The Transition from Summary-Based to Incident-Based Reporting
The State of Vermont's Uniform Crime Reporting system is in transition. The system is changing from a summary-based to an incident-based reporting system. The current summary-based system provides information on only a limited number of crimes referred to as Part I and Part II crimes. The incident-based system reports on a much broader range of crimes and includes data on the circumstances of the crime, the victim, and the defendant. Vermont's transition mirrors similar changes in other states as law enforcement agencies across the country begin to implement the Federal Bureau of Investigation's new incident-based crime reporting system.
The Advantages of Incident-Based Crime Reporting
The advantage of the incident-based system lies in enhanced data quality – more data and more accurate data. For example, the summary-based system collects crime data on 25 crimes while the incident-based system will collect data on 91 crimes. In addition, the incident-based system will report for the first time information on:
1. age, gender, and race of both the victim and the defendant;
2. the relationship between the victim and the defendant;
3. where and when the crime took place;
4. what type of injury may have occurred;
5. what type of weapon may have been used;
6. whether there were drugs or alcohol involved;
7. whether there was bias motivation; and
8. the disposition of the case.
In cases involving property crime the incident-based system will report on the:
1. type and description of the article;
2. its value;
3. type of loss (e.g., stolen, vandalized);
4. type of victim (e.g., individual, business);
5. and location of crime (e.g., convenience store, residence).
Enhanced accuracy of incident-based data stems from the manner in which it is collected. In the summary-based system, crime reporting was a separate function from dispatching and report writing. Once a call was dispatched and a report written, the summary-crime statistics were an additional duty to be performed. Under the incident-based system, dispatching, report writing, and crime reporting are all the same function. With the advent of computer-aided dispatching systems, when dispatchers enter the data required to dispatch a call, they simultaneously provide the data points for incident-based reporting. The information required for the responding officer's report of the incident are the same codes required for incident-based reporting. Consequently, the incidence of crime in a community will be more completely reported because every time a crime is reported to a dispatcher, the incident is automatically counted by the incident-based system.
Benefits of Incident-Based Crime Reporting
The enhanced data quality of the incident-based reporting system will be of significant benefit for both state and local governing bodies, criminal justice agencies, and the public. Data from the incident-based system will enhance both strategic and tactical decision making in criminal justice. Because incident-based data will provide a more accurate picture of a community's crime patterns, decisions regarding law enforcement, judicial, and correctional resources can be made based on empirical data. Similarly, the level of detail provided by incident-based data can assist law enforcement and the community to identify crime problems in their community such as:
1. "crime hot spots";
2. populations who are at risk; and
3. drug and alcohol problems.
Crime prevention strategies may then be developed and evaluated based on empirical evidence.
The transition from summary-based to incident-based crime reporting began in 1992, when the Department of Public Safety began to phase out the Vermont Law Enforcement Information System (VLEIS) and established the Vermont Incident-Based Reporting System (VIBRS). By 1993, all Vermont State Police barracks and several municipal police departments had joined the Department's VIBRS Network – a wide area law enforcement computer network which utilizes incident-based crime reporting software. In addition, a number of municipal and sheriff departments had implemented incident-based reporting systems on stand alone computer systems. Between 1994 and 2000, additional agencies joined the VIBRS Network. The transition will continue through 2001 as more agencies join the VIBRS Network or become VIBRS compliant using other submission methods. Currently, 92% of the crime reported in Vermont is reported by VIBRS-Network agencies. Ninety-four (94%) of the Vermont population is served by VIBRS-Network agencies.