Spotlight: How Justice Reinvestment Helps Law Enforcement in Massachusetts

October 4, 2019

Background

Every law enforcement agency faces a unique combination of public safety challenges, such as addressing rising violent crime rates and serving as first responders to people experiencing a mental health crisis or overdose. To respond effectively, law enforcement agencies need to collect, analyze, and utilize data in actionable ways that support strategies to prevent crime and apprehend people who commit crimes. They also need access to the latest research on evidence-based policing practices and the training to implement them.

One way states have helped law enforcement agencies tackle these challenges is through the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), which is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance with support from The Pew Charitable Trusts. JRI provides technical assistance to states to analyze data and understand key criminal justice challenges, including violent crime, substance use and mental health disorders, and high recidivism rates; develop policies and practices; and plan budgets accordingly to reduce crime and recidivism, improve responses to behavioral health challenges, and increase public safety.

Massachusetts: Strengthening Crime and Arrest Data Collection and Reporting

The FBI has notified local law enforcement agencies across the country that by 2021, it will only accept crime and arrest data for its Uniform Crime Reporting Program using the more thorough National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) instead of the older and limited Summary Reporting System. By collecting more detailed, meaningful, and previously uncollected data about crime and arrests, NIBRS can help local law enforcement agencies identify crime patterns and improve public safety. Policymakers and the public can use the more comprehensive data to hold law enforcement agencies accountable to the communities they serve.

Massachusetts was an early adopter of NIBRS; approximately 350 agencies, representing about 84 percent of all agencies in the state, reported data to the FBI using NIBRS in 2017. To ensure that the rest of the state complies with the federal requirements, Senate Bill 2371, which Massachusetts enacted as part of its Justice Reinvestment effort in 2018, includes provisions requiring

  • All law enforcement agencies in the state to transition to NIBRS and
  • The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services to make data collected through NIBRS publicly available on its website.

For more information on how JRI has helped law enforcement in states across the country, see JRI: Helping Law Enforcement Keep Communities Safe.

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