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Mississippi lawmakers want better crime reporting from law enforcement agencies

MANDATORY: If House Bill 1040 becomes law, Mississippi law enforcement agencies will have to provide data for the FBI's expanded crime database. Photo by the Pearl Police Department

In the 2016 National Incident-Based Reporting System report, there were only three law enforcement agencies in Mississippi that provided expanded crime information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

If a bill that's only one step away from receiving Gov. Phil Bryant's signature becomes law, participation by state and local law enforcement agencies in the FBI's expanded crime report will become mandatory.

House Bill 1040, sponsored by state Rep. Timmy Ladner (R-Poplarville), was amended in the Senate and was returned to the House for concurrence. If the House approves the changes, the bill will head to the governor's desk.

HB 1040 have several requirements, including:

  • All law enforcement agencies in the state would have to adhere to a crime reporting method that meets FBI standards for the National Incident-Based Reporting System.

  • Agencies would be required to report the crime to a state database for the NIBRS that would be established if the bill becomes law.

  • The Mississippi Department of Public Safety will have to file a report with the Legislature on how many law enforcement agencies statewide are in compliance with the law.

The FBI NIBRS report was designed to improve improve the overall quality of crime data collected by law enforcement because it captures details on each single crime incident and also provides information on separate offenses contained in the same incident. This includes information on victims, relationships between victims and offenders, known offenders and property involved in crimes.

The FBI has used its Uniform Crime Reporting summary system for decades to provide statistics for crime trends and research by departments and policymakers. The NIBRS is an improvement since the UCR only provides aggregate monthly totals of incidents without any context or circumstances that the detailed NIBRS standard provides. The FBI has a goal of moving all of its crime data collection to the NIBRS model by 2021.

At present, Mississippi doesn't have a state crime reporting system and law enforcement agencies statewide submit their data directly to the FBI, the only state nationally to do so.

According to the FBI, only one third of law enforcement agencies nationwide participate in the NIBRS standard and the agency admits there could be added costs for law enforcement agencies to implement the new standards.

For the 2016 report, only the Gulfport and Biloxi police departments and the Harrison County Sheriff's Department are submitting data under the NIBRS standard. Mississippi's participation in the NIBRS wasn't the nation's worst, as Alabama, Illinois and Minnesota only had one agency apiece using the expanded reporting standards.

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