According to the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), in 2014, 6,520 law enforcement agencies—charged with protecting more than 93 million U.S. inhabitants—reported 4,759,438 incidents involving 5,489,485 offenses, 5,790,423 victims, and 4,414,016 known offenders.
Among the report’s highlights:
•Of the offenses reported during 2014, 63.6 percent involved crimes against property, 23 percent involved crimes against persons, and 13.4 percent included crimes against society (so-called “victimless” crimes like gambling).
•There were 4,414,016 known offenders, meaning that at least one characteristic of the suspect—such as age, sex, or race—was known. Of these offenders, nearly a third (32.3 percent) were between 16 and 25 years of age, the majority (63.9 percent) were male, and more than half (57.1 percent) were white.
•Concerning the relationship of victims to known offenders, 52.7 percent of the 1,273,602 victims knew the individual perpetrating the crime but were not related to them. Nearly a quarter of the victims (24.8 percent) were related to their offenders.
In addition to the standard data tables, this year’s NIBRS report includes a new feature: an interactive map that allows users to click on a state, view map pins for each agency, select a pin, and get a drop-down listing of that agency’s offense data for 2014.
NIBRS, 2014 also includes a monograph on sex offenses previously reported by law enforcement that demonstrates the benefit of NIBRS data in allowing a more granular examination of a topic.
Unlike data reported through UCR’s traditional Summary Reporting System (an aggregate monthly tally of crimes) and published annually in Crime in the United States, NIBRS data goes deeper because of its ability to provide circumstances and context for crimes. It includes all offenses within a single incident as well as additional aspects about each event, like location, time of day, relationship between victim and offender, and whether the incident was cleared. NIBRS also includes data on 23 offense categories made up of 49 offenses, as opposed to the Summary Reporting System’s 10 Part I offenses. Ultimately, NIBRS will improve the detail and overall quality of crime data, which will help law enforcement and communities around the country use resources more strategically and effectively.
However, only about a third of all U.S. law enforcement agencies currently participate in NIBRS. Transitioning to the new system can be somewhat costly, and—because of the greater level of reporting specificity in NIBRS—it can initially appear that an agency has higher levels of crime after switching to NIBRS.
But because NIBRS can provide more useful statistics that will promote constructive discussion, measured planning, and informed policing, FBI Director James Comey has made across-the-board implementation of NIBRS one of his top priorities. At a recent International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) conference in Chicago—a video excerpt of his remarks is included in this latest NIBRS report—he talked about the importance of this program: “We face a data shortage on the violent crime front. We can’t tell you on a national level how many shootings there were in any particular city last weekend,” Comey said. “How can we address a rise in violent crime without good information? And without information, every single conversation in this country about policing and reform and justice is uninformed, and that is a very bad place to be.”