The Riverhead Police Department is transitioning to a new system of reporting arrests to become compliant with the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting. Photo: Adobe Stock

The Riverhead Police Department is moving towards a new system for reporting arrests and criminal incidents to government agencies.

The department is transitioning to become compliant with the FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System, also known as NIBRS, which reports arrests and criminal incidents differently than the Uniform Crime Reporting-based (UCR) system currently used by the law enforcement agency.

The change will likely result in a rise in the crime statistics reported by Police Chief David Hegermiller compared to previous years, since it will count every single crime during an arrest and criminal incident, rather than just the most serious charge or crime during an incident, as the current UCR method does.

“I just think some things might have been missed by UCR,” Hegermiller said when asked by Supervisor Yvette Aguiar if he “agreed” with the new system. “So I think finding them and pointing them out or counting them, whatever you want to say, I think that might help. As far as seeing differences or trends or stuff like that, it’s going to increase our numbers through, no doubt about it.”

For instance, if someone was arrested and charged with committing a burglary while they were in possession of burglar’s tools, the arrest would be reported as only a burglary under the UCR system. Under the NIBRS, that person’s arrest would be reported as two arrests — one for committing a burglary and one for the possession of burglar’s tools.

NIBRS is used by the FBI and Bureau of Justice Statistics to more accurately estimate national crime statistics. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 66% of the U.S. population is covered by NIBRS-reporting law enforcement agencies. As of 2021, only 19% of New York’s population is covered by an agency with NIBRS compliant reporting.

Hegermiller presented the police department’s November and December crime reports on Thursday. The statistics reflected a change to NIBRS for arrests — in December, 93 arrests were reported, but only 81 individuals were arrested, Hegermiller said. 

Hegermiller said criminal incidents will be counted using NIBRS starting this year, although they were reported using the department’s UCR system for November and December. Hegermiller said this will result in additional criminal incidents being added into the reports beyond the 52 currently counted.

During Hegermiller’s presentation of the police reports, Town Board members expressed concern that the new reporting system could inflate the town’s crime statistics. They asked if the chief could indicate on the crime report how many individuals were arrested separately from the NIBRS arrests.

“I think it’ll give us a better understanding when we do analysis,” Aguiar said. She suggested only including the NIBRS numbers would be “deceptive,” which Hegermiller agreed with.

At the Town Board’s request, Hegermiller will add in the crime reports the number of individuals arrested separately from the arrests as they are counted using NIBRS.

Hegermiller said the switch to a NIBRS compliant reporting system was supposed to be implemented when Suffolk County transitioned into a new records management system. That process had been delayed for around two years, he said.

Most law enforcement agencies in New York State use UCR, but the state “strongly encourages” adopting or adapting statistics to generate incident-based reporting reports, according to the Division of Criminal Justice Services website. 

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: