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The Colour of Crime.pdf


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in arrests: the National Incident-Based Reporting System
(NIBRS). In 2013, 6,328 law enforcement agencies covering
approximately 29 percent of the US population reported crime
to the FBI using NIBRS categories, which include races of
reported offenders as well as races of persons arrested. It is
reasonable to assume that both the racial mix of this massive
sample and the behavior of police officers are representative
of the entire United States.
Unfortunately, NIBRS does not distinguish between whites

and gambling. Interestingly, these are crimes for which there
may be no witnesses—such as embezzlement or stolen property—or are “victimless” crimes, such as drug offenses and
gambling. The racial identification of suspects in these cases
may not be reliable.
In crimes that involve direct contact with victims and in
which race of offender can therefore be clearly identified, black
arrest rates are below reported offender rates. For example,
blacks were identified as 73 percent of robbery offenders but

and Hispanics, which means blacks are the only racial group
for which we have consistent information. However, blacks
are the group most frequently said to be victims of police bias,
so if the police treat them fairly it is probably safe to conclude
they treat other groups fairly.
Figure 4 compares the percentages of criminals that victims
say were black to the percentages of arrested suspects who
were black. If police are arresting a larger proportion of blacks
than the proportion of criminals victims say were black, it
would be evidence of bias.
For most crimes, blacks make up a larger percentage of
reported offenders than they do of those arrested. In only
seven of the 22 NIBRS crime categories did blacks account
for a larger share of arrests: homicides, counterfeiting/forgery,
embezzlement, fraud, stolen property offenses, drug offenses,

accounted for only 59 percent of robbery arrests.
When crimes from all categories are aggregated, black offenders were 14 percent less likely than non-blacks offenders
to be arrested. This suggests that police do not show anti-black
bias, but make arrests that closely match the proportions at
which people of different races commit crime.
NIBRS data come disproportionately from smaller police
departments. In 2013, only 10 percent of the population
covered by the system lived in cities of 250,000 and greater.
What do arrest statistics show for large metropolitan areas?
New York City, for example, does not participate in NIBRS
but it records the races of arrested offenders, and consistently
distinguishes between whites and Hispanics. In 2014, 374
people were arrested for murder. Their races were as follows:
White: 2.9 percent


New Century Foundation

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The Color of Crime