Racial Differences in Arrests

GGD-94-29R: Published: Jan 20, 1994. Publicly Released: Jan 20, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed racial disparities in arrest rates for rape, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault. GAO found that: (1) blacks were more likely to be arrested and identified as assailants by crime victims when compared to the proportion of blacks in the general population; (2) racial disparities in arrests diminish when black and white arrest rates are compared with offender rates; (3) although racial disparities in offender rates may be a result of victims' prejudice or misidentification of an assailant's race, methodology is not available to identify these potential errors; (4) the racial disparities in arrests varied due to the racial disparities in offenses; (5) after controlling for racial differences in offending, blacks remained more likely to be arrested for simple assault than whites; and (6) measures of racial differences in arrests should be made on a crime-specific basis using measures of racial differences in involvement in criminal activity.

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