Springfield, neighboring police department crime rates could rise because of reporting change
Changes coming in the new year for the Springfield Police Department, starting with how it reports crimes. Springfield, along with Republic, Nixa and the Greene County Sheriff's Office are all making a switch to comply with the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting database.
The old system, the Summary Reporting System, tracked just seven crimes and only the most serious one was reported.
"Murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, auto theft, burglary, larceny, arson," Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams listed the seven major crimes.
The new database, National Incident-Based Reporting System, includes 52 crimes, and reports every one that happens in a single event.
Chief Williams said crime numbers will climb with the change, even if crimes committed do not.
"It's things that have already been happening that we know about, the public just hadn't been able to get that information in the past," he said.
The Kansas City Police Department has been using the National Incident-Based Reporting System, also known as NIBRS, for more than a decade. Sgt. Patrick Rauzi, with KCPD, explained how it's different.
"So if I had a murder, but the guy had raped the victim beforehand and broken into her house and stole her car, I would only report the murder," Rauzi said. "In NIBRS, I report the murder, the rape, the burglary and the stolen auto, all those offenses because they all occurred in that incident."
Rauzi said NIBRS can make it seem like crimes are increasing.
"So our total number of incidents for the year or for the month are going to be higher because we're counting more crimes than before. It's that simple," he said.
Susan Wade, the Public Relations Manager for the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Springfield has already been affected by being included in lists of crime-ridden cities online.
“It’s certainly going to play a role in decision-making on where people are going to travel to. You know, is it affecting travel, I don’t know." she said.
Wade said she's lived in Springfield for most of her life, and it is a safe place. However, she said, it is a city and crime can happen.
"Just use common sense. Lock your car, don't leave valuables laying in the seat where they can be seen, don't walk around at night by yourself, things like that," Wade said.
According to Rauzi, NIBRS will give police departments more information to use in comparing themselves to other areas of the country.
“You have more granularity in your crime data to be able to more tailor what you’re looking for, what your crime problems are, what crime problems you have in each section of the city," Rauzi said.
However, Williams said only a fraction of the law enforcement agencies in the country will make the switch to NIBRS at first, since the FBI's crime reporting program is voluntary.
“It’s more work for officers, more work for my staff. It’s more costly. It requires changes to computerized programs. It’s been a long time coming and not everybody’s going to jump on board," he said.
Rauzi said it was a challenge to get KCPD officers to adjust to the new crime categories when reporting crimes with NIBRS.
According to Chief Williams, Springfield saw a slight jump in crime in 2019, but the numbers were still lower than previous years. However, 2019 will be the last year the city can compare its own crime.
"We're not going to be able to compare how many robberies, burglaries, auto thefts we had this year compared to last year because they're going to be counted differently," Williams said.
Now, with more offenses tracked, Williams said, more victim's hardships will be represented, and the community will have a better grip on what and where crimes are being committed.
"It's going to give us a better feel for what's going on and eventually, more ability to educate people about what's happening in the city," he said.
Williams said there will also be some personnel changes within the Springfield Police Department this year. As several commanders retire and the agency adds more officers and investigators.
"Some differences in how we staff, manage and investigate crimes, and the types of crimes, and I think it’s a good time to be doing that with the NIBRS change as well," Williams said.
Local departments are making the switch NIBRS switch early. It will become the standard for the FBI next January.
For more information about NIBRS, click