Crime and Justice–Hampered by the Numbers

Crime in America.Net crime news.

Gentlereaders: In a previous post, we discussed juvenile arrest statistics and compared them to two national studies of crime; all suggest that crime rates and totals are down throughout the Unites States and that this continues an almost continuous trend for the last 15 years or more.

We also stated that citing these numbers to crime victims or to those who live in high crime areas offer little to no comfort.

The article below from the Philadelphia Inquirer is an example of how justice can get bogged down to such a degree as to have an impact on an entire metropolitan area.

The Inquirer cites a considerable number of data sources indicating that “Philadelphia defendants walk free on all charges in nearly two-thirds of violent-crime cases. Among large urban counties, Philadelphia has the nation’s lowest felony-conviction rate.”

The issue nationally is one of arrests and convictions. We know that the vast majority of crime in the United States is not reported (most property crimes are not reported, about half of violent crime are) and that most reported crime does not result in an arrest.

But how many arrested offenders are prosecuted, convicted and sent to prison?

No one has ever been able to get a clear picture of urban prosecution rates. First of all, many arrests are not prosecuted. How many? No one knows for sure, but from time-to-time a newspaper like the Inquirer takes on the task and the results are usually dismal. Prosecutor’s in many large jurisdictions routinely throw out twenty to thirty percent of cases for a wide variety of reasons. In some cities, the percentages are higher.

Then we need to come to grips with the fact that 90 percent of the remaining cases are plea-bargained. The prosecutor offers reduced charges and the defendant pleads guilty.  Few criminal cases actually go to trial.

Then there is the knowledge that most who plead guilty do not get prison time.

All of the above is well documented via US Department of Justice data except for the rate of prosecutions.

Regardless of the good news regarding crime statistics, in some cities, the criminal justice system is broken and only tens of millions of dollars will fix it.

See article below:

Justice: Delayed, Dismissed, Denied

With Philadelphia’s court system in disarray, cases crumble as witnesses fear reprisal and thousands of fugitives remain at large.

By Craig R. McCoy, Nancy Phillips, and Dylan Purcell

Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writers

Kareem Johnson stood over Walter Smith and executed him. He fired so close that Smith’s blood splashed up onto Johnson’s Air Jordan baseball cap.

He shot him as a favor to a childhood friend.

Smith was a threat because he had come forward as a witness in a murder case against Clinton Robinson.

With the witness dead, Robinson cut a sweet deal. He pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to just 2 1/2 to five years.

“Basically, I beat it,” he says now.

He and Johnson know all about beating cases in the Philadelphia courts. In just three years, Johnson, 26, and Robinson, 24, were arrested a total of nine times for gun crimes, but until the charges escalated to murder, nothing stuck.

Johnson’s bloodletting came to an end only after he killed a 10-year-old boy in 2004 in one of the city’s most notorious murders. As for Robinson, he’s locked up on a drug charge, but expects to go free soon.

The two men’s violent path from the streets into the courts and back again vividly illustrates the failure of Philadelphia’s criminal justice system.

It is a system that all too often fails to punish violent criminals, fails to protect witnesses, fails to catch thousands of fugitives, fails to decide cases on their merits – fails to provide justice.

In America’s most violent big city, people accused of serious crimes are escaping conviction with stunning regularity, an Inquirer investigation has found.

Philadelphia defendants walk free on all charges in nearly two-thirds of violent-crime cases. Among large urban counties, Philadelphia has the nation’s lowest felony-conviction rate.

Only one in 10 people charged with gun assaults is convicted of that charge, the newspaper found.

Only two in 10 accused armed robbers are found guilty of armed robbery.

Only one in four accused rapists is found guilty of rape.

The data also show that people charged with assaults with a gun escape conviction more often than those who use fists or knives. Of people arrested for possession of illegal handguns, almost half go free.

For the full article, see



  1. […] The Philadelphia Inquirer recently stated that nearly two-thirds of violent crimes are not prosecuted. See […]

  2. […] another previous post on Crime in America.Net, we cited a related article from the Philadelphia Inquirer. We stated that Philadelphia is an […]

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