• July/August 2001
  • Vol. 2, No. 4

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Law Enforcement Data Can be Useful to Child Abuse Researchers

In a bulletin released in May, the Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention urges child abuse researchers to consult the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS).

The bulletin makes the point that child abuse is commonly treated as a child welfare problem rather than as a law enforcement problem, with the result that there is a lack of law enforcement data available to researchers. NIBRS is offered as a source of such law enforcement data.

The bulletin contains a description of NIBRS, a comparison of NIBRS data to child welfare data, and some statistical information concerning child abuse which comes from a study of NIBRS data.

For example, in comparing NIBRS data from 12 States for 1997 with child welfare data, the bulletin reveals:

  • Child abuse incidents committed by parents and other caretakers constitute 19 percent of violent crimes against juveniles (ages 0-17) reported to the police.
  • 73 percent of these parent and other caretaker crimes are physical assaults, and 23 percent are cases of sexual abuse.
  • Child abuse constitutes more than one-half of the crimes against children age 2 or younger reported to the police.
  • Male offenders are responsible for three-quarters of child abuse incidents reported to the police, including 92 percent of sexual assaults and 68 percent of physical assaults.
  • 13 percent of episodes of parental assault against a child reported to the police are associated with an assault against a spouse or former spouse.
  • In spite of protocols in some States that require police notification about child maltreatment, there is evidence that police data tally only a fraction of physical and sexual abuse investigated and substantiated by child welfare authorities.

The bulletin concludes with an alert to policy makers to better understand the role law enforcement currently plays and potentially could play in responding to the problem of child abuse.

Access a copy of the OJJDP Bulletin, Child Abuse Reported to the Police online at: http://www.ncjrs.org/html/ojjdp/jjbul2001_5_1/contents.html

Related Item

Visit the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (http://nccanch.acf.hhs.gov) for the following related manual:

  • The Role of Law Enforcement in the Response to Child Abuse and Neglect(1992, html version)
  • The Role of Law Enforcement in the Response to Child Abuse and Neglect (1992, PDF version)

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