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Arrest in the United States, 1980-2009

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 10:00 A.M. EDT Bureau of Justice Statistics
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 22, 2011                             Contact: Kara McCarthy (202) 307-1241
HTTP://WWW.BJS.GOV/ After hours: (202) 598-0556


 New interactive data tool allows users to analyze 30-year arrest trends

WASHINGTON – The U.S. murder arrest rate dropped more than 50 percent over a 30-year period, from 8.8 arrests per 100,000 U.S. residents in 1980 to 4.0 per 100,000 in 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. Arrest rates for forcible rape, robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and weapon law violations also decreased significantly over the 30-year period, while the arrest rates for aggravated assault, simple assault and drug abuse violations increased.

Murder arrest rates varied widely among racial groups. Over the 30-year period, the black arrest rate for murder averaged seven times the white rate. The American Indian/Alaskan Native rate averaged twice the white rate, while the Asian/Pacific Islander rate averaged half the white rate.

Over the 30-year period, the adult arrest rate for murder declined gradually, dropping 57 percent, while the juvenile murder arrest rate was more volatile. The juvenile rate for murder spiked by 162 percent between 1984 and 1993, then fell so that by 2009 the rate (1.6 per 100,000) was 44 percent below its 1980 level (2.8 per 100,000).

From 1980 to 2009, the forcible rape arrest rate declined 70 percent for blacks and 31 percent for whites. There was a significant decline in the forcible rape arrest rate for both black adults (from 70.8 to 19.7 per 100,000) and for black juveniles (26.6 to 8.7 per 100,000). However, the decline in the arrest rate for forcible rape was more pronounced for white adults (from 9.9 to 6.4 per 100,000) than for white juveniles (from 3.8 to 3.5 per 100,000).

The arrest rates for females increased over the 30-year period for several offenses, including aggravated assault, robbery, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Females were involved in 22 percent of arrests for aggravated assault in 2009, up from 12 percent in 1980. In addition, female arrests for robbery grew to 12 percent in 2009, up from seven percent in 1980.

Over the 30-year period, arrest rates for drug violations changed more dramatically for blacks than for whites. Arrest rates for drug possession or use doubled for whites and tripled for blacks. The black arrest rate for drug possession or use (1,040 per 100,000) ended the period at three times the white arrest rate (367 per 100,000).  Between 1980 and 2009, the arrest rate for drug sale or manufacture also increased substantially for both whites (66%) and blacks (90%).  The black arrest rate for drug sale or manufacture ended the period in 2009 (312 per 100,000) at about four times the white rate (72 per 100,000).

BJS developed these national estimates of arrests and arrest trends using data collected by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. BJS expands upon the estimates of total arrests published by the FBI in its Crime in the U.S. series to provide separate estimates of arrests by sex, age, and race. This detailed breakdown of arrests and arrest trends describes the flow of individuals into the criminal justice system over a long time period.

BJS also released today a dynamic arrest data analysis tool at http://www.bjs.gov. The tool permits data users to analyze 30-year national arrest trends, to create graphs and tables of national arrest estimates, customized either by age and sex or by age group and race, for many different offenses.  These are the first publicly available national arrest estimates covering this 30-year period broken down by age, sex, and race.

The data tool also contains local arrest counts for law enforcement agencies that reported arrest data to the FBI for the complete 12-month period in the year from 1980 to 2009. With the tool users can track at the local level trends in arrests for a large set of offenses, arrests of juveniles and adults, and arrests of persons in different racial groups. For example, this tool can generate national and local arrest trends for young women charged with aggravated assault, which can then be used by local law enforcement agencies, the media or advocates to compare local trends with either national trends or trends in other local communities.

The report, Arrest in the United States, 1980 – 2009 (NCJ 234319), is by BJS statistician Howard Snyder. The arrest data analysis tool is by Howard Snyder and BJS Information Technology Specialist Joseph Mulako-Wangota. Following publication, the report and data tool can be found at http://www.bjs.gov.

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS website at http://www.bjs.gov/.

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The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has six components: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; the Office for Victims of Crime; and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking. More information about OJP can be found at http://www.ojp.gov.



Date Published: September 22, 2011