Release Date: January 14, 2021
Contact:  Michael Rushford
(916) 446-0345

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A new study from the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) largely refutes the common claim that there is an overall racial bias in arrests for violent crimes, according to the Sacramento-based Criminal Justice Legal Foundation (CJLF). CJLF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rights of victims of crime and the law-abiding public.

The claims of bias are typically based on a simplistic comparison of arrest or punishment rates of various racial and ethnic groups with the same groups’ percentage of the general population. This comparison is invalid, according to CJLF, because it overlooks differences in offending rates.

The BJS study released today avoided this problem by comparing arrest rates from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR) with crime statistics from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS is a direct telephone survey of crime victims, making it independent of any law enforcement bias.

With one exception, the percentages of each group arrested for non-fatal violent crimes reported to the police were within the survey margin of error for the percentage of perpetrators of that group as race or ethnicity was perceived by the victims of the crimes. (Homicides were not included in this study because NCVS is based on surveys of surviving victims.)

Black persons were 34.9% of perpetrators of violent crimes reported to the police as perceived by victims and 33.0% of persons arrested for these crimes, with a survey standard error of 4%. “The greater arrest, conviction, and incarceration rates for black people in the United States are a matter of great concern, but clearly the principal cause is a difference in crime commission rates, not law enforcement bias,” said CJLF’s Legal Director Kent Scheidegger. “We must correctly identify the cause of the problem to have any hope of progress toward a solution,” he added.

The one exception is that persons identified as Hispanic upon arrest significantly exceeded the percentage perceived as Hispanic by the victims at the time of the crime. This difference may be the result of the definition of Hispanic origin as being independent of race and not necessarily observable by the victim. The study notes that victims’ inability to determine if the offender was Hispanic “may have resulted in some underestimates of Hispanic offenders’ involvement in violent crime (not shown in tables).” “This difference is worth further study but is not necessarily evidence of bias,” said Scheidegger.

The report, Race and Ethnicity of Violent Crime Offenders and Arrestees, 2018, NCJ 255969 is available at

CJLF Legal Director Kent Scheidegger is available for comment at (916) 446-0345.