The Department of Justice's Efforts to Compile State Crime Statistics

T-GGD-90-33: Published: Apr 19, 1990. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1990.

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GAO discussed the Department of Justice's (DOJ) collection, analysis, and reporting of state crime statistics. GAO noted that: (1) the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) were the principal DOJ agencies responsible for the routine collection and analysis of state crime statistics; (2) DOJ used such information as the basis for distributing federal funds, targeting federal programs to address identified problems, and examining the incidence of crime and law enforcement efforts; (3) the DOJ programs typically relied on data from state criminal history records repositories, state and local law enforcement agencies, state courts, state corrections agencies, and inmate surveys; (4) FBI planned to expand data collection from 8 to 22 crime categories and expand reporting of significant details about offenses, arrestees, and victims; (5) a nonprofit professional association received BJS and BJA funding to analyze state crime data, provide technical assistance to address crime-related policy issues, and maintain a clearinghouse of state policy resources; and (6) the BJS National Crime Survey attempted to elicit information about reported and unreported crimes. GAO also noted that the data inconsistencies among the various databases could be attributable to: (1) serious, long-standing data quality problems in criminal history records; (2) lack of data validation; (3) states' collection and reporting of incomplete data; (4) differences in states' penal code definitions; and (5) states' slow progress in automating criminal history records.

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