“I don’t think we know if we’re in the midst of a heroin epidemic. I do know there are localities where the numbers are up. But to use numbers from four years ago as evidence of an urgent national problem today is pointless and silly. It just shows you how primitive the crime information infrastructure remains in this country.”
BJS touts its role as a source of statistical evidence for new “smart-on-crime” policies. Yet the relevance of its dated evidence is in question: BJS has not produced a new report on recidivism since 1994.
To be fair, no one blames the overtaxed statisticians who work at BJS.
James Lynch, BJS director from 2010 through 2012, says the bureau has been hollowed out by funding cuts as a result of the 2013 federal budget sequestration, a hiring freeze and animosity toward the Department of Justice on Capitol Hill.
“BJS has been under-resourced for many years,” Lynch, now a criminal justice professor and department chair at the University of Maryland, tells The Crime Report. “If you want timely statistics, then bang on the door of your damned congressman.”
BJS has been subject to a Justice Department hiring freeze since 2011, and its 2014 budget of $45 million is unchanged from 2009, according to a bureau spokeswoman.
That budget is miniscule by federal standards. Its Department of Labor equivalent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, has a 2014 budget of $592 million.
April 1, 2014
Can We Trust Crime Numbers?
The need for better crime stats, from David J. Krajicek at the Justice Report.