Jun 14, 2022 - News

Florida is slow to move to new FBI crime reporting system

Months of 2021 FBI crime data reported in by agency
Data: FBI, The Marshall Project; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios Visuals (Note: The chart includes agency participation data compiled by the FBI through Feb. 7, 2022, which was the deadline for local agencies to submit crime data for its Q4 2021 report. Local agencies had until March 7, 2022 to submit data for the FBI's 2021 national crime report, so the final participation status may change.)

Florida's nearly 400 law enforcement agencies did not report 2021 crime numbers to the FBI, joining the nearly 40% of agencies nationwide that failed to do so, according to information provided to Axios by The Marshall Project, a criminal justice watchdog organization.

Why it matters: Florida was part of a trend that will result in a data gap that experts say makes it harder to analyze crime 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 big picture: Nearly 40% of law enforcement agencies around the country, including departments in New York City, Los Angeles and the entire state of California, did not submit any data for 2021.

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.

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

Zoom in: The state agency orchestrating the transition β€” the Florida Department of Law Enforcement β€” tells Axios it will begin publishing detailed crime data using the new system later this year.

  • "Florida is in the process of transitioning," FDLE spokesperson Jeremy Burns told Axios. "For a period of a few years, both summary-based and incident-based will be reported."

Flashback: State agencies have used so-called summary-based reporting β€” capturing only the seven most serious crimes β€” since 1971.

What's next: The new system, called the Florida Incident-Based Reporting System, will gather much more information about each crime than past summary-based reporting.

  • For example, if a suspect commits burglary, motor vehicle theft and aggravated assault, all three crimes will be reported. Under the old system, only the most serious crime was reported.
  • It's also even more expansive than NIBRS, collecting information about several state-specific criminal offense categories.

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