What the data on crime in the United States say (and don't say). (2023)

From the first day of his presidency to his re-election campaign, Donald Trump has sounded the alarm on crime in the United States. Trump promised the end"american butcher shopin his inaugural address in 2017. That year he ran for re-election on a platform of “law and order.“

As the Trump presidency draws to a close, here's a look at what we know — and don't know — about crime in the US, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of federal government data and other sources.

How did we do it

Crime is a regular topic of discussion in the United States. We conducted this analysis to learn more about crime patterns in the US and how those patterns have changed over time.

The analysis is based on statistics published by theFederal Bureau of Investigation(FBI) sinceBureau of Justice Statistics(BJS), the statistical division of the United States Department of Justice. FBI statistics were accessed through theCrime Data Explorer. BJS stats were accessible through theDatenanalysetool der National Crime Victimization Survey. Information about the federal government's transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System was obtained from the FBI and BJS and media reports.

To gauge public opinion on crime in the US, we use research data from Gallup and the Pew Research Center.

How much crime is there in the United States?

This is hard to say. Hetwo main sources of state crime statistics— the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) — both paint an incomplete picture, although efforts are underway to improve.

The FBI releasedannual dataabout crimes reported to the police, but not about crimes that have not been reported. The FBI also deals primarily with a handful of specific violent and property crimes, but not many other types of crimes, such as B. Drug crimes. And while the FBI's data is based on information it receives from thousands of federal, state, county, city and other police departments, not all agencies participate every year. In 2019, the latest full year available, the FBI received data from around the world.eight out of ten agencies.

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For its part, BJS pursues the crime through abig annual surveyof Americans ages 12 and older and ask them if they have been the victim of a crime in the past six months. An advantage of this approach is that both reported and unreported crimes are captured. However, the BJS survey has its own limitations. Like the FBI, it focuses primarily on a handful of violent and property crimes and excludes other types of crime. And because the BJS data is based on after-the-fact interviews with victims, it can't reveal one particularly high-profile crime: murder.

All those caveats aside when looking at the FBI and BJS stats side by sideAgainGive investigators a true picture of violent and property crime in the United States and how it has changed over time.

What types of crimes are the most common and the least common?

Property crime is much more common in the US than violent crime. In 2019, the FBI reported a total of 2,109.9 property crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to 379.4 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.

By far the most common form of property crime in 2019 was burglary/burglary, followed by burglary and car theft. Among violent crimes, aggravated assault was the most common crime, followed by robbery, rape, and homicide/negligent homicide.

BJS tracks a slightly different set of crimes than the FBI, but finds the same general patterns, with robbery being the most common form of property crime in 2019 and assault the most common type of violent crime.

How have crime rates in the US changed over time?

Both the FBI and BJS data show a dramatic decline in violent and property crime in the US since the early 1990s, when crime was at its peak in much of the country.

According to FBI data, violent crime rates fell 49% between 1993 and 2019, with sharp declines in robbery (-68%), homicide/negligent homicide (-47%), and aggravated assault (-43%). (It is not possible to calculate the change in the rape rate during this period because the FBI2013 revised the definition of the criminal offense.) Meanwhile, property crime is down 55%, with burglaries (-69%), auto theft (-64%), and burglary/burglary (-49%) all falling sharply.

Using the BJS statistics, the declines in violent and property crime are even greater than those reported by the FBI. According to the BJS, from 1993 to 2019, the overall violent crime rate fell by 74%, while the property crime rate fell by 71%.

How do Americans view crime in their country?

Americans tend to believe that crime is increasing, even when the data shows that it is declining.

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In 20 of 24 Gallup polls conducted since 1993, at least 60% of American adults said there was more crime nationally than the previous year, despite the overall downward trend in violent and anti-violence crime. owned nationwide in the past year.

While perceptions of rising crime are widespread across the country, fewer Americans believe crime is rising in their own communities. In the 23 Gallup polls that have included this question since 1993, no more than half of Americans said crime has increased.in your areacompared to the previous year.

This year has seen the widest gap between the proportion of Americans who say crime has increased nationally and the proportion who say it has increased locally (78% vs. 38%).widest ever recorded by Gallup.

Public attitudes toward crime also vary across the United States.partisan connection,race and ethnicityand other factors. for example in aPew Research Center Summer Survey74% of registered voters who support Trump said violent crime was "very important" to their vote in this year's presidential election, compared to a much smaller proportion of supporters of Joe Biden (46%).

How does crime in the US differ based on demographics?

According to the BJS, there are some demographic differences in both victimization and offenders.

In itsVictim survey 2019, BJS found large age and income disparities in violent crime victimization. Younger people and people with lower incomes were much more likely to be victims than older people and people with higher incomes. For example, the victimization rate for those earning less than $25,000 a year was more than double that for those earning $50,000 or more.

There were no large differences in victimization rates between male and female respondents, or between those who identified as white, black, or Hispanic. But the victimization rate among Asian Americans was significantly lower than among other racial and ethnic groups.

When it comes to those whoto connectcrimes, the same BJS survey asks victims about the perceived demographics of offenders in the incidents they experience. In 2019, men, youth, and blacks accounted for significantly higher proportions of alleged perpetrators of violent incidents than their respective proportions in the US population. However, as with all surveys, there are several potential sources of error. , including the possibility that perceptions of crime victims are incorrect.

How does crime differ geographically in the US?

Violent and property crime varies greatly from state to state and from city to city.

In 2019, Alaska and New Mexico had more than 800 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, compared to less than 200 per 100,000 residents in Maine and New Hampshire.according to the fbi.

Even in cities of similar size within the same state, crime rates can vary widely. Oakland and Long Beach, California had similar populations in 2019 (434,036 vs. 467,974), but Oakland's violent crime rate was highermore than twice as tallin Long Beach. The FBI notes that several factors can affect an area's crime rate, including population density and economic conditions.

See also:Despite Recent Violence, Chicago Is Far From America's "Murder Capital"

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What percentage of crimes are reported to the police and what percentage are solved?

Most violent and property crimes in the US go unreported to the police, and most crimes do.Sonreported have not been resolved.

In its annual survey, BJS asks crime victims whether or not they have reported the crime to the police. In 2019, only 40.9% of violent crimes and 32.5% of crimes against domestic property were reported to the authorities. BJS notes that there are a number of reasons why crimes go unreported, including fear of retaliation or "getting the offender in trouble", a feeling that the police "can't or won't do anything to help", or a belief that the crime is "a personal matter or too trivial to report."

Most of the crimes were reported to the police.are not resolved, at least according to an FBI measure known as the approval rate. That is the proportion of cases that are closed or "donated" each year by the arrest of a suspect, indictment and referral to police, or by "extraordinary" circumstances such as the death of a suspect or the refusal of a victim to participate in the accusation. In 2019, police nationwide solved 45.5% of reported violent crimes and 17.2% of known property crimes.

Both the percentage of crimes reported to the police and the percentage of crimes solved have remained relatively stable for decades.

Which crimes are most likely to be reported to the police and which are solved?

About eight in ten motor vehicle thefts (79.5%) were reported to the police in 2019, making this by far the most frequently reported property crime discovered by BJS. Approximately half (48.5%) of burglaries and break-ins were reported, as were 30% of personal burglaries/burglaries and 26.8% of domestic burglaries.

Of the violent crimes, serious bodily harm was the most frequently reported to the police (52.1%). They were followed by robbery (46.6%), minor assault (37.9%), and rape/assault (33.9%).

the list of crimesoffby the police in 2019 looks different than the list of reported crimes. According to the FBI, law enforcement officers are much more likely to solve violent crimes than property crimes.

The most frequently solved violent crime is murder. The police solved close to six out of ten homicides and non-culpable homicides (61.4%) in the last year. Resolution rates were lowest for aggravated assault (52.3%), rape (32.9%), and robbery (30.5%).

In crimes against property, the police solved 18.4% of burglaries/thefts, 14.1% of burglaries and 13.8% of vehicle thefts.

Is the government doing anything to improve crime statistics?

Yes. The FBI has long recognized the limitations of its current data collection system and intends to do so.change completelyto a more extensive system from 2021.

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The new system, known as theNational incident-based reporting system(NIBRS), informed ofa much higher number of crimes, as well as details, if any, such as the time of day, the location, and the type of weapons involved. It will also provide demographic data such as the age, gender, race, and ethnicity of victims, known perpetrators, and inmates.

A key question that arises during the transition is how many police departments will participate in the new system, which has been in development for decades. In 2019, the latest year available, NIBRS received data on violence and property crime from 46% of law enforcement agencies.44% of the US population this year. Some researchers have warned that the transition to a new system could leavemajor data gapsunless other law enforcement agencies provide the requested information to the FBI.


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What the data on crime in the United States say (and don't say). (6)

grumpy john is an Associate Director at the Pew Research Center.

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What do statistics tell us about crime? ›

Crime statistics are important in determining whether these initiatives are working, or if changes are needed6. The data can show if crime is going up or down in the areas targeted. This can help criminal justice professionals understand whether their initiatives are successful.

Why crime statistics are not reliable? ›


Which US state has highest crime rate? ›

1. Alaska. The most dangerous state in the USA is Alaska, as it has the highest combined violent and property crime rate out of any state. Out of a population of 736,081, Alaska's crime rate was 32.14 per 1,000 people in 2022, making it the state with the highest crime rate.

How bad is the crime in the United States? ›

This reversed in 2018 and 2019, but violent crime increased significantly again in 2020. Homicide rate in the U.S. continues to be high, with four major U.S. cities ranked among the 50 cities with the highest homicide rate in the world in 2019.
Crime in the United States.
United States
Aggravated assault279.7
9 more rows

What are the main sources of crime data? ›

The primary source of official crime statistics in the United States is the annual Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

What is the major source of crime statistics in the United States? ›

The Bureau of Justice Statistics of the U.S. Department of Justice is the principal federal agency responsible for measuring crime, criminal victimization, criminal offenders, victims of crime, correlates of crime, and the operation of criminal and civil justice systems at the federal, state, tribal, and local levels.

Why are so many crimes unreported? ›

Other reasons for not reporting a crime are due to lack of information about reporting and personal safety. Some victims may be unaware of the resources available to them to help guide them through the process of reporting. Victim's may also fear retaliation from the offender if they do report them to the police.

Are statistics reliable evidence? ›

Statistics are invaluable as evidence in support of conclusions. If you can either find or generate statistics that show the truth of your conclusions, there are few that would refute your ideas. There are, of course, problems with using statistics as evidence.

What is the most reliable predictor of crime? ›

Several personality traits are associated with criminality: impulsivity, psychoticism, sensation-seeking, low self control, childhood aggression, low empathy and low altruism.

What city has most crime in USA? ›

Most Dangerous Cities in the US
3Little RockArkansas
64 more rows

Which US state has the lowest crime rate? ›

Maine has the lowest crime rate in America, with around 1.3 crimes per 1000 people. Like Vermont, the majority of crime is related to property theft, and there are very few instances of violent crimes such as mugging, assault, or murder.

Which country has lowest crime rate? ›

According to the GPI 2021 report, Iceland was ranked the safest country in the world for the 13th consecutive year, followed by New Zealand, Ireland, Austria, and Denmark.

What is the number 1 crime in America? ›

Theft or larceny is the most common type of property crime. It's estimated that someone is a victim of theft every 5.5 seconds. The next most common crime is burglary, which involves breaking and entering.

What is the #1 growing crime in America? ›

Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the country. It occurs when someone obtains credit card numbers, Social Security numbers, bank account information or other personal identification information and uses them to commit fraud or deception.

What is the US ranked in safety? ›

The United States ranks at 129th with a score of 2.44, marking the country's score "low." Just above the U.S. is Azerbaijan, and just below is Brazil.

What is dark crime? ›

The dark figure of crime is a term that is used by crime experts and the sociologists to illustrate the number of committed crimes that are never reported or are never discovered and this puts into doubt the effectiveness and efficiency of the official crimes data.

What state has the highest kidnapping rate? ›

Wednesday, October 5, they released the data from 2021, which shows New Mexico had the nation's second highest rate of total crimes against persons. The numbers also show New Mexico's per-population kidnapping and abduction rate was the highest in the nation.

What are the four types of crime data? ›

The UCR Program consists of four data collections: The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), the Summary Reporting System (SRS), the Law Enforcement Officers Killed and Assaulted (LEOKA) Program, and the Hate Crime Statistics Program.

What is the dark figure of crime statistics USA? ›

The dark figure of crime refers to a term utilized by criminologists and others. The phrase is usually used to refer to the number of crimes that are not reported, but also refers to crimes that are unknown to all outside parties or law enforcement not accepting that the law has been broken.

Where is the highest crime rate in the world? ›

According to World Population Review, Venezuela has the highest crime rate at 83.76 crimes per 100,000 people.

What is the least reported of all crimes? ›

Forcible Rape (p. 35) • Rape is the least reported of all offenses, with only one out of every four forcible rapes reported to the police.

What crime is the least reported? ›

Forcible rape is the least reported of all violent crimes. Robbery is the unlawful taking or attempted taking of property that is in the possession of another, by force or the threat of force. Guns are fired in 20 percent of robberies.

What crimes are least likely to be reported? ›

According to the American Medical Association (1995), sexual violence, and rape in particular, is considered the most under-reported violent crime. Common reasons for individuals not reporting crime include fear of not being believed, insecurity, and fear of getting into trouble.

What is a real life example of misleading statistics? ›

In 2007, toothpaste company Colgate ran an ad stating that 80% of dentists recommend their product. Based on the promotion, many shoppers assumed Colgate was the best choice for their dental health. But this wasn't necessarily true. In reality, this is a famous example of misleading statistics.

How misleading can statistics be? ›

Misleading statistics refers to the misuse of numerical data either intentionally or by error. The results provide deceiving information that creates false narratives around a topic. Misuse of statistics often happens in advertisements, politics, news, media, and others.

What are the 4 types of evidence? ›

There are four types evidence by which facts can be proven or disproven at trial which include:
  • Real evidence;
  • Demonstrative evidence;
  • Documentary evidence; and.
  • Testimonial evidence.

Which crimes are least likely to be solved? ›

But offences such as robbery, where witnesses are needed, and sexual offences, which often revolve around the issue of consent, have far lower clear-up rates.

What is the most common true crime? ›

The crimes most commonly include murder; about 40 percent focus on tales of serial killers. True crime comes in many forms, such as books, films, podcasts, and television shows. Many works in this genre recount high-profile, sensational crimes such as the killing of JonBenét Ramsey , the O. J.

How common is true crime? ›

True crime podcasts, television, and streaming series are extremely popular and the genre continues to grow. A 2022 poll declared that half of Americans enjoy consuming content from this genre and even 13% go as far as to say it's their favorite.

Which is safest state in USA? ›

1. New Jersey. New Jersey is the safest state in the U.S., according to our results. Data from the crime reporting period we studied showed that the state has the lowest number of rapes per 100,000 people (14.4) and the fourth-lowest number of aggravated assaults.

What is the safest city to live in? ›

Frisco, Texas, part of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex has been ranked the number 1 safest city to live in the U.S. It boasts the fourth-lowest violent crime rate and the sixth-lowest property crime rate.

What is the cheapest and safest state to live in? ›

Take a look at the 10 cheapest states to live in for 2022.
  1. Mississippi. Coming in as the cheapest state to live in in the United States is Mississippi with a cost of living index score of 83.3. ...
  2. Kansas. ...
  3. Alabama. ...
  4. Oklahoma. ...
  5. Georgia. ...
  6. Tennessee. ...
  7. Missouri. ...
  8. Iowa.
Mar 31, 2023

Is the UK safer than the US? ›

According to the surveys, the overall crime rate in the United States is lower than in Britain and about the same as in Canada. The polls also show that, among citizens in the three countries, Britons appear to have the least confidence in their police, while Canadians have the most.

What's the best country to live in? ›

  • Sweden. #1 in Quality of Life. #5 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Denmark. #2 in Quality of Life. #10 in Best Countries Overall. ...
  • Canada. #3 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Switzerland. #4 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Norway. #5 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Finland. #6 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Germany. #7 in Quality of Life. ...
  • Netherlands. #8 in Quality of Life.

Where does US rank in safest countries? ›

The following 10 countries are viewed as the safest, according to U.S. News. The United States failed to make the list, coming in at No. 47 after placing 38th in 2021.

Which city in the US has the most murders? ›

St. Louis, Missouri has the highest murder rate of any US city of 69.4 murders per 100,000 people.
Cities with Most Murders 2023.
CitySt. Louis
Murder Rate69.40
2023 Population279,390
18 more columns

What is the most serious crime in society? ›

Homicide, of course, is considered the most serious crime because it involves the taking of a human life. As well, homicide data are considered more accurate than those for other crimes because most homicides come to the attention of the police and are more likely than other crimes to lead to an arrest.

Who has the worst crime rate? ›

Countries by Crime Rate
#CountryGlobal Crime Index
1Democratic Republic of the Congo7.75
144 more rows

What are the most serious crimes in America? ›

The descending order of UCR violent crimes are murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, followed by the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Although arson is also a property crime, the Hierarchy Rule does not apply to the offense of arson.

Is crime high in China? ›

CSP's Deputy Prosecutor-General, Sun Qian, told reporters that the percentage of violent crimes classified as the most serious declined to 3.9 percent in 2022 from 25 percent in 1999. Some 85 percent of all criminal cases processed in 2022 were minor crimes that carry sentences of less than three years, he said.

Why did crime go down in the 90s? ›

A 2004 study found that 58 percent of the drop in violent crime during the 1990s was due to incarceration.

What is the most peaceful state in the United States? ›

Maine is the most peaceful state in the U.S. for the 11th year in a row, Louisiana is the least peaceful. The Northeast continues to be the most peaceful region with three of the five most peaceful states. The South is once again the least peaceful region in America, with four of the five least peaceful states.

Who keeps the United States safe? ›

Protecting America

Providing for the common defense is one of the federal government's primary constitutional obligations. Both the President and Congress have significant responsibilities in this area to set the policies that keep our country safe.

What are the top 10 safest countries in the world? ›

According to Global Peace Index 2022, the top 10 safest countries in the world are Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Singapore and Japan.

What is the purpose of collecting statistics about crime? ›

Police recorded statistics are compiled by official government agencies each year and can be compared with previous years. Police recorded statistics can help to decide policing budgets by predicting the level of crime that the police will have to deal with in the coming year.

How is statistics used to solve crime? ›

Law enforcement agencies often use data to determine the most likely locations or times for future crimes. Police chiefs also analyze statistics to verify increases or drops in certain illegal activities. The associated conclusions aid in allocating resources and filling known gaps in crime-fighting coverage.

Should statistics be used in criminal cases? ›

Statistical analysis helps courts figure out what is known, as opposed to what is merely conjectured. It can confirm or disconfirm otherwise speculative assertions about the important behavioral assumptions the law makes.

What is a major source of statistical data about crime in the US which is based on victim self reports? ›

The BJS National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is the nation's primary source of information on criminal victimization.


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