Police Research Center To Enhance Texas Crime Data

An officer in a patrol car during night duty using onboard computer.

The Police Research Center (PRC) at Sam Houston State University will help convert crime data from 53 Texas police agencies to a national system that provides more in-depth information for crime analysis.

As part of a grant funded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the PRC will help convert crime reports from police agencies that use its Criminal Research Information Management and Evaluation System (CRIMES), a comprehensive record management program, to the National Incident Based Reporting System, a successor to the Uniform Crime Report. While the UCR reports information on the top seven felony categories, the NIBRS provides more detailed information on those crimes, as well as lesser offenses, which can be used to develop better crime-fighting techniques.

Dr. Larry Hoover
Dr. Larry Hoover
“CRIMES is developing more detailed reports to provide better crime analysis,” said Dr. Larry Hoover, Director of the PRC.

The Uniform Crime Report, a national database produced by the FBI, provides information on the number of crimes committed in eight categories, including murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny/theft, motor vehicle theft and arson. In contrast, the NIBRS system has 57 categories of crime, which includes additional offenses such as drug charges, family violence, bad checks, disorderly conduct, peeping Toms, runaways and trespass cases, to name a few. It also includes lesser, included offenses for each crime, something not captured in the UCR report.

In addition, the NIBRS system will supply information on the details of each case, such as the day, time and type of place where the crime occurred, the relationship between the victim and offender, the number and types of weapons used, the types of drugs involved the case, and whether the offense is a hate crime or gang-related.

"Not only does it include the old information, it includes more specific information about each case,” said Ted Tadlock, a Programmer Analyst with the PRC’s CRIMES program.

Image of a police officer's badget coming out of a computer screen.The Keller Police Department will serve as the model for the data conversion, which is expected to be complete by September. There are a total of 53 agencies, including local and county law enforcement, campus police and other specialized agencies in Texas that use the CRIMES system.

However, the NIBRS is not without controversy. Many departments already employ their own crime analysis units that perform similar functions to the NIBRS system, and reprogramming their systems is expensive. In addition, because NIBRS captures lesser included offenses, it may appear to the public as though crime is increasing. Also, many categories, such as hate crimes or drug crimes, can be subjective. For example, a drive-by shooting could be a gang-related crime or simply be a dispute between individuals, depending on who captures the data.

Nonetheless, an important advantages of the NIBRS system is the ability to identify related crimes across jurisdictions, Hoover said.

“It provides a clearer picture of crime trends,” said Dr. Hoover. “For example, if every crime category is going down except for aggravated assault, police now would have to go to through records to find out what types of crimes were causing the increase. Under NIBRS, they could see if the aggravated assaults were related to domestic violence.”

A computer mouse and handcuffs.The Police Research Center began its CRIMES program in 2006 to provide a cost-effective solution for smaller departments to get a complete information system for police agencies. In addition to automated crime and incident reporting and analysis, the system provides computer-assisted dispatch, mobile communication interface, arrests, bookings, property room management, jail management, traffic activity, and operational analysis.

In a related matter, Distinguished Alumnus Gerard Ramker, Deputy Director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is spearheading a project that would integrate the NIBRS system into the National Law Enforcement Data Exchange. The Exchange converts offense report detail into an electronic, and hence searchable, database.

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