The Suppression of Crime Statistics on Race and Ethnicity: The Price of Political Correctness

By Gabor, Thomas | Canadian Journal of Criminology, April 1994 | Go to article overview

The Suppression of Crime Statistics on Race and Ethnicity: The Price of Political Correctness


Gabor, Thomas, Canadian Journal of Criminology


In several media commentaries, I have stated that crime statistics based on race or any other variable should be collected if they shed light on the issue of crime. I have made these assertions with the recognition that such information could be used by criminal justice agencies to justify discriminatory practices or for other purposes harmful to minorities. I also acknowledge that classifying people according to race is a difficult exercise, given that many people are of mixed ancestry and that there are differences of opinion regarding what constitutes a "race". In the United States, for example, about 75 percent of African Americans have at least one white forbear (Stern 1954).

Furthermore, setting aside the classification problems, the substantial intra-racial differences in crime and violence around the world far exceed any overall interracial differences (Roberts and Gabor 1990; Gabor and Roberts 1990). The Phillipines, for example, have very high levels of violence as reflected by one of the world's highest homicide rates, whereas other "oriental" countries (e.g., Japan) have low rates of crime and violence. Similar dramatic intra-racial differences can be found when comparing European or African countries.

It has also been argued that any racial differences in officially recorded crime reflect discriminatory treatment by criminal justice systems, as opposed to genuine behavioural differences between the races. According to this line of argument, the race-crime link cannot be explored satisfactorily due to insoluble methodological problems in identifying real racial differences in crime.

Finally, opponents of the routine collection of crime statistics on race assert that it is unfair and impractical to collect information on the race of suspects. Race, they say, is an ascribed characteristic that cannot be changed and therefore has no relevance to social policy. While we can improve an individual's vocational skills and economic opportunities if we find that crime is linked to economic conditions, there is little we can do if we learn that a person's race is a risk factor in crime.

In the worst-case scenario, therefore, collecting and publishing race-based crime data can:

(1) Lead to a crackdown on certain racial minorities by the criminal justice system and create conflict among racial or ethnic groups; (2) Distort the true contribution to crime of different groups due to racial and ethnic biases in official crime data and the misclassification of suspects by criminal justice personnel; and,

(3) Waste justice system resources if race and ethnicity turn out to be largely insignificant correlates of crime, or because there appear to be no affirmative measures we can take if such factors are significantly related to crime.

At first glance, these arguments seem compelling. Upon closer scrutiny, however, they are alarmist and paternalistic. Benevolent political leaders, academics, and criminal justice personnel who oppose collecting statistics in sensitive areas feel they have the right to define the boundaries of the public's knowledge of crime, even where public security is at stake.

My concern in this paper is more with the principle of public access to information on security matters than with the need to publish race-based crime data in particular. At the end of this paper, I will briefly address the type of data that I feel should be collected. I will try to show that the justifications for suppressing such information are moral and political, rather than grounded in research. I also start with the premise that, in a free society, the burden rests with the censors to show that providing the public access to information has a high likelihood of producing significant social harms. I will now examine, in turn, the principal arguments of those opposing the collection and publication of race-based crime statistics.

(1) Publishing race-based crime statistics will increase friction between various racial or ethnic communities and justify harassment of minorities by the police

The growing ethnic/racial friction in Canada's urban centres has arisen in the absence of official race-based crime statistics. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Suppression of Crime Statistics on Race and Ethnicity: The Price of Political Correctness
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.