Experts Urge More BJS Power Over U.S. Crime Data


A panel of the National Academy of Sciences has urged boosting the authority and independence of the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, giving it power to extract crime data directly from the computers in local police departments, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. It wouldn't supplant the FBI's annual compilation of crime reports from localities, but it would give us a real-time crime temperature, something like the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ employment data.

A summer surge in auto theft across Great Lakes states? In theory, such a trend could be spotted as it's happening. And action could be taken quickly. With current crime counting methods, it takes more than a year to spot a national crime trend. To meet the public demand for crime data in the meantime, several publishers repackage (some say distort) FBI data to rank cities and even neighborhoods by how dangerous they supposedly are. Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri-St. Louis had suggested moving the FBI’s compilation to BJS. The national panel disagreed, deciding it would be too difficult and too expensive – for now.

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