WASHINGTON – Although crime is on the decline in the United States, the rate of arrest of Blacks continue to exceed that of Whites, according to a report by the Justice Policy Institute.
The Justice Policy Institute, a non-profit organization that advocates for reforms in the criminal justice system, examined the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2011 Uniform Crime Report and found that Blacks accounted for 28.4 percent of arrests in 2011 compared to 69.2 percent for Whites. In 2010, according to the FBI, 28 percent of those arrested were Black and 69.4 percent were White.
In other words, the arrest rate for Blacks was more than double that of Whites. At this point, researchers are unsure whether this trend will hold as crime continues to decline.
Violent offenses fell 3.8 percent and property crime decreased 0.5 percent in 2011 compared to 2010. Drug arrests plummeted 6.57 percent, but still account for 1.5 million arrests.
Spike Bradford, a researcher for the Justice policy Institute, said that, it’s hard to know what accounted for the drop in drug-related arrests.
“Hopefully, it reflects a growth in understanding of drug abuse as a problem better addressed through the public health systems,” he said. “It may also reflect shrinking federal funding for police, so law enforcement departments are focusing more on protecting public safety and less on meeting arrest quotas to get drug task force funding.”
JPI reported that federal, state and local government spending on law enforcement topped $100 billion in 2010, despite violent crime and property crime each falling more than 40 percent since 1991.
Criminal justice advocates say that ending the war on drugs is critical to decreasing the number of arrests in the Black community.
“The main thing we need to deal with is stopping the bleeding,” said Major Neill Franklin, a 34-year veteran in law enforcement and executive director of LEAP (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition). “We have to focus on first contact.”
If first contact is reduced, can prevent continuing arrests, Franklin said.
“As a cop in Baltimore, as a cop in any city, I can walk up to you and in three words have probable cause: ‘I smell marijuana,’” said Franklin. “They use it all the time, all day long.”
Franklin said young people should know their rights and learn how to exercise those rights.
During the State of the Black World Conference in Washington, D.C. last week, civil rights leaders and criminal justice advocates discussed strategies to get the churches, law enforcement officials and civil rights organizations involved in fighting mass incarceration and reducing arrests in the Black community.
Community policing, increased civic engagement to affect local public policy, and educating young people on their civil rights arrests were listed as possible solutions.
“It’s an old issue of community control of the police. Many of us have been struggling with this for decades,” said Khalid Raheem, president of the National Council for Urban Peace and Justice. “We need to fight to change public policy around what is appropriate police conduct and how they do the work that we pay them to do.”
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent