Attorney General Kamala D. Harris Releases New OpenJustice Data Showing Racial Disparities in Adult Arrest Rates

Friday, November 4, 2016
Contact: (415) 703-5837, agpressoffice@doj.ca.gov

SAN FRANCISCO - Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today announced the release of a new round of OpenJustice data that explores adult arrests and racial disparities in California over time, marking another significant expansion of the first-of-its-kind criminal justice transparency initiative rolled out last September. OpenJustice makes available to the public criminal justice data in an accessible format, including a Dashboard with user-friendly visualization tools and an Open Data Portal that publishes raw data. 

“This data release highlights pervasive inequalities in our criminal justice system,” said Attorney General Harris. “Data is key to being smart on crime and crafting public policy that reflects the reality of policing in our communities and improves public safety. We must continue the national dialogue about criminal justice reform and promote the American ideal that we are all equal under the law.” 

Today’s rollout includes a detailed breakdown of arrests since 2005, with a demographic focus, painting a more complete picture of who is arrested for specific crimes. The new data and analysis reveals substantial shifts in overall adult arrest patterns since 2005:

  • In 2015, felony arrests dropped by 29% (~120,000 arrests) while misdemeanor arrests went up by 11% (~80,000 arrests), as Proposition 47 re-classed many drug possession and theft offenses under $950 from felonies or wobblers to misdemeanors.
  • Felony arrests rates for theft steadily dropped almost 50% over the past 10 years.
  • Felony arrests rates for narcotics dropped 80%, with half of the drop occurring through 2014 and the remaining half occurring in 2015.
  • Beginning in 2008, there has been a downward trend of total arrests—a 17.5% drop over seven years (an average of 32,500 per year).
  • DUI arrests dropped over one-third from their high in 2008, and misdemeanor marijuana arrests are now rare due to a 2011 law making simple possession an infraction.

These overall arrest patterns have led to some notable reductions in racial disparities:

  • Arrest rates among Hispanics have decreased for most offenses over time, with arrests for felony assault dropping over 30% and for misdemeanor DUIs dropping about 40%.
  • From 2005 to 2014, the African American arrest rate for narcotics dropped by two-thirds; the felony marijuana arrest rate fell by 50%. The narcotics arrest rate for Hispanics dropped by nearly 50%.  
  • In 2015, arrest rates of African Americans for narcotics, dangerous drugs, and burglary all dropped between 200 and 300 per 100,000.
  • Arrests of Hispanics and whites also fell in 2015, particularly for dangerous drugs where the arrest rates lowered by ~200 per 100,000 (for narcotics and burglary they lowered 50–85 per 100,000).

Despite the overall drop in arrest rates, particularly among African Americans and Hispanics, significant disparities by race still remain in 2015:

  • African Americans are 10 times more likely to be arrested for robbery, 3-5 times more likely to be arrested for burglary, theft and assault than whites.
  • African American men are 6 times more likely to be arrested for felonies involving narcotics or marijuana than are whites. 
  • African American women are 20 times more likely to be arrested for prostitution than are white women; compared to white men, African American men and Hispanic men are also arrested for prostitution at 6.5 and 3.5 times greater rates, respectively.
  • For most offenses, Hispanic women are about as likely to be arrested as white women, while Hispanic men are more likely to be arrested than white men.

Attorney General Harris’s commitment to reforming our criminal justice system and reducing disparities extends beyond the release of this unprecedented open data initiative. In February, Attorney General Harris unveiled OpenJustice v1.1, with criminal justice data provided at the city, county, and state level and contextualized with demographic and population information, including poverty and unemployment rates.

Attorney General Harris has also convened a 21st Century Policing Working Group with law enforcement leaders from across the state and created the first-ever course for law enforcement, certified by the Commission on Peace Officers and Standards Training (POST) that infuses procedural justice tenets with information about confronting and overcoming implicit bias, training. She also directed a 90-day review of the California Department of Justice’s policies and practices around implicit bias, which led to a body-worn camera pilot program for DOJ special agents.

To view all of the data and additional analysis released today visit,
OpenJustice (https://openjustice.doj.ca.gov/arrests/offenses).

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