National Incident-Based Reporting SystemIbrsIs a Research Paper

National Incident-Based Reporting System (IBRS) is a system used by national and state law enforcement agencies to report and analyze crimes. The system allows for the widespread use of data related to a variety of crimes coming to law enforcement agencies. The data collected includes the nature and types of specific offenses in the incident, characteristics of the victim(s) and offender(s), types and value of property stolen and recovered, and characteristics of persons arrested in connection with a crime incident.

The information collected by the IBRS is extensive and the use of the system can be, therefore, complex. Since the system was introduced in 1985 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation the basic system has been adopted by a number of local and state law enforcement agencies as well. Some of these jurisdictions, including the State of New York, have chosen to enhance the system or adapt it to their particular use.

The New York system provides a streamlined method of reporting police department generated crime reports that results in a simple monthly computerized summary. The system reduces the amount of paper work required of individual officers and reduces the need for auxiliary staffing. It improves the accuracy of the information being reported and eliminates duplication of information and it provides readily available crime information as to victims, suspects, crime locations, contraband seized and weapons used.

Other states currently using the IBRS system include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

There are a variety of record management systems in use by police agencies. Most of these systems, however, have been adapted to conform to IBRS standards so that the information from their private vendor’s system can be easily transferred. It is essentially, however, that the information be maintained in a minimum of 68 data elements. Each crime is broken down into 6 major categories. These major categories are then broken down further. This system of categorizing provides a uniform system of crime reporting. The 6 major categories are based on administrative concerns, offense type, property involved, suspect information, victim information, and arrestee background.

The IBRS system has been implemented to help evaluate the crime data available for all offenses that have been classified as hate crimes. To be classified as hate crime the motivation behind the commission of the crime must be examined. This requires that the investigating officer must be able to clearly identify a bias motivation and report this motivation in addition to the specific elements of the underlying crime. At the present time the reporting of hate crimes has not been perfected. State and national groups utilizing the IBRS are working to develop uniform protocols for the reporting of these types of crimes. The New York Division of Criminal Justice Services, for example, has a new set of instructions for reporting hate crime incidents that is hoped to provide more meaningful information as to the victim and the location of the reported offense and to make sure that data sent to the FBI is more accurate.

The reason for this increased interest in developing new protocols for the reporting of hate crime information is the discovery that police agencies were mistakenly failing to report the arrest information on hate crimes to the IBRS system. Apparently the existing record management system software being used by police agencies makes the reporting of hate crimes nearly impossible so a great number of crimes that should be classified as hate crimes are not being reported as such. Hopefully, with the newly designed protocols this under reporting problem will be alleviated and a better analysis of these crimes can be done in the future.

The unique feature of hate crimes is that they are not a distinct crime. All hate crimes must involve a more traditional crime. To be classified as a hate crime there must be an examination of the perpetrator’s underlying motivation for participating in the crime. This style of crime was virtually unknown when the IBRS system was initially developed but when the U.S. Congress enacted the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 in response public concern over crimes seemingly motivated by bias it became incumbent on the IBRS system to respond. In doing so, the primary concern of the developers was to minimize the additional reporting requirements on the officials responsible for doing the reporting. The developers believe that they did this successfully and, therefore, there is now much more accurate and complete information regarding these type of crimes available for analysis.

The change in the reporting of hate crimes is remarkable. Hate crime information was first reported in 1992 with only 6,200 law enforcement agencies participating. Since that time there has been a remarkable increase in participation so that now a total of 14, 422 agencies are involved. A comparison of the increase in reporting agencies is demonstrated in the following tables provided by the FBI.

Agency Hate Crime Reporting by State, 2004

Participating state

Number of participating agencies




submitting incident reports

Total number of incidents reported






Number of Participating Agencies and Population Covered

by Population Group, 2009

Population group

Number of participating agencies






Source: Crime in the United States, FBI

The data coming out this increased reporting has revealed some remarkable findings. Here are some of the key numbers derived from the 2009 reportings.

5,542 offenses were classified as crimes against persons. Intimidation accounted for 48.8% of those crimes, simple assaults for 32.1%, and aggravated assaults for 18.5%. Seven murders were reported as hate crimes.

3,608 offenses were classified as crimes against property. The majority (82.3%) were acts of destruction/damage/vandalism. The remaining 17.7% consisted mainly of robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.

Of the 6,927 known offenders, 61.1% were white, 20.2% were black, and 11.0% were of an unknown race.

31.9% of hate crimes took place in or near homes; while 17.4% took place on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 11.7% in schools and colleges; 6.1% in parking lots and garages; and 4.2% in churches, synagogues, or temples.

The result of this reporting system has allowed experts who have analyzed the data to see some patterns developing that may assist them in minimizing any further growth in this type of crime. For instance, the data seems to support that the great majority of hate crime incidents involves a single bias, that is, the perpetrator is motivated by one factor such as a race or religion bias. As demonstrated by the following table from the reporting year, 2004, of the 7,649 hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies in that year, only 7 were reported as multiple-bias incidents. Of these, racial prejudice remains the primary source (52.9) of motivation in hate crimes.

Hate crimes can take all forms. They may involve crimes against property, persons or society. Based on the data available from the IBRS system crimes directed against the person still predominate in the form of intimidation and assaults. Crimes against property involve mostly vandalism with some incidents of destruction,.

In analyzing the data, the primary victims of racial bias in hate crimes continue to be blacks. Over two-thirds of all victims were black in the latest statistics.

As to bias involving religion, Jews continue to be the most frequent target. Similar to the statistics involving racial bias, members of the Jewish religion are the victims in 68% of the crimes reported. Despite a recent claim in the press of the increased prejudice against those of the Islamic faith, their reported victimization in hate crimes is only…

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