What is FIBRS & How is it Changing Crime Reporting in Florida?

November 22, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements

We’ve previously covered the changes made through the FBI’s National Summary Reporting System. The federal government announced nearly a decade ago their plan to transition away from summary reporting to instead focus on specific incident reporting. Now state legislations are following suit, including Florida.

Florida has adopted a new method of crime reporting under The Florida Incident-Based Reporting System (FIBRS), which we will explain in more detail further below. While the new method is meant to provide a more detailed look into crimes across the state, the gap in reporting may provide more harm than help. For example, Governor Ron DeSantis has recently received backlash due to potentially false claims of how low crime is in Florida.

This page will provide information on Florida’s history of crime reporting methods, along with information on FIBRS and the responses due to a lack of reporting.

History of Crime Data Reporting in FL

Since 1971, Florida has used a Uniform Crime Report program to receive and publish summary-based crime data. These reports were released annually and semi-annually and focused on seven different types of crime known as Index Crimes.

Index Crimes include the following:

The previous methods of reporting index crimes were listed by hierarchy, meaning only the most serious offenses would be reported. For instance, a defendant who was charged with both robbery and aggravated assault would only have the robbery reported in the summary-based collection.

Florida Incident Based Reporting System

As of January 1, 2021, the FBI stopped accepting summary-based data for their UCR program. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) published an informative page on FIBRS in September 2021, explaining that it’s the solution FDLE came up with to replace previous methods of crime data reporting.

The key differences between summary reporting and incident reporting are as follows:

  • FIBRS allows the collection of all crimes relating to an incident;
  • The hierarchy rule will be eliminated, and data will focus on more crimes than just the Index Crimes; and
  • Allows more frequent data submissions on a monthly basis rather than biannually.

FDLE addressed the possible benefits of a new reporting method, including providing more context on all reported crimes and monitoring crime trends with greater accuracy.

Through FIBRS, the reporting system collects 56 more offense categories compared to the previous summary reporting method. This includes drug offenses, fraud, gambling, and human trafficking.

FIBRS provides more details regarding victims, offenders, arrestees, property data on each single crime occurrence. Agencies can report crime data monthly, and FIBRS allows up to 10 reports of criminal offenses per single incident. That means a defendant who was charged with burglary, grand theft auto, and aggravated assault will have all three offenses reported.

Additionally, FIBRS takes four more specific offense categories than the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). These include:

Finally, FIBRS allows the transmission of automated submissions to meet several reporting requirements:

  • Use of Force (UoF)
  • Law enforcement employee counts
  • Hate crime
  • Domestic violence
  • Human trafficking
  • Cargo theft
  • Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA)

Overall, the changes in reporting methodology should provide state and federal law enforcement with a better insight into crimes that have occurred but were not previously shown on the annual and biannual summary reports.

Criticism on Recent Crime Data Trends

Despite the potential benefits through the national and state reporting methods, there has been criticism towards Florida, for claiming that crime is at an all-time low when it may be based on inaccurate information.

More specifically, Governor Ron DeSantis has claimed that crime in Florida is at a “50-year low.” Yet based on a recent NBC article, former FDLE employees are asserting that those numbers are false. The following is a statement from an anonymous former FDLE employee:

“The Governor’s office wanted to say outright that we were at a 50-year crime low and we told department leadership, verbally and in writing, that was not accurate because of the deficiencies in the data. We went back and forth several times and we agreed, after being heavily pushed, to say we were trending in that direction.”

Part of the reason for the incomplete crime data is being blamed on the transition to incident-reporting methods to comply with federal standards. The NBC report claimed that the changes required Florida law enforcement to complete much more technical reporting from over 400 local agencies. Since the new methods require “costly technology upgrades” it has resulted in many agencies being unable to provide detailed reports.

The outcome is a huge gap in reporting. FDLE reported that just 57% of Florida law enforcement agencies are providing reports under the new system. That means there is over 40% of the state not reporting the specific data. Instead, they are relying on imputed data, where an algorithm is used to approximate crime statistics.

The issue then arises with the claim that Florida is at a “50-year crime low.” This statement cannot be true when nearly half of the state is not fully complying with the new reporting requirements. Richard Boylan, an economics professor at Rice University who focuses on imputed data, claimed that the reported numbers in Florida should be analyzed with a “skeptical eye.”

“Crime goes up once states require reporting,” Boylan said. “Florida does not have a law requiring reporting, so I would think that is an additional reason to be skeptical about the Florida data.” 

The following provides a statement from The Marshall Project regarding DeSantis’ claims:

“DeSantis can’t be sure that Florida has achieved 50-year crime rate lows because the state itself doesn’t know what its crime trends are, due to flawed data. These methodological clashes in Florida’s crime reporting create gaps in information that make it difficult to definitively claim any statewide crime trends—let alone that the state has reached “50-year crime rate lows.”

However, in June the FDLE defended their method for filling in data gaps:         

“The methodology used by FDLE statisticians is statistically sound and accurately represents the trend of the crime rate in Florida. The methodology used by FDLE is similar to that used by the FBI.”

Currently, Florida has no legal requirement for local agencies to report crime data to the State. Boylan argued that crime data goes up once state are required to report specifics.

Leon County Adopts New Reporting System

A press release by the Leon County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) announced that the county has begun implementing FIBRS. The change was mandated by the FBI for the county to replace the previous reporting method that covered Uniform Crime. The transition is meant to combine several data collection efforts into one efficient and unified reporting process.

Whereas the previous reporting method only accounted for eight crime categories, FIBRS will allow LCSO to report up to 49 crime categories for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Uniform Crime Reports (UCR). The scope of reporting has also been expanded to report all incidents it responds to.

Additionally, all offenses that take place within one criminal incident will be included in the report. This helps to shift the counting method from the incidents alone to focus on the number of victims in the incident. Finally, FIBRS allows more frequent reporting along with allowing agencies to give comprehensive details on each occurrence of a criminal act. The information can include details on the victims, offenders, those arrested, and any property data.

Leon County Sheriff Walt McNeil gave the following statement:

“It’s important for the public to recognize that reported crime numbers, especially for specific offense categories, might seem higher than in the past. However, it’s crucial to understand that this shift in figures doesn’t indicate an actual increase in crime occurrences. Instead, it signifies the adoption of a more comprehensive and detailed reporting system, offering a fuller picture of law enforcement activities.”

LCSO says they will remain dedicated in maintaining Florida’s standards for law enforcement and the technological advances it is embracing.

Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney

While there may be inadequacies in Florida’s recent crime reporting methods, the dangers of facing prosecution for a criminal offense remain a concern. Governor DeSantis has made recent efforts to crack down on crime in Florida, resulting in more laws and resulting penalties. If you or someone you know has been accused of a crime, you should consider hiring a criminal defense lawyer in Tallahassee, FL.

An experienced defense attorney will have a broad understanding of the law and how to fight against specific charges. At Pumphrey Law, our defense attorneys will take the time to review your case during a free consultation. From there we can assess the steps to take and determine which defenses are applicable to your case. Contact us today at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message online.

Written by Karissa Key

Page Updated March 6, 2024

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