Wednesday, December 9, 2015

FBI and Animal Crimes

Some exciting changes are happening at the federal level with regards to crimes against animals.  The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) maintained by the FBI is a database. "Law enforcement agencies collect detailed incident level data regarding individual offenses and arrests and submit them using prescribed data elements and data values." (FBI website)

Tracking crimes in detail allows law enforcement and other agencies/organizations to get statistics on specific crimes, the people committing the crimes, as well as statistics on victims and circumstances.  Participating law enforcement agencies report each crime occurence in a specific category with detailed information.

To date crimes against animals have been reported the general category "all other offenses" as class B offenses which collect data on arrests, not on other aspects of the crime.  Class B offenses are those crimes which aren't considered serious enough to track more specifically.

As of January 1, 2016 participating law enforcement agencies will have to report crimes against animals as a Class A offense with animal crimes having their own category.  (Huffington Post article has more information.) Data will be collected on four different subcategories: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse.

This decision is a response to the massive amount of research that shows direct links between animal cruelty and an escalation towards violence towards people.  There is a strong correlation between children who abuse animals continuing to go on to be physically violent as well as other delinquent behavior in adolescence.  Additionally many serial killers and school shooters started practicing by abusing and torturing animals.  And animal abuse is strongly connected to domestic abuse. (See page on Michigan University's website for further information.)

The decision by the FBI to change how animal crimes are tracked does several things.  First of all it offers legitimacy to the idea that crimes against animals need to be taken seriously.   Many times cases involving animals end up being dismissed or the punishment being a very short jail sentence or only probation.  The FBI's decision to track illegal acts against animals sends a message that these crimes are something that society should be concerned about. And the tracking could make it easier to get better sentences and make an impact on juries. 

Furthermore it could potentially be a catalyst for education of the public as to why crimes against animals are so serious, and how offenders could go on to endanger other members of society.  People who are dismissive about animal welfare will care about other human beings.

Lastly the statistics will allow law enforcement to track the progression of these crimes, give information to school counselors and social workers as to what they can look for to identify children at risk of being abused, or who may be future abusers themselves.  Early intervention in the lives of these children could help to prevent future violence.