Vice Squad
Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Vice Arrests by Race

Primo Research Assistant Ryan Monarch recently brought me some statistics from the FBI's 2002 Crime in the United States. The report includes arrest figures, including a breakdown by race (White, Black, American Indian or Alaskan Native, and Asian or Pacific Islander). In the overall arrest figures, Whites constituted 70.7% of the arrests and Blacks constituted 26.9%. But among arrests of Blacks, one offense stands out, as that offense for which Blacks were most over-represented. Any guesses which offense category this is? The answer is...."Gambling," for which 68.3 percent of arrestees in the data are Black. For the inaptly named "drug abuse violations" (as opposed to the more apt "inappropriate drug law violations"), Whites constitute 66.2 percent of the arrestees while Blacks form 32.5%. The "victimless" nature of many vice activities that are nevertheless criminalized tends to increase the scope of discretion available to enforcement agents, of course.

Addendum: The three offense categories in which the Black percentage of arrestees is lowest are all alcohol-related: "Driving under the influence," 9.8 percent of arrestees are Black; "Liquor laws," 8.9 percent of arrestees are Black; and, "Drunkenness," 13.5 percent of arrestees are Black. Those three alcohol-related categories, not surprisingly, are also the three for which Whites most dominate the arrest statistics.

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