Crime, Arrests and US Law Enforcement

Subsection Links:

Data Tables:

Police encounters don't have to end in an arrest, or worse. The organization Flex Your Rights has put together a comprehensive guide for citizens on how to properly handle encounters with law enforcement, preserving both personal and public safety as well as one's civil rights. Learn more at their website,

21. NY Stop-and-Frisk of Young Black and Latino Men

"Young black and Latino men were the targets of a hugely disproportionate number of stops. Though they account for only 4.7 percent of the city’s population, black and Latino males between the ages of 14 and 24 accounted for 41.6 percent of stops in 2011. The number of stops of young black men exceeded the entire city population of young black men (168,126 as compared to 158,406). Ninety percent of young black and Latino men stopped were innocent."

"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.

22. NY Stop-and-Frisk of Innocent People

"Of the 685,724 stops in 2011, 605,328 were of people who had engaged in no unlawful behavior as evidenced by the fact they were not issued a summons nor arrested. Of those, 310,390 were black (53.1 percent), 197,251 Latino (33.7 percent), and 53,726 white (9.2 percent). Young black and Latino males bore the brunt of these stops, accounting for 242,317 stops of innocent people (42.9 percent)."

"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. 15.

23. Collateral Consequences: Drivers License Revocation As a Result of Conviction on Drug Charges

"In the Department of Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 1992,100 Congress required the withholding of ten percent of certain federal highway funds unless a state either: 1) enacts and enforces a law revoking or suspending for at least six months the driver's license of an individual who is convicted of any drug offense; or 2) the governor submits written certification to the Secretary of the Department of Transportation that he or she opposes the revocation/suspension, and that the state legislature has adopted a resolution expressing its opposition to this law.l01 This law defines "drug offense" as any criminal offense involving the possession, distribution, manufacture, cultivation, sale, transfer, or the attempt or conspiracy to possess, distribute, manufacture, cultivate, sell, or transfer any substance (the possession of which is prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act) or the operation of a motor vehicle under the influence of such a substance.102
"Thus, unless states formally express their opposition to the federal law, they must suspend or revoke for at least six months the driver's license of anyone convicted of a drug offense.103 If they do express their opposition, they are free to limit suspension or revocation only to offenses involving driving or other more limited categories of offenses. Twenty-three states automatically suspend or revoke drivers' licenses for conviction of some or all drug offenses, in addition to driving-related offenses;104 the other twenty-seven states do not."

Mukamal, Debbie A. and Samuels, Paul N., "Statutory Limitations on Civil Rights of People with Criminal Records." Fordham Urban Law Journal (New York, NY: Fordham University, 2002) Volume 30, Issue 5, p. 1515.

24. Violent Crime and Substance Use

"Contrary to conventional wisdom and popular myth, alcohol is more tightly linked with more violent crimes than crack, cocaine, heroin or any other illegal drug. In state prisons, 21 percent of inmates in prison for violent crimes were under the influence of alcohol--and no other substance--when they committed their crime; in contrast, at the time of their crimes, only three percent of violent offenders were under the influence of cocaine or crack alone, only one percent under the influence of heroin alone."

Califano, Joseph, Behind Bars: Substance Abuse and America's Prison Population, Forward by Joseph Califano, The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (1998).

25. Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations

"Today Mexico is a major producer and supplier to the U.S. market of heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana and the major transit country for cocaine sold in the United States. According to the Department of State’s 2009 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, as much as 90% of the cocaine entering the United States now transits through Mexico. A small number of Mexican DTOs control the most significant drug distribution operations along the Southwest border. The criminal activities of these Mexican DTOs reach well beyond the towns and cities of the border, extending along drug trafficking routes into cities across the United States. The Mexican DTOs have exhibited many characteristics of organized crime such as being organized in distinct cells and controlling subordinate cells that operate throughout the United States.1"

Beittel, June S., "Mexico's Drug-Related Violence," Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, May 27, 2009), p. 7.
citing: United States Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, "International Narcotics Control Strategy Report: Volume I, Drug and Chemical Control," (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of State: March 2009), p. 414.
and Cook, Colleen W., "Mexico's Drug Cartels," Congressional Research Service (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, October 16, 2007), p. 5.

26. Federal Weed and Seed Initiatives

"The Weed and Seed (W&S) strategy was launched more than 18 years ago by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) as a community-based, comprehensive, multiagency approach to law enforcement, crime prevention, and community revitalization in high-crime neighborhoods. Since its start in three demonstration sites, W&S initiatives have been established in hundreds of neighborhoods nationwide. In early 2010, 256 sites were active in 46 states and 2 territories. Beginning around 2007, W&S funding has been limited to 5 years for a given site, with a maximum of $1 million over that time."

Trudeau, James; Barrick, Kelle; Williams, Jason, "Independent Evaluation of the National Weed and Seed Strategy," Office of Justice Programs, Community Capacity Development Office (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, September 2010), p. 2.

27. Impact of Medical Marijuana Laws on Crime Rates

"The central finding gleaned from the present study was that MML is not predictive of higher crime rates and may be related to reductions in rates of homicide and assault. Interestingly, robbery and burglary rates were unaffected by medicinal marijuana legislation, which runs counter to the claim that dispensaries and grow houses lead to an increase in victimization due to the opportunity structures linked to the amount of drugs and cash that are present. Although, this is in line with prior research suggesting that medical marijuana dispensaries may actually reduce crime in the immediate vicinity [8]."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

28. Effect of Medical Marijuana Legalization On Crime Rates

"In sum, these findings run counter to arguments suggesting the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes poses a danger to public health in terms of exposure to violent crime and property crimes. To be sure, medical marijuana laws were not found to have a crime exacerbating effect on any of the seven crime types. On the contrary, our findings indicated that MML precedes a reduction in homicide and assault. While it is important to remain cautious when interpreting these findings as evidence that MML reduces crime, these results do fall in line with recent evidence [29] and they conform to the longstanding notion that marijuana legalization may lead to a reduction in alcohol use due to individuals substituting marijuana for alcohol [see generally 29, 30]. Given the relationship between alcohol and violent crime [31], it may turn out that substituting marijuana for alcohol leads to minor reductions in violent crimes that can be detected at the state level. That said, it also remains possible that these associations are statistical artifacts (recall that only the homicide effect holds up when a Bonferroni correction is made)."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

29. Effect Of Medical Marijuana Legalization On Crime Rates

"Given that the current results failed to uncover a crime exacerbating effect attributable to MML, it is important to examine the findings with a critical eye. While we report no positive association between MML and any crime type, this does not prove MML has no effect on crime (or even that it reduces crime). It may be the case that an omitted variable, or set of variables, has confounded the associations and masked the true positive effect of MML on crime. If this were the case, such a variable would need to be something that was restricted to the states that have passed MML, it would need to have emerged in close temporal proximity to the passage of MML in all of those states (all of which had different dates of passage for the marijuana law), and it would need to be something that decreased crime to such an extent that it ‘‘masked’’ the true positive effect of MML (i.e., it must be something that has an opposite sign effect between MML [e.g., a positive correlation] and crime [e.g., a negative correlation]). Perhaps the more likely explanation of the current findings is that MML laws reflect behaviors and attitudes that have been established in the local communities. If these attitudes and behaviors reflect a more tolerant approach to one another’s personal rights, we are unlikely to expect an increase in crime and might even anticipate a slight reduction in personal crimes."

Robert G. Morris, Michael TenEyck, JC Barnes, and Tomislav V. Kovandzic, "The Effect of Medical Marijuana Laws On Crime: Evidence From State Panel Data, 1990-2006," PLoS ONE 9(3): e92816. March 2014. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0092816

30. Substance Abuse Treatment and Crime Rates

"Increases in admissions to substance abuse treatment are associated with reductions in crime rates. Admissions to drug treatment increased 37.4 percent and federal spending on drug treatment increased 14.6 percent from 1995 to 2005. During the same period, violent crime fell 31.5 percent. Maryland experienced decreases in crime when jurisdictions increased the number of people sent to drug treatment."

Justice Policy Institute, "Substance Abuse Treatment and Public Safety," (Washington, DC: January 2008), p. 1.