Recent Press Releases

Thune Comments on Indian Crime Study

-Data Corrects Flaws in Previous Studies-

July 14, 2008

Washington, DC —  Senator John Thune today praised a study released by South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long. The study compiles data from both state and federal law enforcement entities and attempts to identify the perpetrators of violent crime in Indian Country.

"In order to combat the serious problem of crime in Indian Country we must have the best data available," said Thune. "Studies like the one initiated by Attorney General Long provide a strong foundation for tribal leaders, policymakers and law enforcement officials alike. We must continue to work together to develop ways to combat crime on our reservations. The data in this new study is particularly critical since previous studies of Indian Country crime presented an incomplete picture.

"This new study specifically targets data collected in South Dakota and it provides a better understanding of crime rates and patterns on our reservations. This new data will be a great tool as I continue to work with the tribes, the BIA, and my Senate colleagues to address the rising crime rates on many of our nation's reservations."

The study, entitled "Jurisdictional Variation in American Indian Criminal Justice: An Argument for Stronger Understanding and Better Methods," will be published this fall in volume 32 of the American Indian Culture and Research Journal. The authors of the study include: Larry Long, South Dakota Attorney General; Dr. Richard Braunstein, University of South Dakota, Department of Political Science; Brenda Manning, Division of Criminal Investigation, State of South Dakota; and Dr. William D. Anderson, University of South Dakota, Department of Political Science.

Previous studies have not collected and analyzed all of the necessary crime data, specifically leaving out federal law enforcement data, which is essential to providing accurate statistics. These incomplete studies often produced results that were not only contrary to crime patterns in nearly every other racial group, but were also contrary to the experience of law enforcement personnel dealing with crime on American Indian reservations in South Dakota. Unfortunately, these incomplete studies are often cited as credible sources. Correcting these incomplete findings is essential to improving the understanding of the crime problem and to creating a viable solution to the problem of rising crime on our reservations.

Senator Thune has been committed to addressing the crime rates on American Indian reservations. He has worked to pass legislation to improve both enforcement and prosecution.

In February, the U.S. Senate passed S. 1200, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which included Senator Thune's amendment to require a Government Accountability Office study of the tribal justice systems of North and South Dakota. Also, in March, the Senate passed the Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Resolution, which included Senator Thune's amendment to authorize additional funding for police and prosecutors to address the growing problem of crime on American Indian reservations. Senator Thune also advocated a "surge" of law enforcement personnel on Standing Rock Indian Reservation in order to address the rising crime problem, which has recently resulted in a significant drop in crime. Most recently, Senator Thune solicited comments from constituents on a draft Indian Crime bill that he is circulating with Senator Dorgan (D-ND) and others to be introduced in the near future.