New Changes to FBI Crime Data – How to Understand the 2021 Report

October 9, 2022 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

The FBI has recently published the annual report of crime data across the nation. Policymakers, attorneys, journalists, and citizens all use the released data to better understand crime trends across the U.S. A new plan to modernize crime reporting has been an issue with receiving the 2021 reports.

We will cover details of the systems used in the past and present, how the changes will affect the reporting, and what the annual report currently covers.

Changes to the System for Collecting Criminal Data

The FBI has collected annual data from state and local law enforcement agencies for nearly a century. Historically, there were two systems used to collect crime data. The first of the two was the Summary Reporting System, which tracked the “monthly counts of the number of crimes known to law enforcement.”

While the more recently used method is the National Incident Based Reporting System, which was introduced in the 1980s. This specific system includes much more detail than the first system, reporting on additional types of crime. It also allows the reporting of multiple offenses in a single incident.

In the past, both systems were accepted to retrieve data, but in 2015, the FBI announced that they were going to transition away from the Summary Reporting System to the National Incident Based Reporting System.

The FBI gave agencies until January 1st, 2021 to submit information in the previous format. Now the bureau only accepts the National Incident Based Reporting System, although many law enforcement agencies have yet to make the switch.

How Will the Changes Affect the 2021 Data?

What does the elimination of the Summary Reporting System mean for the 2021 report? First, it means there will be a large portion of data missing due to a plummet in participation. There will be blind spots for major cities, including San Francisco and New York City—which have predicted that their transition to the National Incident Based Reporting System may not be complete until 2025.

This is because participation in this program is voluntary, and while participation in the past 20 years has been around 85%, in 2021 only 63% of agencies submitted data to the report.

There are several states who have already fully adopted the accepted system. States like Texas, Michigan, and Virginia already have robust data available, which will allow the FBI to study their crime trends in much more detail. It is likely that the FBI publishes the national estimates with “confidence intervals” to point out any uncertainty.

New Challenges for Understanding Crime Trends

The clear issue that arises from the new collection of data is that there will not be a precise “national” murder or violent crime rate for all of 2021. The “confidence intervals” mentioned before could make it hard to determine if the rates rose or fell.

There could still be issues remaining even after every state adopts the National Incident Reporting System. Since the newer system allows law enforcement agencies to report multiple offenses for each incident, it could create a problem in comparing the data. For instance, it could create a false appearance of increased offenses.

In addition, it’s important to stress that the FBI cannot account for any crime that is not reported.

Data from the 2021 Report

The overall analysis from the report shows that both violent and property crimes have remained consistent between 2020 and 2021. It is important to note that the data in the report is based on the data collected from only 11,794 law enforcement agencies across the U.S. out of the total 18,806 agencies.

The FBI’s report does not account for a major portion of populous states like California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and even Florida. For example, the crime statistics from the state of Florida only represent 2 out of 757 law enforcement agencies for 2021.

The following is data from the FBI’s 2021 report:

  • There was an increase seen in murders, which rose from 22,000 in 2020 up to 22,900 in 2021. This shows a 4.3% increase in murder.
  • The rate of robberies decreased from 2020 to 2021 by 8.9%.
  • Violent crime (excluding murder) decreased from 1,326,600 in 2020 to 1,313,200 in 2021. This shows a 1% decrease.
  • Carjackings rose by 11.5% in 2021, but it is likely the numbers are even higher due to cities like Philadelphia not yet fully reporting their data.

The FBI’s report was published several months after bureau deputy director Paul Abbate claimed that there was an “appalling rate” of homicides and assaults back in April.

“We’re seeing a disturbing violent crime surge across the country. I know you’re seeing it too,” Abbate said in April. “There’s gun violence, homicides and aggravated assaults, and are all occurring at an appalling rate, not to mention hate crimes and the persistent threat posed by violent extremists.”

You can view the entire report on the FBI’s Crime Data Explorer here.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Regardless of the annual crime trends, it is always important to seek out legal help if you or a loved one have been accused of a crime. Getting convicted of a criminal charge can result in harsh consequences, such as expensive fines and imprisonment.

Your best shot at building a strong defense for your case is to work with a skilled criminal defense attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have experience working with clients across the state for various charges. Call us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message on our website.

Written by Karissa Key

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