Jun 14, 2022 - News

Chicago reported incomplete crime data to FBI in 2021

Months of 2021 FBI crime data reported in Illinois, by agency
Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Map: Jared Whalen/Axios Visuals

The Chicago Police Department failed to report five months of its 2021 crime data to the FBI, according to a Marshall Project analysis shared with Axios.

  • Chicago is among 20% of cities that reported incomplete data. Another 40% reported no data at all.

Why it matters: This information gap makes it harder to analyze trends and fact-check claims politicians make about crime.

  • "It's going to be really hard for policymakers to look at what crime looks like in their own community and compare it to similar communities," Jacob Kaplan, a criminologist at Princeton University, told The Marshall Project.

The backdrop: Last year, the FBI retired its nearly century-old national crime-data collection program and switched to a new system, the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), which gathers more specific information on each incident.

  • Even though the FBI announced the transition years ago and the federal government spent hundreds of millions of dollars to help local police make the switch, nearly 7,000 of the nation’s 18,000 law enforcement agencies did not send crime data to the voluntary program in 2021.

By the numbers: Across Illinois, 19% of cities — including those in Chicago, Niles, Naperville and Morton Grove — reported less than 11 months of data, according to the analysis.

  • Around 15% — including Rockford, Cicero, Schaumburg and Joliet — reported at least 11 months of data.
  • But 66% of Illinois departments, including Peoria, Huntley and Crystal Lake, reported none at all.

What happened: A CPD spokesperson tells us the department transitioned to NIBRS about halfway through last year, and only data following the transition was submitted for 2021.

  • At the Peoria Police Department, records administrator Shawn Wetzel says the department wanted to report its stats but ran into technical issues.

What they're saying: "We just got certified last week to do submissions," Wetzel tells Axios. "It has been a big challenge with the vendors trying to figure out how to get the software coding right to provide that electronically. It's been quite a struggle."

  • After another technical delay last week, he says, the department "will be uploading it to the FBI very soon."

The big picture: While some departments may be withholding crime records, several across the nation tell Axios reporters that they've been stymied by technical issues they're still working out.

  • Regardless of the reasons, the data deficit makes research and policy development complicated.
Caption: Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios Visuals
Caption: Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios Visuals

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more