FBI: Violent crime is up and arrests are down. Here’s your criminal justice “reform”.


Across the country, we’re seeing an increase in the amount of crimes being committed, but are seeing fewer arrests. Some say it’s a push for criminal justice reform. Others say it’s because of the growing divide between police officers and the public. 

Whatever the case, here are the facts.

Per new FBI data, the vast majority of reported crimes do not end in arrest (chart below). Less than two out of five reported crimes end in an arrest.

Arrests are declining (links below). Falling arrests have real implications for citizen satisfaction, fear of crime and a sense of justice. Concurrently, there are those who believe that fewer arrests are in society’s best interest.

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice, the vast majority of violent and property crime is not reported to law enforcement, BJS. Based on the 2018 National Crime Survey, less than half (43%) of violent victimizations were reported to the police.

Man bleeding and arrested

Proactive (self-initiated) contacts by police officers are also greatly reduced, probably due to harsh public criticism (links below).

Per the Bureau of Justice Statistics, violent crime (a measure of all crime) increased 28 percent from 2015 to 2018, while violent crime reported to police fell at much smaller numbers, Crime in America.

Perspective/Background On Arrests And Outcomes

We previously reported that the vast majority of reported crimes do not end in arrest, Crimes Solved.

The overwhelming percentage of charged offenders are plea-bargained (they pleaded guilty to a lesser crime). Most felonies do not get prison time, Prosecution Statistics.

There are jurisdictions where fewer than one in three homicides end in arrest, per the Washington Post.

Prosecutions: Federal Data: 16 to 50 percent of federal crimes are declined from prosecution, per “Federal Justice Statistics.” State Data: 34 percent of state felony cases are not convicted (approximately nine percent involve a deferred adjudication or diversion outcome), per “Felony Defendants in Large Urban Counties,” see Arrests Not Prosecuted.

Rape Kits and DNA: Tens of thousands of rape kits go untested per USA Today.

Over a hundred thousand DNA cases were backlogged per the National Institute of Justice.

Incarceration: The average violent offender serves less than three years in prison, Violent Offenders.

Arrests for lower-level crimes are plummeting, Arrests

Police initiated contacts are falling dramatically, Police Contacts.

One in five reported sexual assaults do not result in an arrest, Sexual Assaults.

Arrests across the board are decreasing, Arrests Decreasing.


Chart: The FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)

The Vast Majority Of Reported Crime Does Not End in Arrest

The Vast Majority Of Reported Crime Does Not End in Arrest

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Crimes reported to law enforcement are declining per the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the US Department of Justice. The percentage of completed violent crime reported to police declined from 56% to 47% from 2015 to 2018, BJS .

Citizens who report crime want the offender held accountable. There are real implications for those reporting as to their willingness to engage law enforcement in the future if their actions result in no arrests.

We need people to be engaged, if they see something, say something. This has significance for reduced crime, school shootings or terrorism.

The entire justice system depends on citizens being involved. Take that away, and society suffers significant consequences, including a possible connection to the 28 percent increase in violent crime from 2015 to 2018, and a concurrent increase in serious violent crime per the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The FBI’s National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)-Background

Implemented to improve the overall quality of crime data collected by law enforcement, NIBRS captures details on each single crime incident, as well as on separate offenses within the same incident, including information on victims, known offenders, relationships between victims and offenders, arrestees, and property involved in crimes.

Unlike data reported through the UCR Program’s traditional Summary Reporting System, an aggregate monthly tally of crimes, NIBRS goes much deeper because of its ability to provide circumstances and context for crimes like location, time of day, and whether the incident was cleared.

As recommended by professional law enforcement organizations, the FBI has made the nationwide implementation of NIBRS a top priority because NIBRS can provide more useful statistics to promote constructive discussion, measured planning, and informed policing.

The vision for NIBRS is for it to become the law enforcement community’s standard for quantifying crime, which will help law enforcement and communities around the country use resources more strategically and effectively. In 2018, approximately 44 percent of U.S. law enforcement agencies that participated in the UCR Program submitted data via NIBRS.

When used to its full potential, NIBRS identifies, with precision, when and where crime takes place, what form it takes, and the characteristics of its victims and perpetrators. Armed with such information, law enforcement can better define the resources it needs to fight crime, as well as use those resources in the most efficient and effective manner.

NIBRS, 2018, is available at FBI.

More information about the NIBRS transition is available on the NIBRS webpage at FBI.

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