Did Sessions Misstate Results of Crime Victim Survey?

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Did Attorney General Jeff Sessions misrepresent the findings of his own Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report on crime victimization? That is what Newsweek reports, quoting a speech by the AG in Baltimore this week. Sessions said the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) for 2016 found a 13 percent spike in the violent crime rate, but the report said there had been no measurable change. Sessions noted the high rates of rape and murder in Baltimore, and said NCVS found “that the rate of Americans victimized by violent crime is up more than 13 percent.”

The 13 percent figure comes from comparing the rates of violent crime in 2015 (18.6 victimizations per 1,000 people) to rates in 2016 (21.1 per 1,000). The report says the 2016 data aren’t comparable to those for past years and that among the geographical areas that can be accurately compared, there was no increase in violent crime between 2015 and 2016. Grace Kena, one of the BJS statisticians who wrote the report on the 2016 National Crime Victim Survey, said of the violent crime rate in the two years’ surveys, “It’s apples and oranges … In those counties that remained in the survey, the rate between those two years was stable.” Yet DOJ spokesman Ian Prior said, “The survey shows an increase in the violent crime victimization rate both in the counties that remained in the sample and between the outgoing 2015 sampled counties and the new 2016 sampled counties … The survey confirms what we’ve seen in the FBI’s uniform crime report, which finds an increase in violent crime and an increase in murders over the last two years.” (The NCVS does not count murders.)

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