Date of this Version
This report represents a compilation and new analysis of data on the effects and consequences of violent crime among American Indians. The report uses data from a wide variety of sources, including statistical series maintained by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the FBI, and the Bureau of the Census. Data are reported from American Indian crime victims on how they were affected by the victimization and about who victimized them. The report also includes the first BJS estimates of the total number of American Indians under the custody or supervision of the justice system.
The findings reveal a disturbing picture of American Indian involvement in crime as both victims and offenders. The rate of violent victimization estimated from responses by American Indians is well above that of other U.S. racial or ethnic subgroups and is more than twice as high as the national average. This disparity in the rates of violence affecting American Indians occurs across age groups, housing locations, income groups, and sexes.
With respect to the offender, two findings are perhaps most notable: American Indians are more likely than people of other races to experience violence at the hands of someone of a different race, and the criminal victimizer is more likely to have consumed alcohol preceding the offense. However, the victim/offender relationships of American Indians parallel that of all victims of violence.
On a given day, an estimated 1 in 25 American Indians age 18 or older is under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system — 2.4 times the per capita rate of whites and 9.3 times the per capita rate of Asians. But black Americans, with a per capita rate nearly double that of American Indians, are more likely to be under the care or custody of correctional authorities. This report is the first step in a vigorous BJS effort to document issues of crime and justice affecting American Indians. Statistical programs have been instituted to learn more about tribal criminal justice agencies, such as law enforcement and confinement facilities, and these will complement data available from other BJS series covering the justice system.
This study was prepared as a resource to respond to frequent inquiries. Since the number of American Indians in our annual samples are inadequate to provide definitive statistics, this report cumulates data from over a 5-year period. I hope that this report will serve as a foundation for other reports and discussions about how best to address the problem of crime affecting this segment of our population.
BJS has undertaken improvements in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), designed to improve future data collection on crime and its consequences for American Indians. This year BJS enhanced the NCVS to permit future analyses to report statistics on victimizations occurring on tribal lands. In addition, victim descriptions of the offender were modified to permit greater precision in future statistics about the victim’s perceptions of the offender’s race. Together, these NCVS upgrades will result in much greater detail about both locations of crime incidents and perpetrators.
Valuable contributions to the report were made by Norena Henry, Director of the American Indian/Alaska Native Affairs in the Office of Justice Programs, and Melvinda Pete, a BJS university student intern. In the development of the report, they helped to provide context for the statistical findings.