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The investigation is examining the accuracy of the arrest data in the FBI’s NIBRS crime database.

A team of researchers led by Theodore P. Cross investigated the accuracy of the FBI’s National Incident-Based Report System arrest data for crimes in Massachusetts. Cross is a professor of social work and senior research specialist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Credit: L. BrianStauffer

As more police agencies move to the FBI’s national case-based reporting system for criminal reporting, a survey of data from a state disagrees with NIBRS design flaws, arrest timing, and human factors. It turns out that there is a possibility of connecting.


When the authors of the current study compared the status of 480 NIBRS state-wide samples data They collected about 16% of cases that were collected directly from the Massachusetts jurisdiction where the crime occurred and falsely indicated in NIBRS whether the arrest was or was summoned.

“Overall, in 84% of cases, NIBRS data is Law enforcement agencyCo-author Theodore P. Cross, a professor of social work and senior research specialist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said: Of a single data field for entering both arrests and summons. “

Cross conducted an investigation with Alex Wagner, Director of Investigation and Analysis at Emory University, and Daniel Bibel, a criminal justice counseling and investigation.

NIBRS expert Bibel, who has managed the Massachusetts Police Crime Reporting Unit for 27 years, has the team get a random sample of cases under investigation, funded by the National Justice Department and published in a journal of crime and misconduct. Helped to do.

Bibel died in 2020.

The data samples included two of the most frequent violent crimes in Massachusetts (weighted assault and sexual assault), as well as simple assault and intimidation cases.

According to the investigation, the suspect was arrested in more than 33% of cases and the subpoena was issued in more than 18% of cases.

However, over 13% of the sample cases were false negatives and were falsely recorded in NIBRS that they were not resolved by arrest or summoning. According to researchers’ analysis, most of these false negatives occurred when subpoenas were issued rather than arrests.

Researchers found that nearly 41% of sample sexual assault cases were false negatives, 32% of intimidation cases, more than 19% of worsening assault cases, and almost 16% of simple assault cases were false negatives. Did.

False negatives were significantly associated with delayed arrests, according to Cross. “If you are arrested more than a day later crime When it does occur, the accuracy of the NIBRS data has dropped significantly. “

for example, Sexual assault According to the investigation, 40% of the arrests were made more than a day after the crime occurred.

The police station can update the case if an arrest or summon occurs after the initial data entry, but the staff is responsible for the conflict or is unaware that the arrest was made, so these updates It may not be done. Therefore, departmental arrests may be underestimated by NIBRS.

Some others False negative The team found it due to a design flaw in NIBRS. The user manual tells staff to enter both summons and arrests in the “Arrest” data field, but some users were unaware of it. Therefore, more than half of the subpoenas issued for the sample crimes were not recorded in NIBRS.

According to Cross, the NIBRS designers created a single data field to report arrests and summons, streamlining otherwise rigorous data entry tasks. However, this can lead to underreporting of subpoenas, as users usually distinguish between arrests, that is, physically detaining suspects and summoning someone to appear in court. There is sex.

The team also found a small number of false positives (probably data entry errors) that falsely indicated in NIBRS that the suspect had been arrested or summoned to court.

“This is a human process where advanced data acquisition tasks rest on the shoulders of one million differently responsible law enforcement professionals,” Cross said. “There were factors that compromised the accuracy of the data that could be identified and addressed through support, training, and resources.”

NIBRS is Crime statistics Data in and from the United States have been used in many groundbreaking studies. However, the team warns that criminal tendencies based on NIBRS data may not represent the entire United States, as police agencies currently using it cover only 29% of the U.S. population. Did.

Some of the most populous US cities, including Boston and Chicago, do not currently use NIBRS because they have their own data systems. In Illinois, only 1% of state law enforcement agencies use NIBRS to report statistics, Wagner said.

According to the survey, about 85% of Massachusetts law enforcement agencies that voluntarily report crime statistics use NIBRS, and the rest use another system called unified crime reporting.

The FBI has supported both systems for many years, but on January 1, 2021, the agency stopped accepting data from Uniform Crime Reports and began urging law enforcement agencies to switch to NIBRS.

NIBRS collects more detailed information about crime, and wider use by police agencies could benefit criminal researchers, Cross said.

“We believe NIBRS can really improve the quality of criminal data in the United States, especially now that the FBI is taking this seriously and is increasingly recruiting police agencies to participate,” Cross said. Says. “Paying attention to the human processes behind the data will be rewarded by understanding the information we are collecting and improving the collection process.”


Study: DNA may have little effect on the arrest of sexual assault


For more information:
Theodore P. Cross et al, The Accuracy of Arrest Data in the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), Crime and delinquency (2022). DOI: 10.1177 / 00111287211067180

Quote: In the investigation, the FBI’s NIBRS Crime Database (February 2022) obtained from https: //phys.org/news/2022-02-accuracy-fbi-nibrs-crime-database.html on February 18, 2022. We are investigating the accuracy of the arrest data (18th).

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The investigation is examining the accuracy of the arrest data in the FBI’s NIBRS crime database.

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