Justice Department: Crime Statistics Are Racist, Shouldn’t Be Used to Focus Resources on High-Crime Areas

Justice Department: Crime Statistics Are Racist, Shouldn’t Be Used to Focus Resources on High-Crime Areas

A draft Justice Department policy would forbid federal law enforcement officers from taking into account crime rates in “making decisions about where and how to focus their activities.” It would treat such decisions as a proxy for racial discrimination, based on the false assertion that crime statistics are “inherently biased” against black people and “unreliable” because “higher rates of arrest in…African American communities” are due to “discriminatory law enforcement.”

The draft policy ignores the Justice Department’s own studies showing that arrest rates closely mirror crime rates, which are higher in the black community. For example, a 2021 study by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics found that although blacks are arrested for serious nonfatal violent crimes at more than twice the rate of people in general, this is not due to racism. Instead, arrests are correctly “proportionate” to the actual crime rate (which is higher among blacks than among whites), and to the crimes actually reported to the police, which often are committed by black offenders. As it noted, “white and black people were arrested proportionate to their involvement in serious nonfatal violent crime overall and proportionate to their involvement in serious nonfatal violent crime reported to police.” (See Allen J. Beck, Race and Ethnicity of Violent Crime Offenders and Arrestees, 2018).

Law professor Eugene Volokh cites the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey, which shows that in 2018, 28.9% of offenders who committed nonfatal violent crimes are black, even though only 13% of Americans are black; and that only 52.2% of offenders are white, even though 60% of Americans are non-Hispanic white.

Such surveys are not racially biased against black people. That’s because the crime victims surveyed are overwhelmingly of the same race as their attacker. As the Bureau of Justice Statistics explains, crimes are committed mostly between members of the same race, and this is true for “rape or sexual assault,” “simple assault,” “aggravated assault,” and indeed, “all types of violent crime except robbery.” (See Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-2015.)

Yet, the Daily Caller reports:

A Justice Department draft proposal for updated anti-discrimination guidelines would prevent FBI agents and other federal law enforcement from using crime statistics in law enforcement activities, documents obtained exclusively by the Daily Caller show.

The documents were provided by a source familiar with the proceedings who requested anonymity due to fear of professional retaliation….

The DOJ’s new policy would expand restrictions against the use of protected characteristics in law enforcement activities, including the use of “facially neutral factors as a proxy” for certain protected characteristics.

“[O]fficers and agents should not use statistics about arrest rates in particular communities when making decisions about where and how to focus their activities. Current and historical patterns of discriminatory law enforcement have led to higher rates of arrest in certain communities, particularly African American communities,” the documents say.

Crime statistics are “inherently biased and unreliable” and using them “reproduces the very discrimination” the DOJ policy is designed to eliminate, the documents continue.

The Biden Justice Department’s resistance to the idea that crime rates differ by race is a relatively new phenomenon, and appears to emanate from its progressive-dominated Civil Rights Division.

Statisticians have long known that different racial groups have different crime rates. In homicide crimes, “the offending rates for blacks were more than 7 times higher than the rates for whites” between 1976 and 2005, according to the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. (See BJS, Homicide Trends in the United States).

In the past, even progressives used to admit that crime rates differed by race, as most of the liberal justices did in United States v. Armstrong (1996). As that 8-to-1 Supreme Court ruling noted, there is no legal “presumption that people of all races commit all types of crimes” at the same rate, since such a presumption is “contradicted by” real world data, in which “more than 90% of” convicted cocaine traffickers “were black” in 1994.

It’s disturbing that the Department of Justice, for racial reasons, wants law enforcement to ignore arrest rates in allocating scarce law-enforcement resources. That will harm black crime victims most.

As law professor David Bernstein notes, “DOJ wants to ban the FBI from focusing its resources on communities where the crime rate is highest, leaving in particular African Americans in inner cities more vulnerable to crime.” Bernstein is an expert on racial discrimination, having written books such as “Classified: The Untold Story of Racial Classification in America,” and “Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations, and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal.”

Reducing policing in “African American communities,” as the Biden Justice Department wants to do, will harm black people most, because black criminals commit their crimes mostly against other  black people. Crime is heavily black-on-black, and black victims of violent crimes mostly identify their assailant as black. As the Bureau of Justice Statistics explains, most crimes are committed mostly between members of the same racial group, and this is true for “rape or sexual assault,” “simple assault,” “aggravated assault,” and indeed, “all types of violent crime except robbery.” (See Race and Hispanic Origin of Victims and Offenders, 2012-2015.)  Between 2010 and 2013, “92 percent of blacks who were murdered were killed by other blacks,” according to PolitiFact. According to FBI data, 89 percent of blacks who were murdered in 2018 were killed by black offenders.

In the past, even progressive criminologists who saw the criminal justice system as tainted by racism admitted the crime rate was higher in the black community. For example, the progressive Black criminologist Rashawn Ray of the Brookings Institution and libertarian criminal-justice reformer Clark Neily conceded in 2021 that “it is also an indisputable fact that predominately Black communities have higher levels of violent crime.” See Rashawn Ray & Clark Neily, A Better Path Forward for Criminal Justice Reform: Police Reform (April 2021).

Failure to catch and incarcerate violent criminals in the black community leads to them killing more black people. Most murders in Baltimore are committed by people who previously were convicted of a serious crime, but didn’t serve a lengthy sentence for that crime.

Longer sentences keep dangerous people locked up so they can’t get out and harm law-abiding people. Studies of countries with very low incarceration rates have found that letting criminals out early increases the crime rate, and that higher levels of incarceration are a good investment. As El Salvador increased its incarceration rate to a higher rate than the U.S., its murder rate fell from the world’s highest to a rate lower than many of America’s big cities (such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Cleveland).

Progressives sometimes complain about “overpolicing.” But as criminology professor Justin Nix notes, “Given its level of serious crime, America has ordinary levels of incarceration but extraordinary levels of under-policing.” Most people in state prisons are there for “violent offenses.”

America has fewer police compared to its population than most developed countries. It has far fewer police per homicide than most developed countries. America has less than a tenth as many police per homicide as Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Greece, Portugal, Austria, and Holland. America incarcerates fewer people per homicide than nations such as Australia, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria.

Europe spends a larger share of its economy on its police than the U.S. does. Perhaps that helps explain why Europe has both a lower murder rate, and a lower rate of killings by the police. More cops on the beat means they can solve more murders, and catching murderers deters murders from being committed. If a murderer doesn’t think he will be caught, he may commit murder even if there are strict penalties for the few murderers who are caught. Nothing is more important in deterring crime than maximizing the rate at which criminals are caught.

More cops on the beat also means they spend more time getting to know the communities they serve. That makes them more knowledgeable and effective, and may make them less likely to get into violent altercations with residents.

As Daniel Bier notes, “As a share of GDP, the EU [European Union] spends 33% more than the US on police.” “European countries almost uniformly spend a much larger share on police than US states, though just how much larger varies wildly.”

Hans Bader

Hans Bader

Hans Bader practices law in Washington, D.C. After studying economics and history at the University of Virginia and law at Harvard, he practiced civil-rights, international-trade, and constitutional law. He also once worked in the Education Department. Hans writes for CNSNews.com and has appeared on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal.” Contact him at hfb138@yahoo.com


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