crimesider

Crime Takes Its Poll: The Census and Violence, on Both Sides of the Clipboard

NEW YORK (CBS/AP) A violent home invasion and stabbing death in Houston. The rape of a handicapped woman in her home in Indiana. What's the common thread linking these reported crimes?

They were committed by census workers, or someone posing as one.

According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 72% of households completed and mailed in the 2010 Census form in this constitutionally mandated headcount.  That leaves it up to the approximately 636,000 temporary census workers to canvas the country for the missing responses. Those temporary Bureau employees must pass a background check that involves running the applicant's name, birth date, Social Security number and fingerprints through an FBI database.

The background checks are not foolproof, however.

In Indiana, the alleged perpetrator was in fact a 39-year-old volunteer, who, after completing a legitimate round of census-taking, later returned to the home of a mentally handicapped woman and raped her. The suspect had passed his background check.

At the same time, census-related crime is not limited to census workers or impostors.

In homes across the country, a visit from a census worker is not always welcome, as recent headlines can attest. Census takers have been attacked, car-jacked, robbed, and/or shot at. In Tampa, WTSP reported that a 52- year-old census employee was confronted by a man angry that the employee took his parking spot. The man allegedly confronted the census worker, pulled out a 10 pound pickaxe, and tried to use it on him. 

In response to such incidents, the US Census Bureau has reiterated its guidelines to the public for identifying official Census takers, available on its website (http://2010.census.gov/2010census/privacy/more-security-topics.php): All Census workers should be carrying white badges watermarked by the Commerce Department with blue writing, and have a black bag with the official Census logo on it. Employees should never ask to enter a person's home, for a Social Security number, financial information or immigration status.

Th census happens every ten years, it's mandated by the constitution's 14th amendment , and failure to participate is a crime, punishable by a $5,000 fine. But clearly it is not the only census-related crime that we can count on.