Victimization Among American Native Peoples

"Victimization Among American Native Peoples" by Justice Center, University of Alaska Anchorage. Alaska Justice Forum 16(4): 2–3 (Winter 2000). According to the most recent and reliable figures assembled, the rate of violent victimization among American Indians—a group defined to include Alaska Natives—is more than twice as high as the national average. The disparity in rates occurs across age groups, sexes, housing locations and income groups. National data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics on crime victimization by Alaska Natives and American Indians are presented in this article, including figures on Native victims of murder. Based on the BJS report American Indians and Crime (NCJ-173386).

According to the most recent and reliable figures assembled, the rate of violent victimization among American Indians—a group defined to include Alaska Natives—is more than twice as high as the national average. The disparity in rates occurs across age groups, sexes, housing locations and income groups.

Among law enforcement officers, social service personnel and others associated with the justice system, there is an anecdotal sense that Alaska Native criminal victimization rates are high, but precise figures are lacking. For a variety of reasons it is difficult to provide accurate data on victimization among Alaska Natives. No thorough statewide victimization survey has ever been conducted which could provide accurate data according to different demographic markers. The closest one can come to a statistical sense of victimization among Alaska Natives is through national figures assembled by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) on the broader category of American Indians—a category which is structured to include figures on Alaska Natives. However, even the national assembly of data on this group has been infrequent, due at least in part to the fact that annual sampling surveys result in the inclusion of too few responses from this demographic group to provide definitive statistics. (American Indians, including Alaska Natives, account for just under one per cent of the U.S. population, and, hence, would appear in general population statistical samples in relatively low numbers; Table 1. Table 2 presents population figures for Alaska Natives and American Indians in Alaska.)

Table 1. American Indian and Alaska Native Tribes in the United States, 1996
Table 2. Alaska Native and American Indian Population in Alaska

A report from BJS entitled “American Indians and Crime” presents data from the five-year period 1992–1996. The agency describes the report as the first result of a heightened effort on the part of the federal bureaucracy to “document issues of crime and justice affecting American Indians.” The study uses data from a broad variety of sources, including statistical series maintained by BJS, the FBI and the Bureau of the Census.

During 1992–1996 American Indians experienced an average of almost 150,000 violent crimes per year from among the estimated 10.8 million violent crimes occurring on average each year. (The category of violent crime here includes rape and sexual assault, robbery and assault for persons age twelve or older. It does not include murder. For data on murders, see the accompanying article, “Native Murder Victims.”) This figure represents a violent crime rate among American Indians of 124 per 1,000 individuals twelve or older—a rate about 2.5 times the national rate (Table 3).

Table 3. Annual Average Violent Victimization Rates for Persons Age 12 or Older, by Race, 1992-1996

The sexual assault/rape rate was more than three times the national rate, and the rate of robbery was twice as high as the national rate. The aggravated assault rate was more than three times the national rate, and simple assault more than twice the national rate (Table 4).

Table 4. Annual Average Rage of Rape and Sexual Assault, Robbery, and Assault, by Race of Victim, 1992-1996

The violent crime victimization rate for American Indian males was more than double that found among all males; the rate for American Indian females was also more than twice as high as that among women in general (Table 5). American Indian males between 18 and 24 had the highest victimization rate of all.

Table 5. Violent Victimization Rate for Persons 12 or Older, by Age, Sex, Location of Residence, and Race, 1992-1996

When the data are viewed from the perspective of location of residence—urban, suburban, rural—American Indians also experience higher rates of victimization in each subgroup, with an urban rate over three times that for urban residents in general.

The same high rates of victimization are found when figures are compared across income groups, with the highest rate occurring among those with annual household incomes under $10,000 (Table 6).

Table 6. Violent Victimization Rates, By Annual Household Income and Race, 1992-1996

The data presented here were derived from the National Crime Victimization Survey, which is administered by BJS to a national sample of households. The agency reports that it has now refined the survey to permit improved collection of data on the impact of crime among American Native peoples in future years.