Big data is a unique challenge for 21st century law practitioners. The incredible amount of information collected may be a boon for enforcement agencies, but it also presents a great task unraveling the research and logistical difficulties involved in analyzing so much information.
On February 5-6, 2015, Lynn Addington, associate professor of justice, law, and criminology, hosted a conference with funding from SPA Dean Barbara Romzek. The conference brought together a group of scholars and practitioners to discuss the challenges of working with complex crime datasets. Entitled “Best Practices for Working with NIBRS Data,” the conference focused on analyzing the police-generated crime data collected within the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS). NIBRS is collected as part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports. Here local and state police departments submit detailed information regarding crime incidents as well as the victims, offenders, and arrestees. The most recent years of NIBRS data include over 5 million cases. Given the amount of information available, researcher and practitioner interest in using NIBRS data is growing. This interest as well as a related need to help support efforts to effectively use NIBRS data motivated the conference and the papers.
Participants from across the country joined Addington as they presented working papers that discussed innovative ways to capitalize on the NIBRS data, but also identified potential pitfalls for researchers as they delve into the massive dataset. Conference participants included a diverse mix of professionals from academia, the FBI, state police, and the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Their discussion also included ways to connect the research community with practitioners and policymakers.
The papers presented at the conference are scheduled for publication in a special issue of Justice Research and Policy concerning “Innovative Uses of NIBRS to Inform Policy” as well as an online user’s guide as part of a partnership with the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data.