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Madison’s The Cap Times report in June on racial disparities within the Dane County criminal justice system prompted the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism to take a closer look at trends in arrests statewide. The Center’s findings suggest that the situation facing Dane County indicates a problem that pervades the whole state.

The Wisconsin Office of Justice Assistance Arrests in Wisconsin 2008 report breaks down arrests from each of the state’s 72 counties into five categories: violent, property, drug, society and other. Of violent arrests–which includes murder and forcible rape — the report says, “Black arrest rates have been dramatically higher than all other race categories for the past five years.”

In fact, the report shows that arrest rates among blacks are the highest in every category. The charts below indicate arrests rates among blacks, American Indians, whites and Asians in each of the five arrest categories. According to the OJA, the categories include:

  • Violent: Murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault
  • Society: Weapon law violations, prostitution, sex offenses, gambling violations, driving while intoxicated, liquor law violations, disorderly conduct, vagrancy, curfew, loitering and runaways
  • Property: Burglary, theft, motor vehicle theft, arson, forgery, fraud, embezzlement, stolen property and vandalism
  • Drug: Sale or possession of opium/narcotic, marijuana, synthetic narcotics and other drugs
  • Other: Negligent manslaughter, other assaults, family offenses and all other (except traffic)

The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism ( collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.

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