The Eastern Band of the Cherokees will join nine other tribes in a new federal program to improve crime reporting and data access for Native American communities across the country.
The Cherokees, in the western North Carolina mountains, will take part in the initial phase of the Tribal Access Program along with tribes in New York, Michigan, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Oklahoma and Idaho.
The program is the creation of the U.S. Justice Department. The goal is to allow tribal law enforcement agencies to tap into national crime databases and other crime-fighting tools to more effectively exchange information.
“The initial phase of TAP will help us understand the information gaps and the best way to use this service to strengthen public safety in Indian country,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Quillian Yates said Thursday.
She said Justice Department officials hope the program will make it easier for tribal, federal and local governments to share information that “could help solve a crime or even save someone’s life.”
The Eastern Cherokees live on the Qualla Boundary, some 55,000 acres of mountainous land that the tribe bought in the late 19th Century. The nation has some 13,500 members, with most living on tribal lands that stretch across five N.C. counties.
Tribal crime statistics are often under-reported. A Justice Department report this year using 2013 statistics put known incidents of violent crime among the Cherokees at 100, including two cases of murder/manslaughter, eight rapes, four robberies and 86 assaults. Researcher Gavin Off contributed.