By LEDYARD KING, of the Great Falls Tribine:
WASHINGTON — It’s a double whammy for Indian Country. Crime on reservations is more than twice the national average, but only half of serious incidents are ever prosecuted.
Of some 9,090 cases referred for action nationwide from 2005 to 2009, federal prosecutors declined to take action on about 50 percent, or 4,506, the Government Accountability Office reported Monday. A lack of evidence was most often cited as the reason a case was not pursued. Almost another 1,000 cases still are pending, according to the study by the GAO, the watchdog arm of Congress.
South Dakota and Arizona made up about half of all the cases federal prosecutors received, followed by New Mexico, Montana and North Dakota — states that have relatively large Indian populations and sprawling reservations.
Native American advocates say the numbers of “declinations” are troubling, but not surprising.
“What’s most disconcerting about these numbers is that they probably don’t even tell the full story,” said Katy Jackman, staff attorney at the National Congress of American Indians. “What they do confirm is, as we’ve known for some time, that declination rates in Indian Country are a major problem.”
The lack of evidence can be traced in part to a shortage of police on Indian reservations. About 3,000 police officers — a force smaller than that of the nation’s capital — patrol 56 million acres of Indian Country.
Tags: Brendan Johnson, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Community Prosecution Strategy, gao, Government Accountability Office, indian country crime, Indian Country Crime Unit, michael cotter, Tribal Law and Order Act