DC, Baltimore crime data missing from FBI yearly report
Amid surging crime in 2021, thousands of law enforcement agencies won’t be included in the FBI’s annual national crime report, including D.C., Baltimore City, Howard County police, and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office.
In January 2021, the FBI began requiring agencies to report data using the National Incident-Based Reporting System or NIBRS. More than a year after that deadline, set in 2015, the FBI says only 62% of agencies have made the switch.
"We’ve definitely seen a big drop in the number of agencies that are reporting with the switch to NIBRS," said Jeff Asher, co-founder of AH Datalytics, a consulting firm that has written about the new system.
The impact will be a murkier picture of crime in America during a year some major jurisdictions saw record homicides.
"I think it highlights just how poor our national crime data collection reporting system is," Asher said. "That we’re in the dark on important issues and the impact is we’re going to continue to be in the dark."
The FBI says over the last six years, it’s tried to work with law enforcement agencies to make sure they met the deadline, providing millions of dollars in grants.
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D.C. Police received a grant of $2.8 in 2019, according to records. A spokesperson said the agency transitioned to NIBRS in August 2021, but because it was mid-year and full-year data is required, D.C. will not be included in the FBI report for 2021.
It’s not clear why so many agencies missed the deadline. The FBI says funding, technological challenges, and manpower issues have contributed.
The FBI said there are other major U.S. cities that are still not using NIBRS, including Baltimore. That means data from a city with one of the highest murder rates in the nation also will not be included in the crime report. Baltimore Police just announced this month they’re now transitioning to NIBRS. They missed the deadline by over a year.
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Both Howard County Police and the Charles County Sheriff’s Office say they are in the process of fully transitioning and should be fully using the new system soon.
In Virginia, the FBI says every law enforcement agency is using NIBRS. The former Fairfax County Police Chief, Ed Roessler, is even in a NIBRS FBI promotional video from 2018. Roessler said Fairfax County was among the first agencies to transition in 2013 and urges other agencies to meet the 2021 deadline.
"We need to show the picture of crime in America," Roessler says in the video. "We need to be transparent."
The FBI has started putting out quarterly crime reports in addition to the year-end report. So few police agencies provided data for the most recent report, the FBI said it couldn’t release crime estimates.
In an emailed statement, the FBI tells FOX 5: "Participation from all agencies expands the understanding of crime in the metropolitan and suburban areas and will highlight possible migration patterns of crime across regions allowing an accurate nationwide picture of crime in the United States."
It is not mandatory for law enforcement agencies to report crime data to the FBI.
The FBI’s 2021 Uniform Crime Report will be out in the fall. The FBI says the deadline to submit data just passed.