Some (Heavy) Monday Morning Reading

The findings of two new reports may be of interest to NPMRP readers.

The first is tangential to police misconduct, but nevertheless big news in the criminal justice world: The 2015 Uniform Crime Report. The findings show an increase in violent crime and murder and a continued decrease in many property crimes. A mixed bag, to be sure, but it is important to remember that we’re still near historic lows in violent crime as other crimes continue to trend downward.  While crime rate increases are reasonable cause for concern, people should not be swayed to believing that everything is going terribly. It’s still very safe for most people in the United States and new policies based on overreaction are the last thing we need.

More directly related to our typical slate of work at NPMRP is a new report on the ATF’s ‘stash-house’ sting program. For those unfamiliar, the ATF would find people and entice them to rob a drug dealer’s stash house with the promise of a big payday. The drug house doesn’t actually exist but the people duped into joining the heist are then prosecuted and give heavy sentences for a crime that never happened. The practice has faced strong public criticism because it preys on the poor and particularly minorities. A new study confirms the findings of an earlier USA Today investigation that showed that racial minorities were targeted to be set up by the ATF at an astonishingly high rate. According to the news report:

The new report, prepared by Columbia Law School professor Jeffrey Fagan, found only a 0.1% chance that agents could have selected so many minorities by chance, even if they were targeting only people with criminal records that suggested they were likely to be part of a robbery crew, as ATF policies require. Those results, Fagan wrote, show that “the ATF is discriminating on the basis of race” in choosing targets for the stings.

The full UCR report can be downloaded here. The Fagan report is here.