Black Hills Knowledge Netowork

Native Americans make up 12.4 percent of Rapid City's population but account for much higher percentages of crime victims and those arrested.
Native Americans make up 12.4 percent of Rapid City's population but account for much higher percentages of crime victims and those arrested.
Black Hills Knowledge Network chart

NATIVE DATA: Native Americans Overrepresented As Crime Victims, Offenders in Rapid City

Native Americans far outpace Rapid City's white majority when it comes to arrests for felony and misdemeanor crimes, according to data provided by the Rapid City Police Department to the Black Hills Knowledge Network. Native Americans are also overrepresented as victims of crime.

Native Americans made up nearly 59 percent of the 8,228 people arrested by Rapid City police in 2014, compared to 35.5 percent for whites, 3percent for blacks, 2.5 percent for “unknown,” 0.4 percent for Asians and 0.1 percent for “not specified.” (Races are self-identified by those arrested.)


The picture was similar for the 11,909 “offenders” (those arrested and/or suspected of crimes) identified by the police department. In 2014, Native Americans accounted for 55 percent of that group, compared to 37 percent for whites, 3.8 percent for “unknown” race, 3.4 percent for blacks, 0.5 percent for “not specified” and 0.3 percent for Asians.

Native Americans are also far more likely than whites to be the victims of a crime. In 2014, the Rapid City Police Department reports that Native Americans comprised nearly 33 percent of Rapid City's 5,780 crime victims, despite representing a much smaller share of the city’s total population. Meanwhile, 52 percent of crime victims were white, 10.5 percent “unknown” race, 2.2 percent black, 1.4 percent “not specified” and 0.6 percent Asian.

Citations for traffic offenses more closely resemble the racial make-up of Rapid City's general population, although Native Americans are overrepresented in this category also. Whites lead in this category, accounting for more than 71 percent of the 5,695 traffic citations issued by Rapid City police in 2014. Native Americans are next, accounting for 23.5 percent, followed by blacks at 2.5 percent, “not specified” at 1 percent, “unknown” race at 0.9 percent and Asians at 0.7 percent.

The U.S. Census reports that Native Americans accounted for 12.4 percent of the city's general population at the time of the 2010 census, compared to 80.4 percent for whites, 4.1 percent for “two or more” races, 1.1 percent for blacks and 1.3 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander. An ongoing study for the police department, however, suggests that with visitors from reservations in western South Dakota the Native American share of the resident and non-resident population on any given day might be significantly higher. That study is due to be released by the police department later in 2015.

To find other statistics on crime and policing in Rapid City, see the Rapid City Police Department’s 2014 Annual Statistical Report and our BHKN resource page on policing and race in Rapid City.

Media Coverage of This Issue

KOTA-TV: Rapid City police crunch race and arrest data. In early 2014, the Rapid City Police Department commissioned USD professor Rich Braunstein to examine why Native Americans are arrested at a rate so much higher than their percentage of the general population. The report is complete but has not yet been released. It contains recommendations for changes at the RCPD.

Analysis shows Native Americans in RC more likely to be arrested. Rapid City police say they are not surprised by the over-representation of Native Americans in crime statistics. They hope a study they commissioned, which will be released later this year, will help the community understand why it happens.

KEVN-TV: Native Americans represent largest crime victims and offenders according to new data. Police believe the creation of a new cultural adivsory committee could help address any problems.

This Black Hills Knowledge Network resource page provides links to additional information on this issue. 

About the Series

This is the final installment in the Black Hills Knowledge Network's 2015 Native Data Series, which examines what the available data shows about Native Americans living in the Black Hills region of South Dakota. As the state's and region's largest racial minority, the data often shows distinct differences from the white majority in some categories, while in other categories the data shows close similarities. This series seeks to examine both situations so community leaders and engaged citizens can better understand, respond to and plan for decisions that would affect Natives and non-Natives alike.

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