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Arrest in the United States, 1990-2010

NCJ Number
Howard N. Synder, Ph.D.
Date Published
October 2012
26 pages
Based on data provided by local law enforcement agencies to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), this report documents trends in arrests and arrestees for various offenses in the years 1990-2010.

Presents annual estimates of arrests in the United States covering the period between 1990 and 2010. Based on data collected by the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, this report expands the FBI's set of published arrest estimates to include offense-specific arrest estimates grouped by age, sex, and race. These breakdowns of arrests and arrest trends provide a detailed description of the flow of individuals into the criminal justice system over a long period. The national estimates represent arrests by state and local law enforcement agencies, and control for variations in sample coverage from year to year.

  • The number of murder arrests in the U.S. fell by half between 1990 and 2010. The adult and juvenile arrest rates dropped substantially in the 1990s, while both continued to fall about 20% between 2000 and 2010, reaching their lowest levels since at least 1990.
  • There were 80% more arrests for drug possession or use in 2010 than in 1990. Even though the rate declined between 2006 and 2010, the arrest rate for drug possession or use in 2010 was still 46% above its 1990 level and was at levels similar to those seen between 1997 and 2002.
  • The male arrest rate for larceny-theft in 2010 was about half of the rate in 1990. In comparison, the female arrest rate in 2010 was just 8% below its 1990 level. The female rate fell 25% between 1990 and 2000, remained constant for several years, then grew between 2005 and 2010 to erase most of the decline experienced in the 1990s.