What the data says about crime in the U.S.

What the data says about crime in the U.S.

A growing share of Americans say reducing crime should be a top priority for the president and Congress to address this year. Around six-in-ten U.S. adults (58%) hold that view today, up from 47% at the beginning of Joe Biden’s presidency in 2021.

With the issue likely to come up in this year’s presidential election, here’s what we know about crime in the United States, based on the latest available data from the federal government and other sources.

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) – paint an incomplete picture.

The FBI publishes annual data on crimes that have been reported to law enforcement, but not crimes that haven’t been reported. Historically, the FBI has also only published statistics about 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 from thousands of federal, state, county, city and other police departments, not all law enforcement agencies participate every year. In 2022, the most recent full year with available statistics, the FBI received data from 83% of participating 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 certain types of 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. And since the BJS data is based on after-the-fact interviews with crime victims, it cannot provide information about one especially high-profile type of offense: 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. In addition, the FBI is transitioning to a new data collection system – known as the National Incident-Based Reporting System – that eventually will provide national information on a much larger set of crimes, as well as details such as the time and place they occur and the types of weapons involved, if applicable.

Which kinds of crime are most and least common?

Property crime in the U.S. is much more common than violent crime. In 2022, the FBI reported a total of 1,954.4 property crimes per 100,000 people, compared with 380.7 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

By far the most common form of property crime in 2022 was larceny/theft, followed by motor vehicle theft and burglary. Among violent crimes, aggravated assault was the most common offense, followed by robbery, rape, and murder/nonnegligent 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 2022 and assault the most common form of violent crime.

You can read the full article at Pew Research Center.