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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: June 2, 2004
Latest Update: June 10, 2004

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California's Dept of Justice, through Statlist, sent me this email on June 4, 2004:

Date: Fri, 4 Jun 2004

Sender: The California Dept of Justice statistics mailing list

This easily accessed data is available via the courtesy and the written support of RAND California, RAND Corp. and linked to the CJSC web site - "Statistics":

The data is available as follows:

NUMBER OF CRIMES (8 Major Crimes): By Jurisdiction 1982-2002

NUMBER OF CRIMES & ARRESTS: By Jurisdiction 1982-2002
(250 Crime Categories, 900 California Jurisdictions)

CRIME RATES (per 100,000 Persons for 8 Major Crimes): By Jurisdiction 1982-2002

HATE CRIMES: By Jurisdiction 1994-2001

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE: By Jurisdiction 1987-2002

I gratefully filed the link away for use next Fall as our classes need it.

Then, on June 10, 2004, another email arrived:

Date: Thu, 10 Jun 20

Sender: The California Dept of Justice statistics mailing list

Recently you were notified of a new method to obtain California crime and arrest data by jurisdiction. We advised you that the data are available via a link from our website to "RAND California." Although " RAND California" has the data and can generate custom data tables online, it is nonetheless a commercial website. We believed the website was available to the public free of charge. Because "RAND California" is a commercial website, providing links to it is not appropriate or consistent with Department of Justice policy. The jurisdictional crime and arrest data, presented by the Department of Justice, will continue to be available upon request via the Criminal Justice Statistics Center's Special Request Unit. They can be reached at (916) 227-3509 or via e-mail at

Both of these messages had a standard trailer attached:

"CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This communication with its contents may contain confidential and/or legally privileged information. It is solely for the use of the intended recipient(s). Unauthorized interception, review, use or disclosure is prohibited and may violate applicable laws including the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender and destroy all copies of the communication. "

Before this long year of anti-terrorism and homeland security, I would have thought little of that trailer. Actually, it was kind of autormatic to file the notes on crime statistics away. I probably won't need them until a criminal justice article raises a question or a student needs them next Fall. Now, in the atmosphere of distrust and blame that has followed our search for terrorists under every doorstep, I feel again what the nation once felt under McCarthyism. Don't say anything that might be misinterpreted to suggest that you are a communist or share a left prespective. I was very young then and had nothing to hide, so it all seemed unreal. I am very old now and have nothing to hide, so it all seems unreal.

Nonetheless, the confidentiality notice sent a cold chill through me. I had already printed what I considered a "fair use" copy of the two emails on my teaching site to point out to my students some of the cross-overs I've been teaching between government and private corporations. Maybe I should take this page down. Maybe there's something wrong with telling students that private corporations benefit by access to public data, but

" We believed the website was available to the public free of charge. Because "RAND California" is a commercial website, providing links to it is not appropriate or consistent with Department of Justice policy."

I'm sorry; I'm missing something here. If it's public data that's being used, wouldn't it be OK to say we're addding a small fee to cover the cost of running the data and printing the tables? Do we have to make it "inappropriate" for the Department of Justice to want to make its data available to the public in convenient form?

There were myriad solutions to the fact that Rand charges for its tables or reports. I am made extremely uncomfortable by the solution that was proffered. I still want my students to know what statistics are available through Rand. Some of them will go on to need those statistics in practice or research. And I still think my students need to think about the increasing level of cross-over between government activity and privatization. So now I'm very old and wondering if I have something to hide.

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, June 2004.
"Fair use" encouraged.