Analysis: Most Miss. law enforcement agencies don’t comply with state law because of how they report crimes
More than half of Jackson metro agencies -- including MHP -- are not NIBRS certified
JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Four years after Mississippi lawmakers required every law enforcement agency in the state to change how they track and report crimes, fewer than half of those organizations have actually done that, according to data provided by the state’s department of public safety.
The initiative, which became law in an effort to create a statewide crime reporting program, mandated that agencies would have to implement a reporting system that is certified according to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, or NIBRS, and also added the requirement that law enforcement must send that crime data to DPS each month, which the state agency will then send to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Of the state’s three hundred-plus police and sheriff’s departments, 149 have become NIBRS certified, with an additional 46 still in a testing phase, according to a DPS compilation from May.
The rest use what’s known as a Summary Reporting System, which is incompatible with NIBRS because of how the crime information is recorded and broken down.
“Mississippi was the only state in the nation that did not have a statewide crime reporting program,” said former Byram Police Chief Luke Thompson, who also served on a task force that led to the state requirements.
For the Jackson metro area, more than half of the agencies there are not compliant with NIBRS.
Hinds County has the highest percentage in the metro, with 82 percent of organizations there not reporting data to the state because they’ve yet to implement a compatible system.
Many of those are state agencies, including Capitol Police and the Mississippi Highway Patrol, as well as rural police departments like Bolton and Utica.
In Jackson, four law enforcement agencies are not NIBRS compliant: Jackson Police Department, the Hinds County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson Public Schools Campus Enforcement, and Jackson State University’s police force.
Almost half of Rankin County’s agencies fall into that category, too: Pearl Police Department, Pelahatchie Police Department and the Rankin County Sheriff’s Office.
Canton, Flora, and Gluckstadt’s police departments are the only ones in Madison County not compliant with the national system.
“Am I surprised? No, I’m not surprised, again, because of some of the challenges, you know, some agencies are struggling with manpower issues, and, you know, their crime problem is of such a priority, where an administrative function like statistical reporting is just not a priority for any number of reasons,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a matter of getting in front of agencies, you know, explaining to our municipal leaders to our county supervisors, to our legislators and saying, hey, you know, this one, this is a mandate, to the information that we collect is incredibly important.”
As Byram’s first police chief, he also implemented NIBRS for that agency at a cost of $50,000.
Byram has someone staffed full-time that takes care of that responsibility, too.
Part of the difficulty in getting departments to comply, Thompson said, is that there aren’t any repercussions.
“I’m not aware of any other accompanying statute that spells out sanctions for someone that doesn’t comply,” Thompson said.
From an optics standpoint, though, it raises transparency concerns, especially since most of these agencies do not provide regular crime statistics to the public.
JPD, for example, hasn’t updated its crime statistics on the city’s website in more than two years.
Once agencies do become certified, the information they send to DPS each month also is posted online by the state, allowing everyone to see their crime picture at a glance.
The website launched quietly more than a year ago, which can be found here.
Thompson said it’s imperative that agencies become certified quickly and share that information with their residents.
“If the chief law enforcement officer cannot explain why the crime is occurring, where the crime is occurring, people start shopping to get out of that community. And when they leave, they take their tax dollars with them,” Thompson said. “They take their business dollars with them. It’s a huge challenge in local government work. And for local community members, it’s incredibly important.”
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