The city of Pittsburgh’s Bureau of Police is modernizing how it records and reports crime data and will switch over to using the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS).
NIBRS is the law enforcement community’s standard for quantifying crime. It replaces the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) method, which was formally discontinued in 2021.
The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police said that the public should be aware of key differences between the two reporting methods. They said that the differences will result in crime statistics that initially appear to be higher than usual, due to the specificity of the information gathered using the NIBRS system.
Some of the key differences between the two reporting methods are:
- Changes in offenses – Both NIBRS and UCR collect data on “crimes against persons” and “crimes against property” for offenses such as homicide, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, burglary, arson, auto theft, and others. Unlike UCR, NIBRS also documents the additional category of “crimes against society” which do not involve an injured party or piece of property. These would include prohibitions against certain types of activity such as drugs, gambling, pornography, prostitution, and weapons law violations. NIBRS also documents offenses such as animal cruelty, extortion, and identity theft.
- Seriousness of offenses – NIBRS tends to show higher figures than UCR due to the manner in which offenses are counted. UCR data recognizes the most serious offense committed during an incident, whereas NIBRS essentially eliminates the “hierarchy” of offenses, as officers can collect data on up to 10 criminal offenses within an incident.
- Changes in crime classification – Under the old UCR system, offenses are categorized as Part I (serious crimes against persons and property) and Part II (all other non-miscellaneous offenses). These will be replaced by Group A and Group B offenses under NIBRS. Group A is comprised of more than 20 indexed crime categories, as opposed to the eight indexed offenses in the UCR. Officers will have to determine which category an offense belongs to in order to determine whether an arrest report or an incident report will be required. Under UCR, attempted crimes are reported as crime. The new NIBRS system focuses on whether the crime was attempted or completed.
“With a great deal of assistance from our partners in Allegheny County, as well as help from other police agencies that are currently using the system, the team has worked to meet the more specific needs of the Pittsburgh Police through data input, design, and focused outputs,” said Pittsburgh Police Acting Commander of Administration Patrick Fosnaught.
“The new system will provide better data collection, upgraded functionality, improved performance, and enhanced search and investigative capabilities. All of these will allow officers to focus on police-related tasks, rather than spending valuable time on data entry and outdated processes,” he said.