Ohio forms a crime-data posse

Tuscarawas County, Ohio, officers now have quick access to crime data from the state's Office of Criminal Justice Services.

The Tuscarawas County, Ohio, Sheriff's Office is working with the state's Office of Criminal Justice Services to smooth the process that lets local law enforcement officers report, analyze and share crime data with one another and the FBI.

The offices aim to improve access to the FBI's National Incident- Based Reporting System data, which provides much more detailed crime reports than the Uniform Crime Reporting System it is gradually replacing.

'With NIBRS, you are going to get more accurate, detailed and meaningful information on victims and suspects than with the UCR data,' said Jim Luebbers, NIBRS policy specialist with OCJS. 'It really lets you identify when and where crime takes place, and helps law enforcement determine the best allocation of resources to fight crime.'

What's holding up the process is that many Ohio agencies have yet to adopt the software needed to provide NIBRS data to OCJS, which then sends it to the FBI. According to Luebbers, of 940 law enforcement agencies, 275 have the software.

No federal funds

Ed White, director of justice technology for OCJS, said police agencies have been reluctant to adopt NIBRS software because 'it is like an unfunded mandate.' The FBI does not subsidize the costs of buying, installing and training personnel to use the NIBRS-compliant software, Luebbers said.

Individual agencies submit crime data to NIBRS so that the FBI can weigh it against all the other information in the database. Because the improved crime data isn't funneled back to agencies from the FBI until almost a year after it's reported, the NIBRS data has limited value, White said.

Tuscarawas County has adopted NIBRS:Hub, an application from Optimum Technology Inc. of Columbus, Ohio, that is intended to make NIBRS data more useful and deliver it to local agencies. The system uses a Web interface and the NIBRS data standard to help authorities integrate their criminal justice systems and share NIBRS data.

The Sheriff's Office hired Optimum to create a countywide centralized repository to share data with other law enforcement agencies. The office acts as the regional administrator for the repository and uses NIBRS:Hub to upload crime incident data to OCJS.

'This centralized repository makes it easier to share information and ideas across jurisdictional boundaries, helping us all to be more effective,' Sheriff Walt Wilson said.
Wilson said the Sheriff's Office formerly kept its crime reporting records on paper. Other NIBRS-compliant systems were too expensive for the county of 90,000, Wilson said.

'Even though some of our agencies use different types of computers and software, we can all get the information we need from one another and share it easily with the state,' Wilson said.

Big bang for the bucks

OCJS' White noted that the improved information from NIBRS:Hub 'has tremendous value for people in neighboring jurisdictions. If you clamp down on crime in one area, crime goes somewhere else'but if you can share the complete data, you get the complete picture.'

NIBRS:Hub uses Microsoft BizTalk Server middleware to exchange information among various types of computers. It relies on a Microsoft .Net platform and a SQL Server database, with code written in Structured Query Language and Visual Basic. Installing the system for a region with 10 police agencies costs about $50,000.

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