New NIBRS crime reporting system, Wi-Fi in cars benefit MSU PD

MSU Texas PD excited about upgrades

New NIBRS crime reporting system, Wi-Fi in cars benefit MSU PD

Midwestern State University's police department has long taken pride in serving the community. Awareness and crime prevention are daily goals.

Technology's place in that mission is to make completing tasks and police work much more efficient.

MSU Texas PD chief Patrick Coggins is excited about a change for incident reporting as the department recently became certified for the new National Incident Based Reporting System.

In 2018, the MSU PD sought and obtained a grant of more than $86,000 to acquire the hardware and software necessary to make this transition. Police cars were equipped with WIFI, designed for first responders, allowing the officers to file reports from the field. Other benefits of the upgrades include the ability to access pictures or suspect descriptions. "Anything you can do from a desktop can be brought to the field," Coggins said.

In addition to facilitating the NIBRS reporting system, the new software and hardware provide additional benefits for MSU Texas.

"The officers are still doing what they did before, filing a police report, but the software makes it easier," Coggins said. "I'm proud that we were able to successfully implement this system. We'll be more efficient."

The old system of reporting crimes nationally had been around for nearly 100 years. It was a way for the FBI to categorize seven crimes (murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and burglary) and track those statistics. It represented progress in the previous century, but it was time for something better.

"When we write a police report we gather a tremendous amount of data," Coggins said. "That includes how the offense occurred, what elements of the crime are in there, the way the perpetrator commits the offense, and if there's a relationship between the victim and the offender. But all of these things were never counted. At the end of the day when we reported to Austin, we had one of each, one crime, one victim."

"There were some problems with it; it'd been in place close to 100 years," Coggins said. "It was a way to compare crimes in different cities and determine the level of violence in an area."

Many law enforcement agencies have committed to transitioning to the NIBRS reporting method. The data is converted into a summary for its inclusion in the Crime in Texas report. Coggins was able to see how others had made the transition, like the Dallas Police Department, which made the transition in early 2018 and shares data consistently with the public.

MSU Texas obtained the software in April and went live June 1.

"Progress is good - it's something we didn't have before, and it's just another step moving toward modernization," Coggins said. "We had a lot of work going into it. IT worked with us, and we had to train all our officers so we could capture that entire month of June."

The MSU Texas PD received notice Aug. 15 that it passed the edit criteria and was certified to submit monthly in the IBR format.

The goal is always keeping the campus safe. For the MSU PD to be able to produce more detailed reports more efficiently helps accomplish that. "It's very efficient," Coggins said. "This really frees up some resources. It allows us to do what we should be doing, working with the community to prevent crime."

Coggins is thankful for the benefits of this grant and expressed gratitude to the governor's office, the Office of Sponsored Programs and Dr. Kathryn Zuckweiler, the IT department, the budget office, and the State of Texas for their work in this project. And he praised the officers for their diligence in learning the new equipment and procedures.

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