From the first day of his presidency to his campaign for reelection, Donald Trump has sounded the alarm about crime in the United States. Trump vowed to end “American carnage” in his inaugural address in 2017. This year, he ran for reelection on a platform of “law and order.”
As Trump’s presidency draws to a close, here is a look at what we know – and don’t know – about crime in the U.S., based on a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the federal government and other sources.
How we did this
Crime is a regular topic of discussion in the United States. We conducted this analysis to learn more about U.S. crime patterns and how those patterns have changed over time.
The analysis relies on statistics published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), the statistical arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. FBI statistics were accessed through the Crime Data Explorer. BJS statistics were accessed through the National Crime Victimization Survey data analysis tool. Information about the federal government’s transition to the National Incident-Based Reporting System was drawn from the FBI and BJS, as well as from media reports.
To measure public attitudes about crime in the U.S., we relied on survey data from Gallup and Pew Research Center.
How much crime is there in the U.S.?
It’s difficult to say for certain. The two primary sources of government crime statistics – the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) – both paint an incomplete picture, though efforts at improvement are underway.
The FBI publishes annual data on crimes that have been reported to the police, but not those that haven’t been reported. The FBI also looks mainly at a handful of specific violent and property crimes, but not many other types of crime, such as drug crime. 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 most recent full year available, the FBI received data from around eight-in-ten agencies.
BJS, for its part, tracks crime by fielding a large annual survey of Americans ages 12 and older and asking them whether they were the victim of a crime in the past six months. One advantage of this approach is that it captures both reported and unreported crimes. But the BJS survey has limitations of its own. Like the FBI, it focuses mainly on a handful of violent and property crimes while excluding other kinds of crime. And since the BJS data is based on after-the-fact interviews with victims, it cannot provide information about one especially high-profile type of crime: murder.
All those caveats aside, looking at the FBI and BJS statistics side-by-side does give researchers a good picture of U.S. violent and property crime rates and how they have changed over time.
Which kinds of crime are most and least common?
Property crime in the U.S. is much more common than violent crime. In 2019, the FBI reported a total of 2,109.9 property crimes per 100,000 people, compared with 379.4 violent crimes per 100,000 people.
By far the most common form of property crime in 2019 was larceny/theft, followed by burglary and motor vehicle theft. Among violent crimes, aggravated assault was the most common offense, followed by robbery, rape, and murder/non-negligent manslaughter.
BJS tracks a slightly different set of offenses from the FBI, but it finds the same overall patterns, with theft the most common form of property crime in 2019 and assault the most common form of violent crime.
How have crime rates in the U.S. changed over time?
Both the FBI and BJS data show dramatic declines in U.S. violent and property crime rates since the early 1990s, when crime spiked across much of the nation.
Using the FBI data, the violent crime rate fell 49% between 1993 and 2019, with large decreases in the rates of robbery (-68%), murder/non-negligent manslaughter (-47%) and aggravated assault (-43%). (It’s not possible to calculate the change in the rape rate during this period because the FBI revised its definition of the offense in 2013.) Meanwhile, the property crime rate fell 55%, with big declines in the rates of burglary (-69%), motor vehicle theft (-64%) and larceny/theft (-49%).
Using the BJS statistics, the declines in the violent and property crime rates are even steeper than those reported by the FBI. Per BJS, the overall violent crime rate fell 74% between 1993 and 2019, while the property crime rate fell 71%.
How do Americans perceive crime in their country?
Americans tend to believe crime is up, even when the data shows it is down.
In 20 of 24 Gallup surveys conducted since 1993, at least 60% of U.S. adults have said there is more crime nationally than there was the year before, despite the generally downward trend in national violent and property crime rates during most of that period.
While perceptions of rising crime at the national level are common, fewer Americans believe crime is up in their own communities. In all 23 Gallup surveys that have included the question since 1993, no more than about half of Americans have said crime is up in their area compared with the year before.
This year, the gap between the share of Americans who say crime is up nationally and the share who say it is up locally (78% vs. 38%) is the widest Gallup has ever recorded.
Public attitudes about crime also differ by Americans’ partisan affiliation, race and ethnicity and other factors. For example, in a summer Pew Research Center survey, 74% of registered voters who support Trump said violent crime was “very important” to their vote in this year’s presidential election, compared with a far smaller share of Joe Biden supporters (46%).
How does crime in the U.S. differ by demographic characteristics?
There are some demographic differences in both victimization and offending rates, according to BJS.
In its 2019 survey of crime victims, BJS found wide differences by age and income when it comes to being the victim of a violent crime. Younger people and those with lower incomes were far more likely to report being victimized than older and higher-income people. For example, the victimization rate among those with annual incomes of less than $25,000 was more than twice the rate among those with incomes of $50,000 or more.
There were no major 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 substantially lower than among other racial and ethnic groups.
When it comes to those who commit crimes, the same BJS survey asks victims about the perceived demographic characteristics of the offenders in the incidents they experienced. In 2019, those who are male, younger people and those who are Black accounted for considerably larger shares of perceived offenders in violent incidents than their respective shares of the U.S. population. As with all surveys, however, there are several potential sources of error, including the possibility that crime victims’ perceptions are incorrect.
How does crime in the U.S. differ geographically?
There are big differences in violent and property crime rates from state to state and city to city.
In 2019, there were more than 800 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in Alaska and New Mexico, compared with fewer than 200 per 100,000 people in Maine and New Hampshire, according to the FBI.
Even in similarly sized cities within the same state, crime rates can vary widely. Oakland and Long Beach, California, had comparable populations in 2019 (434,036 vs. 467,974), but Oakland’s violent crime rate was more than double the rate in Long Beach. The FBI notes that various factors might influence an area’s crime rate, including its population density and economic conditions.
See also: Despite recent violence, Chicago is far from the U.S. ‘murder capital’
What percentage of crimes are reported to police, and what percentage are solved?
Most violent and property crimes in the U.S. are not reported to police, and most of the crimes that are reported are not solved.
In its annual survey, BJS asks crime victims whether they reported their crime to police or not. In 2019, only 40.9% of violent crimes and 32.5% of household property crimes were reported to authorities. BJS notes that there are a variety of reasons why crime might not be reported, including fear of reprisal or “getting the offender in trouble,” a feeling that police “would not or could not do anything to help,” or a belief that the crime is “a personal issue or too trivial to report.”
Most of the crimes that are reported to police, meanwhile, are not solved, at least based on an FBI measure known as the clearance rate. That’s the share of cases each year that are closed, or “cleared,” through the arrest, charging and referral of a suspect for prosecution, or due to “exceptional” circumstances such as the death of a suspect or a victim’s refusal to cooperate with a prosecution. In 2019, police nationwide cleared 45.5% of violent crimes that were reported to them and 17.2% of the property crimes that came to their attention.
Both the percentage of crimes that are reported to police and the percentage that are solved have remained relatively stable for decades.
Which crimes are most likely to be reported to police, and which are most likely to be solved?
Around eight-in-ten motor vehicle thefts (79.5%) were reported to police in 2019, making it by far the most commonly reported property crime tracked by BJS. Around half (48.5%) of household burglary and trespassing offenses were reported, as were 30% of personal thefts/larcenies and 26.8% of household thefts.
Among violent crimes, aggravated assault was the most likely to be reported to law enforcement (52.1%). It was followed by robbery (46.6%), simple assault (37.9%) and rape/sexual assault (33.9%).
The list of crimes cleared by police in 2019 looks different from the list of crimes reported. Law enforcement officers were generally much more likely to solve violent crimes than property crimes, according to the FBI.
The most frequently solved violent crime tends to be homicide. Police cleared around six-in-ten murders and non-negligent manslaughters (61.4%) last year. The clearance rate was lower for aggravated assault (52.3%), rape (32.9%) and robbery (30.5%).
When it comes to property crime, law enforcement agencies cleared 18.4% of larcenies/thefts, 14.1% of burglaries and 13.8% of motor vehicle thefts.
Is the government doing anything to improve its crime statistics?
Yes. The FBI has long recognized the limitations of its current data collection system and is planning to fully transition to a more comprehensive system beginning in 2021.
The new system, known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), will provide information on a much larger number of crimes, as well as details such as the time of day, location and types of weapons involved, if applicable. It will also provide demographic data, such as the age, sex, race and ethnicity of victims, known offenders and arrestees.
One key question looming over the transition is how many police departments will participate in the new system, which has been in development for decades. In 2019, the most recent year available, NIBRS received violent and property crime data from 46% of law enforcement agencies, covering 44% of the U.S. population that year. Some researchers have warned that the transition to a new system could leave important data gaps if more law enforcement agencies do not submit the requested information to the FBI.
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.What is a good source of data about crime in the US? ›
The Bureau of Justice Statistics' (BJS) NCVS provides a detailed picture of crime incidents, victims, and trends.Why crime statistics are not reliable? ›
POLICE DISCRETION AND VICTIM DISCRETION IN REPORTING CRIME ARE CONSIDERED SOURCES OF INACCURACY IN CONSTRUCTING STATISTICAL CRIME RECORDS. POLITICAL PRESSURE AND FUNDING PRESSURES TO SHOW POLICE EFFECTIVENESS BY DECREASING CRIME RATES IS SAID TO ENCOURAGE THE POLICE PRACTICE OF NOT RECORDING CERTAIN CRIMES.Which country has the highest crime rate? ›
World of Statistics has shared the ranking of the world's "most criminal countries". On the list, Venezuela has been ranked top, followed by Papua New Guinea (2), Afghanistan (3), South Africa (4), Honduras (5), Trinidad (6), Guyana (7), Syria (8), Somalia (9) and Jamaica (10), respectively.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 are the two ways crime statistics are gathered in the United States? ›
The U.S. Department of Justice administers two statistical programs to measure the magnitude, nature, and impact of crime in the nation: the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).Why is data important in crime? ›
Crime data, if collected properly, can help law enforcement agencies determine any correlations that affect criminal activity. Additionally, agencies can use collected data to identify areas where, when and what types of crimes are most likely to occur.What are the 3 most common ways we measure crime in the United States? ›
Congress uses data from the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS),1 and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) to inform policy decisions and develop appropriate responses to crime.What is the most common crime overall in the US? ›
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 problem with true crime? ›
This is detrimental to mental health. Too much exposure to true crime can lead to paranoia, unsafe feelings, being more wary of others, and heightened anxiety. The popularity with true crime forms of multimedia can be credited to the 1996 novel “In Cold Blood” by Truman Capote, which details the Clutter family murders.
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.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.Which country has least crime? ›
- Jordan. Crime Index Score: 2.91. ...
- Sweden. Crime Index Score: 2.89. ...
- Austria. Crime Index Score: 2.82. ...
- Portugal. Crime Index Score: 2.73. ...
- Slovenia. Crime Index Score: 2.65. ...
- Switzerland. Crime Index Score: 2.57. ...
- New Zealand. Crime Index Score: 2.53. ...
- Canada. Crime Index Score: 2.49.
1. Iceland. Iceland, the land of fire and ice, is also the safest country in the world according to the Global Peace Index. With a low homicide rate, low level of violent crime, and limited access to small arms, Iceland is truly a peaceful country for its residents and visitors.What state has the most murders? ›
|1||District of Columbia||49.2 per 100k|
|2||Louisiana||22.9 per 100k|
|3||Missouri||18 per 100k|
|4||South Carolina||17.4 per 100k|
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 is the crime rate in the United States? ›
- U.S. crime rate & statistics for 2020 was 6.52, a 28.64% increase from 2019.
- U.S. crime rate & statistics for 2019 was 5.07, a 1.19% increase from 2018.
- U.S. crime rate & statistics for 2018 was 5.01, a 5.9% decline from 2017.
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 are the major types of crimes in the United States? ›
- Drug Crimes.
- Criminal Attempt, Conspiracy, and Aiding and Abetting.
- Federal Crimes, Cybercrimes, and Juvenile Crimes.
- Sex Crimes.
- Theft Crimes.
- Traffic Offenses.
- Violent Crimes.
It is generally agreed that the essential ingredients of any crime are (1) a voluntary act or omission (actus reus), accompanied by (2) a certain state of mind (mens rea).
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.How can data reduce crime? ›
Data analytics can help determine the likelihood that a convicted criminal would pose a threat to public safety if they are released from prison or put on probation.What is crime data? ›
Crime data from law enforcement agencies reflect those crimes reported to and recorded by police. The Nation's Two Crime Measures. Department of Justice agencies collect both survey and administrative data on crime.What are the 4 primary methods of measuring crime in the US? ›
Crime data collected through the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) are used by Congress to inform policy decisions and allocate federal criminal justice funding to states.What are the three things needed for crime? ›
The Crime Triangle identifies three factors that create a criminal offense. Desire of a criminal to commit a crime; Target of the criminal's desire; and the Opportunity for the crime to be committed. You can break up the Crime Triangle by not giving the criminal the Opportunity.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.Who has the worst crime rate in us? ›
The most dangerous city in the USA is Memphis, Tennessee. With a population of 628,127, Memphis has a crime rate that is 237% higher than the national average.
Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.Why is America obsessed with true crime? ›
Or so viewers think. Science Focus and BBC World Service's CrowdScience agree, citing evolutionary psychologists who suggest we are drawn to true crime stories to instinctively discover the “who, what, when, and where, learn what makes criminals tick, and better protect ourselves and our kin.”What crimes are morally wrong? ›
Finally, there are activities that society generally considers morally wrong and are also criminal law violations (represented as “C”). These acts include behaviors such as murder, sexual assault, and robbery. A significant portion of criminal laws is also immoral.
Because we're trying to solve the mystery.
Humans like puzzles, and true crime shows and podcasts get our brains going. “By following an investigation on TV,” Bonn writes, “people can play armchair detective and see if they can figure out 'whodunit' before law enforcement authorities catch the actual perpetrator.” Dr.
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 is the dark figure of crime in the United States? ›
The dark figure of crime refers to crimes that do not come to the attention of police because they were not reported or it was unclear that a crime occurred or no one knew of the crime.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 crime is most likely to be solved? ›
Law enforcement officers were generally much more likely to solve violent crimes than property crimes, according to the FBI. The most frequently solved violent crime tends to be homicide. Police cleared around six-in-ten murders and non-negligent manslaughters (61.4%) last year.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.How much crime is caused by poverty? ›
A 1% rise in poverty would amount to a 2.16% rise in crime and a 2.57% rise in violent crime (4-6). Therefore, an increase in poverty directly increases crime rates in America.Where is the safest place to live in America? ›
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.
Iceland is the safest place to live on Earth, according to the latests Global Peace Index, where it ranked number one for the 13th year in a row. New Zealand is also extremely safe, coming in second on the same index.Where is the best country to live? ›
- 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.
Canada's ranking is 14 spots before the United Kingdom, and 34 spots ahead of the United States. The U.S. News 2021 Best Countries Report gave Canada a score of 96.7 out of 100 for safety. This ranking puts Canada significantly above the United States (10.8) and the United Kingdom (55.4).How safe is the United States compared to other countries? ›
The United States ranked 129th in the Global Peace Ranking for 2022.Where is the lowest crime rate in the US? ›
Maine ranks first in terms of personal safety, road safety, and emergency preparedness. There are fewer assaults per capita in Maine than in any other state. The violent crime rate in Maine is the lowest of all states, as is the property crime rate.What is the most evil state in the US? ›
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.Who is the biggest serial killer of all time? ›
Serial killers with the highest known victim count. The most prolific modern serial killer is arguably doctor Harold Shipman, with 218 probable murders and possibly as many as 250 (see "Medical professionals", below). However, he was actually convicted of a sample of 15 murders.How many black serial killers are there? ›
In addition, 82 percent of American serial killers were white, 15 percent were black, and 2.5 percent were Hispanic.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.Why is measuring crime important? ›
Identifying causes requires that differences in crime rates can be related to differences in people and their situations. Counting crime is also used to evaluate and justify programs and policies that try to address criminal activity (e.g., rehabilitation, incapacitation, deterrence).Why is crime analysis important? ›
The primary purpose of crime analysis is to support (i.e., assist) the operations of a police department. These functions include criminal investigation, apprehension, and prosecution; patrol activities; crime prevention and reduction strategies; problem solving; and the evaluation and accountability of police efforts.What is crime statistics simple? ›
Crime statistics are usually data collected by governments for the reporting of incidents of criminal activity. The statistics included in this section were chosen to provide a sampling of how crime statistics can be useful beyond simply reporting incidents of criminal behavior.
The three main sources of crime data include official reports from the police, surveys of victims, and self-reports from offenders.What is the use of statistics as evidence? ›
Statistics provide a valuable source of evidence to support the initiation of new policy or the alteration of an existing policy or program. Once an issue has been identified, it is then necessary to analyse the extent of the issue, and determine what urgency there is for the issue to be addressed.What is the most commonly used measure of crime statistics quizlet? ›
-The Uniform Crime Report, or UCR, is the most widely used official report. -The police must interpret citizen reports and do their best to classify the crime. -Violent Index Crimes: Murder/ non-negligent homicide; rape; aggravated assault; armed robbery.What is the most accurate measurement of crime? ›
Crime rates, instead, account for the differences in populations. A crime rate is defined as the count of offenses divided by the number of people in the area and can be interpreted as crimes per person. This results in a more meaningful metric for comparing crime risk across space.What is the best source for crime statistics? ›
The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program generates reliable statistics for use in law enforcement. It also provides information for students of criminal justice, researchers, the media, and the public. The program has been providing crime statistics since 1930.Why is it important to look for big data in criminal justice? ›
Big data can be a valuable source of insights for professionals in the behavioral science field of criminology. They can use it to access a wealth of knowledge regarding human behavior and patterns in various situations.What is the scientific analysis of crime? ›
Crime scene analysis (crime analysis) is the analytical process of interpreting the specific features of a crime and related crime scenes. It involves an integrated assessment of the forensic evidence, forensic victimology, and crime scene characteristics.How do you analyze crime scene evidence? ›
- Identify Scene Dimensions. Locate the focal point of the scene. ...
- Establish Security. Tape around the perimeter. ...
- Create a Plan & Communicate. Determine the type of crime that occurred. ...
- Conduct Primary Survey. ...
- Document and Process Scene. ...
- Conduct Secondary Survey. ...
- Record and Preserve Evidence.
U.S. Crime Rate & Statistics 1990-2023.
|U.S. Crime Rate & Statistics - Historical Data|
|Year||Per 100K Population||Annual % Change|
The Crime Clock represents the annual ratio of crime to fixed time intervals.) A violent crime was committed every 26.3 seconds. A murder occurred every 32.1 minutes, a rape every 3.8 minutes, a robbery every 2.0 minutes, and an aggravated assault every 38.5 seconds.
|Type of crime||Number of committed crimes|
|Motor vehicle theft||554,618|