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by Peter Moskos

April 1, 2014

Can We Trust Crime Numbers?

The need for better crime stats, from David J. Krajicek at the Justice Report.
“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.


campbell said...

And god only knows what other bloodbaths lurk in local dept. data. Like, say, a big push for standardization in the coding used by detectives to close cases. Oh, and we've owned the system for a mere fifteen years.

One also might have once heard a certain deputy chief request stats for an area of his responsibility be run excluding on view work because in his mind reporting proactive work by cops in that area would be a self generated crime wave. Good times.

PCM said...

Why would a police chief want to generate a crime wave? Makes perfect sense to me! Now that is proactive thinking.