Crime, Arrests and US Law Enforcement

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11. Arrests for Hard Drugs Have No Impact On Injection Drug Use Rates

"Changes in hard drug arrest rates did not predict changes in IDU population rates. These results are inconsistent with criminal deterrence theory and raise questions about whether arresting people for hard drug use contributes to public health."

Samuel R. Friedman, PhD, et al., "Drug Arrests and Injection Drug Deterrence," American Journal of Public Health, February 2011, Vol. 101, No. 2, p. 347.

12. Impact of Arrests Rates on Injection Drug Use

"Although hard drug arrest rates were not associated with changes in the IDU rate, imprisonment might be. Arrest data may fail to capture incapacitation effects if arrests do not lead to incarceration or if sentences are brief.42 Furthermore, even data on time served may not reflect the perception of punitiveness among the population hypothesized to be deterred by incarceration.43 A study of incarceration and injection among 1603 IDUs, however, found that incarceration was negatively associated with injection cessation.7
"Because high arrest rates move many active IDUs from the community into the penal system, the lack of a negative relationship between arrest rates and IDU prevalence raises the question of why removal of IDUs does not reduce their number. One possible reason is that incarcerated IDUs are replaced by new IDUs. This might result if hard drug arrests or the fear of such arrests promote transitions to injecting among noninjectors.23,25–27 Another possibility is that, in MSAs [Metropolitan Statistical Areas] where hard drug arrests have been decreasing over time, the removal of new arrestees is balanced by the return of previously arrested IDUs from jail or prison. More research is needed on this question.
"Deterrence-based approaches to reducing drug use thus appear not to reduce IDU prevalence. They may harm public health: IDUs in MSAs with higher hard drug arrest rates have been found to have higher HIV prevalence.21 Furthermore, arrests for drug use disrupt the lives of drug users, their families, and their neighbors. High imprisonment rates for African American men have been suggested as a contributing factor to racial disparities in sexually transmitted infections in the United States.44,45 Alternative approaches such as harm reduction, which prevents HIV transmission and increases referrals to treatment, may be a better foundation for policy.46"

Samuel R. Friedman, PhD, et al., "Drug Arrests and Injection Drug Deterrence," American Journal of Public Health, February 2011, Vol. 101, No. 2, p. 348.

13. High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas

"The ONDCP Director designates new HIDTAs in consultation with the Attorney General, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Homeland Security, heads of the National Drug Control Program agencies, and relevant State governors. Funding from HIDTA helps Federal, State, local and tribal law enforcement organizations invest in infrastructure, some operational requirements, and joint initiatives to dismantle and disrupt drug trafficking organizations. Funds are also used for demand reduction or prevention efforts and some limited drug treatment initiatives.
"There are currently 28 HIDTAs which include 17.2 percent of all counties in the United States and its territories and little over 60 percent of the population. HIDTA-designated counties are present in 48 States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the District of Columbia."

Office of National Drug Control Policy Open Government Plan (Washington, DC: Office of National Drug Control Policy, September 2016), p. 3.

14. Significant Number of US Citizens with Criminal Records

"According to a 2008 survey of states, there were 92.3 million people with criminal records on file with states, including those individuals fingerprinted for serious misdemeanors and felony arrests. U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Survey of State Criminal History Information Systems, 2008 (Oct. 2009), at Table 1. In some states, misdemeanor arrests for less serious crimes do not require fingerprinting, thus this figure is likely an undercount of people with criminal records. To account for individuals who may have records in multiple states and other factors, and to arrive at a conservative national estimate, the 92.3 million figure was reduced by 30 percent (64.6 million). Thus, as a percentage of the U.S. population over the age of 18 (232,458,335 in 2009 according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, available at, an estimated 27.8 percent of the U.S. adult population has a criminal record on file with states. This estimate is consistent with a Department of Justice finding that about '30 percent of the Nation’s adult population' has a state rap sheet. U.S. Dept. of Justice Office of the Attorney General, The Attorney General’s Report on Criminal History Background Checks
(June 2006), at 51. The rise in people with criminal records may significantly be attributed to the increased arrests associated with the 'War on Drugs.'"

Rodriguez, Michelle Natividad and Emsellem, Maurice, "65 Million Need Not Apply: The Case for Reforming Criminal Background Checks for Employment," National Employment Law Project (New York, NY: March 2011), p. 27.

15. Prohibition and Homicide Rates

"The data are quite consistent with the view that Prohibition at the state level inhibited alcohol consumption, and an attempt to explain correlated residuals by including omitted variables revealed that enforcement of Prohibitionist legislation had a significant inhibiting effect as well. Moreover, both hypotheses about the effects of alcohol and Prohibition are supported by the analysis. Despite the fact that alcohol consumption is a positive correlate of homicide (as expected), Prohibition and its enforcement increased the homicide rate."

Jensen, Gary F., "Prohibition, Alcohol, and Murder: Untangling Countervailing Mechanisms," Homicide Studies, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA, February 2000), p. 31.

16. Arrests by DEA, 2009, by Substance

"The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) arrested 29,896 suspects for drug offenses in 2009, a nearly 10% increase from 27,235 arrests in 2008.
"Suspects arrested for offenses involving cocaine powder and crack cocaine (11,361) accounted for 38% of all suspects arrested by the DEA in 2009 (table 2). Twenty-eight percent of suspects were arrested for offenses involving cocaine powder (8,491), and 10% were arrested for crack cocaine (2,870). Crack cocaine arrests declined by 12% from the 3,254 reported in 2008 (not shown in table). The remaining suspects were arrested for marijuana (7,294), methamphetamine (4,701), and for opiates (2,975)."

Motivans, Mark, "Federal Justice Statistics, 2009" (Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dec. 2011), NCJ234184, p. 3.

17. Police "Stops" in NYC

"As the NYCLU previously disclosed, the NYPD conducted nearly 700,000 stops in 2011. The total of 685,724 stops marked an increase of 84,439 (14 percent) stops from 2010. During the 10 years of the Bloomberg administration, there have been 4,356,927 stops."

Note: A "stop" is defined as "the practice of police officers stopping individuals on the street to question them."

"Stop-and-Frisk 2011: NYCLU Briefing," New York Civil Liberties Union (New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union of New York State, May 9, 2012), p. 3.

18. Officers Employed by DEA, FBI, and BOP

"In 2008, DOJ agencies employed about 40,000 (or 33%) of all full-time federal officers with arrest and firearm authority in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was the largest DOJ employer of federal officers and the second largest employer of federal officers overall. The BOP employed nearly 17,000 correctional officers and other staff who deal directly with inmates, such as correctional counselors and captains, to maintain the security of the federal prison system. This was about 1,600 (or 11%) more officers than in 2004. In September 2008, BOP facilities had about 165,000 inmates in custody, compared to about 153,000 inmates in 2004.
"The second largest DOJ agency in 2008 was the FBI, which employed 12,760 full-time personnel with arrest and firearm authority. This was about 500 (or 4%) more officers than in 2004. Except for 230 FBI police officers, the FBI total consisted of special agents responsible for criminal investigation and enforcement.
"In addition to the BOP and the FBI, three other major law enforcement agencies operated within DOJ during 2008: The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (4,308 officers in 2008, down 2% from 2004), the U.S. Marshals Service (3,313 officers, up 2%), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) (2,541 officers, up 7%)."

Reaves, Brian, "Federal Law Enforcement Officers, 2008" (Washington, DC: USDOJ, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2012), NCJ238250, p. 3.

19. NY Stop-and-Frisk

"In 70 out of 76 precincts, black and Latino New Yorkers accounted for more than 50 percent of stops, and in 33 precincts they accounted for more than 90 percent of stops. In the 10 precincts with the lowest black and Latino populations (such as the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village), blacks and Latinos accounted for more than 70 percent of stops in six of those precincts."

"Stop-and-Frisk 2011: NYCLU Briefing," New York Civil Liberties Union (New York, NY: American Civil Liberties Union of New York State, May 9, 2012), p. 2.

20. Cross Border Drug Smuggling Tunnels Between Mexico and the US

"Illicit cross-border tunnels allow smugglers to move marijuana and, to a lesser extent, other drugs, weapons, currency, people, and other contraband illegally across the border. More than 170 illicit crossborder tunnels have been discovered in the United States since 1990.53 These tunnels have been found near POEs, where traffic and noise conceal tunneling activities.
"CBP and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have delineated four types of cross-border
tunnels. The type of tunnel constructed depends heavily on the region’s soil.54
"• Rudimentary tunnels are crudely constructed and travel a short distance. Shoring, machinery, electrical power, and ventilation are not used in their construction.
"• Interconnecting tunnels link at least one purpose-built section to preexisting underground infrastructure. The purpose-built section is usually crudely constructed.
"• Sophisticated tunnels may use shoring, ventilation, electricity, railroads, or water pumps, and can move large quantities of drugs, humans, currency, or firearms across the border. They typically link to private homes or warehouses in the United States and Mexico, even over long distances.
"• A fourth type of tunnel has been identified within the past five years in which traffickers employ horizontal directional-drilling equipment to construct a small-diameter tunnel in as little as two weeks. Attempts to construct these tunnels are infrequent.
"Marijuana comprises the overwhelming majority of illicit drug seizures from tunnels. Smuggling cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine through POEs is easier than moving marijuana due to the relatively smaller size of shipments."

National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, Executive Office of the President, Office of National Drug Control Policy, Washington, DC. July 2016, p. 10.