more accurate local crime data.

Local law enforcement agencies are required to report crime data to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA), which publishes it in Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) that are used by law enforcement, members of state government and the public to analyze crime in Minnesota. The BCA also submits the data to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which uses the information from the BCA and other state agencies around the country for law enforcement administration, operation and management purposes.

“In the past we’ve reported what’s called ‘Minnesota offense crimes’ to the BCA through hand-submitted forms,” said Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Mike Hamann during the Jan. 28 Pipestone County Commissioner meeting. “That’s the way it’s been done for years.”

The FBI, however, is making the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) the national standard for crime reporting by Jan. 1, 2021. After that the FBI will only collect data through NIBRS and the system currently used by the Sheriff’s Office will no longer be used.

According to the FBI, it “has made nationwide implementation of NIBRS a top priority because NIBRS can provide more useful statistics to promote constructive discussion, measured planning, and informed policing.” NIBRS counts 58 categories of offenses instead of 10 as is the case with the Summary Reporting System (SRS) used by the Sheriff’s Office; can collect data on multiple offenses per incident; and collects details about crime, such as location, that the SRS does not, according to the FBI.

“It’s not that the old system didn’t work,” Hamann said. “It was not very accurate is probably the best way to put it. This, I think, will be more accurate for the bean counters [at the federal level] that want to make sure they understand what’s going on not just in New York, but in southwest Minnesota. It will also help us track crimes and clearances of those crimes better than we could before.”

Pipestone County Jail Administrator Ed Scholten said the information collected through NIBRS will be more accurate because officers will input the data as they work on a case rather than him entering it after the fact and not having all the information available.

Pipestone County Sheriff Keith Vreeman has said in the past that his office does not submit all of the data used for the crime reports because it would require in some cases going through information “over a year after court is complete to put the right information in each case,” which his office was “not set up to do.” For that reason, he said the Sheriff’s Office did not submit all the data used in the crime reports and the information in the reports pertaining to Pipestone County was not accurate or complete.

Hamann said the Sheriff’s Office received an $8,000 grant from the BCA to cover the cost to transition to NIBRS. Scholten said the county will conduct a three-month trial period of NIBRS prior to the end of the year before the system becomes the new standard.

Hamann said some larger law enforcement agencies are already using NIBRS and the Sheriff’s Office opted to wait until this year to let those agencies “work out the headaches.”

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