US crime statistics are infamous. America has the highest prison population rate globally, with 655 out of 100,000 civilians living behind bars.
Many people have called for prison reform. This may be a great idea. But what measures politicians should take depend on what types of crimes Americans perform.
How many Americans are incarcerated, and where are they? What are the rates of non-violent offenses like arson? How many murders, assaults, and rapes occur?
Answer these questions, and you can take your stance on the complicated issue of prison reform. Here is your quick guide.
2.3 million Americans are currently incarcerated. Nearly 1.3 million Americans live in state prisons, while 631,000 live in local jails. The federal prison system houses 226,000 Americans.
But there are other criminal detention systems. Indian reservations have independent ones, and 2,500 people live inside of them. 44,000 young people live in juvenile detention, while immigration authorities detain 42,000 people.
Incarceration rates have skyrocketed over the last few decades. The rate of people in state prisons has doubled since the mid-1980s. The rate for local jails has more than doubled in that same time period.
Rates are difficult to track because the information is often out of date. News organizations and groups like the Prison Policy Institute try to use many different sources like criminal defense leads to gauge rates.
Non-violent crimes involve no force or injury on the victim while the crime is being committed. Most offenses involve property more than people. But a person may get hurt afterward, especially in drug offenses.
Drug offenses include possession, distribution, and creation of illicit substances—87 percent of drug offenses in 2019 involved possession of drugs. Marijuana possession accounted for 32 percent of all drug offenses.
The police made more than 1.5 million arrests for drug abuse. They also made an additional one million arrests for driving under the influence. Most DUI arrests involve alcohol, but some people also consume illicit or prescription drugs.
Property crimes include burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The United States experienced more than 6.9 million property crimes in 2019. That’s more than two thousand crimes per 100,000 residents.
Larceny-theft is non-violent theft, such as pickpocketing. It is one of the most common crimes in the country, accounting for more than five million criminal acts.
Most people do not even notice when they have been robbed. Many thefts occur from motor vehicles or storefronts, so they are not documented after the fact. This means that rates of larceny-theft are likely higher than the reported statistics.
More than 700,000 motor vehicles were stolen. Nearly three-quarters of all stolen vehicles were automobiles. But thieves did take thousands of trucks, buses, and motorcycles.
Arson is the willful destruction of a piece of property with fire. An arsonist can burn a structure, or they can burn property like crops. Law enforcement agencies reported more than 33,000 arsons to the FBI in 2019.
White-collar crimes include money laundering, corporate fraud, and securities fraud. As with theft, victims may not notice that they have lost money or property. But white-collar crimes can drain a person’s bank accounts and bankrupt companies.
It is difficult to track rates of white-collar crimes. Investigators spend years examining someone before they announce an arrest. But in May 2021, the Justice Department reported 319 new prosecutions of white-collar criminals.
If a crime involves any use of force, it is a violent one. It does not matter if the victim sustains a serious injury or no injury at all. This means that many assaults constitute violent crimes with more significant criminal charges.
Homicide is the intentional killing of a person. More than 16,000 homicides occurred in the United States in 2019. That is five murders for every 100,000 people, making it a rare offense.
Justifiable homicides occur when individuals must use deadly force to protect themselves. The FBI categorizes justifiable murders separately from unjustifiable ones. They found that 726 justifiable homicides took place in 2019.
Aggravated assault occurs when a perpetrator uses a deadly weapon to attack someone else. Guns, bats, and knives count. Simple assault occurs when no deadly weapon is involved, though someone may get punched or pushed.
Attempted aggravated assault involves the display of or a threat to use a deadly weapon. The FBI counts the two together because many attempts would have led to assaults if they had continued.
The FBI found that there were more than 820,000 aggravated assaults in America in 2019. More than one-quarter of all aggravated assaults involved firearms. Perpetrators used knives in 17.5 percent of offenses.
Rape is the penetration of the anus or vagina with any object without the person’s consent. The perpetrator may use one of their body parts, or they may use an object. Oral penetration also counts as rape.
Law enforcement personnel reported nearly 140,000 rapes to the FBI in 2019. This statistic includes unsuccessful attempts at rape and assaults to commit rape.
Sexual assault includes rape, but it also includes fondling, groping, and unwanted sexual touching. There are no conclusive statistics that document sexual assault rates. Many victims do not go to the police out of fear or the idea that they will not be believed.
The Most Important US Crime Statistics
You deserve the latest US crime statistics. More than two million Americans live behind bars, with most being state prisoners. Incarceration rates have grown steadily over the years.
Property crime is the most common kind of non-violent offense. Yet millions of people get arrested for holding drugs. White-collar crimes are rare, yet they are devastating.
Homicide is not common. Aggravated assaults are, especially with firearms. The FBI documents thousands of rapes, and many more sexual assaults likely occur every year.
Crime will only get more complicated over time. Stay ahead of the curb by following our coverage.