Opinion: South Dakota study ignores crime victims
"Are American Indians more often victims of crime than members of other ethnic and racial groups? Are most of the offenses committed against them committed by non-Indians, as opposed to members of their own group? Ever since the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics began issuing reports on this subject in 2000, the clear answer to both of those questions has seemed to be ''yes.''

Now the South Dakota attorney general and researchers at the University of South Dakota have challenged that conclusion, issuing a report that focuses on only one state but questions the Indian data nationally. Their challenge to the federal data is much too quick to dismiss the BJS findings.

Over the past eight years, the BJS, which is a component of the U.S. Department of Justice, has released some startling figures. Although American Indians are .9 percent of the total population, they represent 1.4 percent of all crime victims, a very significant overrepresentation. At least two-thirds of all crimes against Indians, and 80 percent of all sexual assaults, are committed by non-Indians.

Indian women, according to BJS data, are 2.5 times more likely than non-Indian women to be raped or sexually assaulted during their lifetimes.

These statistics have been difficult to ignore. Tribes and Native women's groups have raised them before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in order to secure greater support for Indian country criminal justice initiatives. Amnesty International included some of those statistics in a much broader analysis of sexual assault of Indian women in the United States, and used case studies from Indian country to make their point."

Get the Story:
Carole Goldberg and Kevin Washburn : Lies, damn lies, and crime statistics (Indian Country Today 7/25)

South Dakota Study:
Jurisdictional Variation in American Indian Criminal Justice: An Argument for Stronger Understanding and Better Methods (July 2008)

Related Stories:
Indian crime studies disputed by Republican official (7/16)
South Dakota AG disputes Indian crime studies (7/15)