The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, the Justice Department agency that collects and analyzes crime and justice data, must rely on a congressional conference committee to save its annual budget from being cut drastically. As Crime & Justice News reported earlier, the Senate voted to cut the agency’s appropriation from about $35 million to $10 million annually. The Senate committee that funds the Justice Department did not provide a rationale for the reduction; some staff members described the move as an error. The House voted to increase the agency’s budget to $45 million.
About 60 percent of the budget is spent on the National Crime Victimization Survey, which estimates the level of crime nationally based on interviews with more than 77,000 households. Release of the results for 2006 has been delayed until December because of methodology changes. The Justice Research and Statistics Association, which represents state crime-statistics agencies, said that “BJS data serve as a foundation for legislative and programmatic initiatives pertaining to crime control and prevention, corrections policy, and victims’ needs; and serve as models for, and are useful to, state statistical agencies.” The group called the House vote to iraise the budget a “long-overdue acknowledgement that BJS has been grossly underfunded. It is critical that conferees restore the BJS budget to a level that will not compromise its mission.”