Less Than Two Out of Five Reported Crimes Involve An Arrest



Out of close to five million criminal incidents (4,902,000), less than two million (1,822,000) involved an identified suspect.

A massive disconnect between concerns over invasive police practices, crime related television programs and what really happens.


By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. Post Master’s degree-Johns Hopkins University.


The chart below offers data as to when law enforcement agencies clear crimes either through an arrest or by identifying a suspect. It’s presented by the FBI and their National Incident-Based Reporting System.

The National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) is an effort on the part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to collect better, higher quality data than the current Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), the study that tells us whether crime has increased or decreased.

Note that the data is based on crimes reported to police, not a measure of all crime. Approximately half of violent crimes (47 percent) are reported to police per the National Crime Victimization Survey.

Most Criminal Activity Does Not Involve an Arrest

Those of us in the criminal justice system have always known that the vast majority of reported crime does not involve an arrest, so the data presented by the National Incident-Based Reporting System is not surprising.

There is, however, a sense of concern regarding media coverage of police tactics that some consider invasive. There are websites covering the intrusive use of police technology (i.e., forensics, use of social media or tracking devices) that raise alarm and give the impression that law enforcement is all-present, while the overwhelming number of criminal cases go unsolved. There is also public perception influenced by television police dramas where the offender is always caught by a dazzling array of technology.

There seems to be a massive disconnect between media accounts and what really happens.

Most crime is not reported, most reported crime does not end in an arrest; there are significant percentages of arrests not prosecuted (there is no national figure) and most felonies do not end in a sentence to prison.

Out of close to five million incidents (4,902,000), less than two million (1,822,000) involved an identified suspect. 1,650,000 involved an arrest and 172,000 were cleared by exceptional means (suspect identified).

1,138,000 violent crimes resulted in 550,000 crimes cleared (arrest or suspect identified), which is astounding low considering that most violent crimes involved people who know each other.

Out of 3,564,000 property crimes, 660,000 were cleared (arrest or suspect identified).

Where the Data Comes From

The FBI released details on more than 5.6 million criminal offenses reported via the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for 2015. The report includes what the bureau calls “a diverse range of information about victims, known offenders, and relationships for 23 offense categories comprised of 49 offenses.”

It also includes arrest data for those offense categories plus 10 more offenses for which only arrest data are collected.

NIBRS currently is used by 36 percent of law enforcement agencies that take part in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program.

Because it offers a better picture of crime, NIBRS is supposed to replace the UCR (the current reporting program) by 2021.  FBI.gov

See chart below:

Crime in America at http://crimeinamerica.net

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com.

Media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

My book: “Amazon Hot New Release”- “A Must Have Book,” Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization available at Amazon


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