Federal Offenders Re-Arrest Rates High, says Sentencing Commission

A new study by the United States Sentencing Commission found that 72.8 of federal offenders had been previously convicted, mainly for public order offenses and violent offenses.

Most individuals sitting in federal prison have offended before, according to a report released by the United States Sentencing Commission (USCC).

The USCC, in its first-ever compilation of convictions of all federal offenders sentenced in a fiscal year, found that 72.8 percent of those sentenced in fiscal year 2016 had been convicted of a prior offense. The average number of previous convictions was 6.1 among offenders with criminal history.

The report, titled “The Criminal History of Federal Offenders,” found the most common prior offenses were public order offenses (43.7 percent) and violent offenses (39.5 percent).

Details on previous offenses and a defendant’s criminal history are critical to judges’ sentencing decisions, said the report.

Congress codified this approach with the passage of the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1984, which was created to ensure consistency during federal sentencing. The act requires federal courts to consider the history and characteristics of the defendant when imposing a sentence.

The code provides guidelines, or a point system, to help in sentencing.

According to the study, of the violent offenders, assault was the most common charge, (29.5 percent), followed by robbery, (8.1 percent), and rape (4.4 percent).

Just under two percent of offenders with criminal history had a prior homicide offense.

Significantly, the data also showed most firearm offenders, 91.7 percent, had at least one previous conviction compared to about half of those convicted of fraud (52.4 percent), and child pornography (48.2 percent).

Firearms offenders were most likely to have violence in their criminal histories: 62 percent of firearms offenders with a previous conviction had a violent previous conviction.

A full copy of the report can be found here.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Gang Violence Decline Credited With Drop in California Gun Deaths

The biggest decline in firearm homicides was among African-American men, amounting to 32 per cent between 2000 and 2015, according to the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program. But the decline coincided with a rise in gun deaths in rural counties.

Firearm homicide rates in California have dramatically declined since the mid-2000s in urban areas in California, but the decline was undercut by a rise in rural areas, according to a new study.

One of the major drivers of the decline was a decline in gang violence, especially among Hispanic men, the study said, though it added Hispanic men are still the group with the highest death toll in Los Angeles County.

For urban counties in general, the decline in homicide rates was “driven by reductions in homicides in Los Angeles County among men of color,” researchers said.

In what was described as the first examination of gun deaths in California in over three decades. the study conducted by the University of California’s Davis Violence Prevention Research Program (VPRP), also found an increase in suicides by firearms–with the greatest increase in rural counties.

Statewide, the biggest decline in firearm homicide was among black men, from a rate of 47 deaths per 100,000 in 2005 to 31 deaths per 100,000 in 2015, a 32 percent decline.

Even so, the study authors noted, “The homicide rate for black men (in California) is 4.5 times the rate of Hispanic men, the group at the next highest level of risk.”

The study, which will be published in the May issue of Annals of Epidemiology, was conducted at the county level using California’s Multiple Cause of Death database. Researchers evaluated 50,921 firearm deaths between 2000 and 2015 in order to “describe changes across time and across the populations throughout the state.”

The study’s authors include Veronica Pear, Alvaro Castillo-Carniglia, Rose M.C. Kagawa, Magdalena Cerdá, and Garen J. Wintemute, all of the UC Davis VPRP.

Los Angeles County alone experienced a particularly steep decline of 54 percent in its rate of firearm homicides between 2002 and 2015.

However, even though one of the study’s authors, Veronica Pear, traces the fall in homicides in urban counties to a decline in gang violence, especially among Hispanic men, Hispanic men are still the group with the highest death toll in Los Angeles County.

The causes for the decline in gang violence remain ambiguous, and Pear suggested it should be the subject of future research.

But the picture of declining gun deaths in urban areas has brought added attention to California’s rural counties, which were experiencing the state’s highest firearm homicide rates by 2015.

In addition, firearm suicides were found to be three times higher in rural counties, and were highest among white men in their 50s.

“White men over the age 80 had nearly 30 times the number of firearm suicides than Hispanic men, the only other racial or ethnic group with counts large enough to report.”

Across the state, white men and women, combined, were found to have a suicide rate six times higher than any other ethnic or racial group. Firearm suicide rates among men were 8.5 times higher for men than for women.

The paper’s authors wrote they hoped their findings could be used to help public health practitioners develop “targeted interventions,’ and persuade policymakers to allocate more resources to such work, as well as for additional research into the “factors that contribute to firearm violence.”

The full study, entitled “Firearm Mortality in California, 2000-2015: The Epidemiologic Importance of Within-State Variation,” can be downloaded here.

This summary was prepared by TCR news intern John Ramsey. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

St. Louis, Baltimore Lead in Homicide Rates

While the overall murder rate still remains far below the one recorded in the ’90s, the increase in 2016 was the greatest recorded in nearly two decades.

St. Louis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Detroit and Cleveland have the nation’s highest homicide rates taking population into account, The Trace reports. The national murder rate has declined since the early 1990s, but since 2015, the rate has been ticking up. In 2016, the national rate was 5.4 killings per 100,000 people, a year-over-year increase of 8.6 percent. While the overall murder rate still remains far below those recorded in the ’90s, that’s the greatest recorded in nearly two decades. In Chicago, the murder rate nearly doubled between 2014 and 2016. Milwaukee and Louisville saw comparable spikes.

There is no city more synonymous with violence in the U.S. than Chicago, but on a per-capita basis — murders per 100,000 residents — the city regularly experiences fewer killings than places whose murder rates get far less national attention. “Because Chicago has so many people, it can get a murder every day, and that gets people’s attention,” says Fordham law Prof. John Pfaff. “When you focus on numbers, not rates, Chicago ends up looking worse because you forget just how big a city it is.” >Mass shootings, though comprising less than 2 percent of all gun deaths, can skew a local murder rate so drastically that some cities decline to include fatalities from gun rampages when reporting to the FBI. Las Vegas excluded victims of the 2017 Mandalay Bay massacre from its homicide counts.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Violent Crimes Reported to Police Hit Record Lows

Observation In 2016, fewer than half (42%) of violent crimes were reported to police. This is the lowest percentage of violent crimes reported since 1998. It was 51.1 percent in 2010. The data is based on the National Crime Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, designed to review […]

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Observation In 2016, fewer than half (42%) of violent crimes were reported to police. This is the lowest percentage of violent crimes reported since 1998. It was 51.1 percent in 2010. The data is based on the National Crime Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, designed to review […]

The post Violent Crimes Reported to Police Hit Record Lows appeared first on Crime in America.Net.

from https://www.crimeinamerica.net

Are 1,700 Families Guilty of Most Crime in Mobile, AL?

Bill Hightower, a Republican candidate for Alabama governor, made the assertion in a recent debate. While criminologists say it generally is true that a small percentage of the population is responsible for a large percentage of crime, the politician had oversimplified and convoluted a 2003 study about school suspensions.

Do 1,700 families really account for the vast majority of crime in Mobile, Ala.? PolitiFact scrutinizes that assertion, which was made by State Sen. Bill Hightower during a recent debate among Republican candidates for Alabama governor. In replying to a question about school safety, Hightower said, “In Mobile, it’s something like 1,700 families (that) generate 80 percent of the crime. We know who those families are.” Mobile has a population of about 193,000, so is a small fraction of the citizenry responsible for eight out of 10 crimes? Maybe not. Hightower’s campaign later said he was citing a statistic about school suspensions, not crime–from data 15 years ago.

In 2003, the Mobile County district attorney found that just 1,500 of the 65,000 students in the district were responsible for 75 to 80 percent of serious school infractions. The district attorney then cross-referenced the students with home addresses to identify 1,200 households. John Tyson, the DA who did the research, emphasized the behavior did not constitute crime under a criminal justice definition. Still, criminologists were not surprised by the finding. “A small percentage of the population is responsible for a large percentage of crimes,” said James Alan Fox of Northeastern University. But PolitiFact concluded that Hightower flubbed his attempt to cite the data. His point was roughly related to the 2003 research, but he did not describe it correctly by oversimplifying and convoluting the research findings about school suspensions.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Florida to Initiate Sweeping Consolidation of Justice Data

A new law that takes effect July 1 mandates reporting and consolidation of data from multiple agencies, including prisons, law enforcement agencies and courts. Lawmakers call it the gold standard in justice data reporting. The information will be available to the public on a government website.

Under a new law that takes effect July 1, Florida will begin consolidating criminal justice data from multiple agencies, including prisons, law enforcemers, and courts, into a single data base that will make the information easier to access and analyze, reports the Capitol News Service.  Lawmakers call it the gold standard in crime reporting. The goal is to get a better understanding of criminal justice trends in the state to help inform policy decisions. The new system will require law enforcement agencies, court clerks, state attorneys, public defenders, jails and the Department of Corrections to submit statistics to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The data will be available to the public on FDLE’s website.
Florida has the third-largest prison population in the country, costing taxpayers $2.3 billion a year. Barney Bishop of the Florida Smart Justice Alliance said that a long view of better data will bring into relief certain trends that may not be apparent now–for example, whether the system is discriminatory. Agencies that fail to comply with the new reporting requirements can be declared ineligible for state funding for up to five years.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Overhaul of Crime Stats Should Include Data Theft, Toxic Spills: Expert Panel

A 15-member panel assembled by the National Academy of Sciences said Wednesday that current statistics collection has left gaps in data about many offenses affecting American life today. It also recommended that the government consider centralizing the control of collecting crime statistics.

An expert committee organized by the National Academy of Sciences called Wednesday for centralizing the control of collecting crime statistics as part of an overhaul of the nation’s crime-data collection system.

Such an overhaul, which would fill in gaps on reporting of offenses like data theft and environmental crime, is essential to developing a “more inclusive picture of crime in the United States,” the committee said.

The changes  would help managers and policymakers better assess the effectiveness of crime-fighting policies, evaluate the effectiveness of existing policies, and make justice agencies more accountable, it added.

The experts did not specify which agency should lead the process, but it said “what is critical is that national crime statistics be produced, coordinated, and governed pursuant to the expected sensibilities of a statistical agency, one for which data collection and dissemination—and attention to issues of data quality—are essential to the agency’s mission.”

The 15-member panel, headed by criminologist Janet Lauritsen of the University of Missouri St. Louis, said policymakers and justice practitioners currently lack “key and timely” data to help them improve and measure the effectiveness of their work.

“There is great benefit to be realized from better statistics in the nation’s crime problems,” said the panel. “It is time to develop a more inclusive picture of crime in the United States.”

Overall, the panel contended that “modern crime statistics require consideration of completely different ways to measure crime,” including, for example, assessing the “harm imposed by, or the costs associated with, crime.”

The group also cited the “problematic lack of solid information about the relative magnitude of the costs, harms, or importance across crime offense types or specific incidents.”

The call for a centralization of crime statistics would replace a system in place for decades, in which authority has been split between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which issues an annual report on crime statistics voluntarily submitted by police departments, and the U.S. Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, which publishes a yearly report based on interviews with Americans on whether they have been crime victims in the previous year.

The reports differ greatly because a large number of crimes are not reported to police.

The expert panel, formally known as the Panel on Modernizing the Nation’s Crime Statistics, offered several examples of the gaps in data on crime. Among them:

  • Thefts of data from businesses or government agents may put millions of Americans at risk of identity theft and serious financial harm. Cyberspace is a “perpetual domestic crime scene,” the committee said, but national crime statistics “have not been well equipped to measure cybercrimes such as the deployment of malware or coordinated attacks on computer networks.”
  • The opioid overdose crisis highlights the fact that production, sale and possession of narcotics are important crime categories, but those activities “are not well characterized in current crime statistics,” which largely consist of counts of seizures and arrests for drug law violations. The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy periodically issues estimates on the dollar value of major drug markets, and data on drug users, but they are not part of routine crime reporting.
  • Materials “disappear” daily from the stocks of retailers and businesses, but the phenomenon is known as shrinkage “poorly understood by the public, in part because businesses do not commonly report all of their losses to law enforcement …even though the billions of dollars in losses almost inevitably affect all consumers.”
  • Available crime data “lack the detail and the timeliness to address important concerns,” the committee said. Both in 2006 and 2015, “news accounts and general perception fueled concerns about major increases in homicide despite the fact that the current homicide rate is less than half the rate of the 1980s and 1990s.”

Although some media outlets and advocacy groups collect their own data, the panel said, “the nation as a whole was hindered by the typical 10-month gap between the end of the calendar year and the release of current national crime statistics, unable to understand whether local patterns were part of broader regional or national patterns or whether increased homicide activities were limited to specific forms of homicide such as drug-related murder.”

The committee’s last reference was to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which typically is issued in late September for the previous year. The Justice Department’s victimization survey usually comes out even later.

The panel noted that merely counting the numbers of incidents, especially in the case of of relatively new crime types, is insufficient.

It cited as an example “ransomware” that denies computer users access to their data until a ransom is paid. There is a huge difference between locking up one home computer and the data system of an entire hospital or medical group.

Similarly, with environmental crimes, improperly disposing of a computer battery and spilling large volumes of toxic materials into the water or air each may represent a single violation of the law, but they are likely to have vastly different consequences.

Another problem cited by the panel is that both the FBI report and the victimization survey tend to report “coarse tallies” of how many crimes in particular categories occurred in the previous year.

That is not enough, said the experts, “to meet the needs of the full range of users and stakeholders.”

The committee mentioned some recently evolving offenses like arson, hate crime, human trafficking and cargo theft whose nuances are difficult to capture in totals of how many crimes were committed in a year.

The panel discussed the lack of detail in the FBI’s annual report, which provides totals of crime types like homicide and robbery that are reported by most of the nation’s 18,000 police departments.

For many years, the FBI has been trying to get more information on each crime through a system known as the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) that includes as many as several dozen details of each crime incident.

Police departments have been slow to compile and submit the data. Former FBI director James Comey called for the system to be adopted nationally by 2021.

The DOJ victimization survey also has had limitations because of a lack of resources. While the FBI data provides city-by-city crime counts, until recently, the victimization survey has been unable to make anything but national estimates. A few regional totals now are available.

The committee, which has been working for about four years, issued an earlier report with a proposed new classification of crimes to take into account modern-day violations in areas like environmental and computer crime, fraud, and national security.

Citing the historic split between the FBI and BJS in collecting crime data, the committee said that the U.S. has a “crime statistics system that lacks essential leadership.”

The committee did not take a stand on which agency should take the lead in the future or whether a new structure should be created.

“It is not clear if either BJS or the FBI is currently positioned to be successful in expanding the collection of crime statistics,” the committee said, suggesting that the White House Office of Management and Budget investigate the subject and make a recommendation.

Because most crime is reported on a state and local level, the report emphasized that state and local authorities should be included in planning any changes that will be coordinated on a federal level. The report includes a state-by-state summary of the laws and regulations on reporting crime statistics.

Joining Lauritsen on the study panel were Daniel Bibel, retired head of the Massachusetts State Police Crime Reporting Unit; Jonathan Caulkins of Carnegie Mellon University; Kim English of the Colorado Department of Public Safety; and Robert Goerge of the University of Chicago; Nola Joyce, a retired official of the Philadelphia Police Department; David McDowall of the University at Albany; and Jennifer Madans of the National Center for Health Statistics.

Other panel members were: Michael Maltz of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Ohio State University; Michael Miller of the Coral Gables, Fl., Police Department; James Nolan of West Virginia University; Amy O’Hara of the Stanford University Institute for Economic Policy Research; John Pepper of the University of Virginia; Alex Piquero of the University of Texas at Dallas; and Jeffrey Sedgwick of the Justice Research and Statistics Association.

Ted Gest is president of Criminal Justice Journalists and Washington bureau chief of The Crime Report. Readers’ comments welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Las Vegas Crime Count for 2017 is Suspected

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo touted a 0.9 percent drop in violent crime last year. The Las Vegas Review-Journal finds that at least two murders were omitted, as were the 58 deaths in the mass shooting at a concert.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department started the new year by touting a 0.9 percent drop in violent crime between 2016 and 2017. “We began last year committed to reducing violent crimes, and we were able to deliver (on) that promise,” Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo said. “We still have more ground to cover, but we’re headed in the right direction.” Yet that reported dip in crime is insignificant, several criminologists told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “This is only a small drop in the bucket,” said John Eterno, a retired New York City police captain now at New York’s Molloy College and co-author of “The Crime Numbers Game: Management by Manipulation.”

A closer look at the homicide numbers also reveals a handful of discrepancies and a glaring omission: the 58 people killed in the Las Vegas mass shooting. The total of 141 homicides investigated last year does not include two cases. One killing of a man sleeping outside was omitted from the count because it occurred on railroad property. Another case left out involved a man who died after a police officer stunned him seven times with a Taser and held him in a chokehold. The coroner declared the death a homicide, but police didn’t include it in the count because it was not investigated by the homicide unit. “It looks to me like they are trying to show themselves in the best possible light, which is their job,” Eterno said. “But we worry about them playing with the numbers to the point where we’re not getting any true value out of the numbers.”

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Media, The FBI, and Confusion on Shooting Data

Many oft-cited statistics disregard forms of school violence that may not have involved guns but are similar to shootings in intention or impact, says The Atlantic. The messiness of counting school shootings contributes to sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in the U.S. based on information is confusing at best and inaccurate at worst.

After the Florida school massacre, news organizations are engaging in a grim tradition: tallying the ever-growing list of school shootings in the U.S., and of mass shootings more generally, The Atlantic reports. The Daily Beast cited data from Everytown, the gun-control advocacy group, which called the Florida episode the 59th shooting at or near schools this academic year. The counting of school shootings, and of other types of shootings and incidents of mass violence, isn’t a straightforward process. Many oft-cited statistics disregard forms of school violence that may not have involved guns but are similar to shootings in intention or impact. The messiness of counting school shootings contributes to sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in the U.S. based on information is confusing at best and inaccurate at worst.

In 2008, the FBI limited its definition of mass shootings to a single incident in which a shooter kills four or more people. In 2013 the agency defined an “active shooter” as a person “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” After the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Ct., Congress defined“mass killings” as three or more killings in one incident. Separating out different forms of gun violence in the statistics is crucial in understanding why shootings happen and how they might be prevented. Under pressure from the National Rifle Association, Congress in 1996 prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding public-health research on firearms issues. There is still no comprehensive federal database on gun deaths, let alone on school shootings. After the Aurora, Co., movie-theater shooting, Mother Jones created an open-source database of mass shootings. The newspaper Education Week launched a database that counts school shootings. Each database has its own criteria for what it defines as a mass or school shooting.

from https://thecrimereport.org

St. Louis, Baltimore Had Highest Homicide Rates in Early ’17

Data from the first six months of 2017 showed the cities with the highest murder numbers per 100,000 population. New Orlenas, Detroit and Cleveland rounded out the top five. Chicago came in as number eight.

CBS News compiled a list of the supposedly deadliest U.S. cities, based on data for the first six months of 2017 compiled by the Major City Chiefs Association. St. Louis is listed as the city with the highest homicide rate, 29.1 per 100,000 population. Baltimore is second, at 27.3, followed by New Orleans, 24.5, Detroit, 20.2 and Cleveland, 14.5.

Chicago has been notable for its high murder totals in recent years, but on a per capita basis, the city ranks only number eight on CBS’s list, with a rate of 12.1 per 100,000 population. The FBI and criminologists warn against using crime data to rank cities, saying it can produce misleading results because of vagaries in city boundaries and other factors.

from https://thecrimereport.org