Law

Column: How BIA fought high crime rates on reservations





Crime dropped 27 percent on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation after the Bureau of Indian Affairs devoted more resources to the problem:
For residents of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, which stretches across a large swath of the central Dakotas, crime was an enormous problem a few years back. By mid-2008, violence on the 3,500-square-mile reservation was six times the national average. Residents had so little confidence in the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to do anything about it that they often didn’t even bother to report crimes.

Arnold Schott, both a mayor and coroner on the reservation, said at the time, “I can look out my door [and see] our little kids, 8, 9, 10 or younger” being lured into the drug trade. The director of the tribal health administration, Randy Bear Ribs, agreed that the crime problem was linked to drug and alcohol abuse. The reservation’s chairman, Ron His Horse Is Thunder, added that soaring crime was fueling “a sense of hopelessness.”

But the BIA didn’t have any money to help, and they knew just throwing money at the problem wouldn’t solve it anyway. So along with the Department of Interior, the BIA hatched a plan to take advantage of the Obama administration’s management agenda, which challenged federal leaders to set high priority performance goals and seek big impacts. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which is leading the management program, required agencies not only to define goals but to develop metrics to gauge success—and hopefully produce real breakthroughs.

Get the Story:
Donald F. Kettl: How the Feds Finally Reduced Crime on Indian Reservations (Governing Magazine February 2014)