Crime & Justice

Is crime increasing or decreasing? What part of the population is in the corrections system? How many police are there?

Latest update on March 30, 2023

What is the current state of crime and justice in the US?

Explore data on crime rates, gun background checks, the corrections system, and local police forces.

National crime rate

In 2020, there were 396 violent crimes per 100,000 US residents. Additionally, there were 1,946 property crimes per 100,000 US residents.

While there have been annual fluctuations, the violent crime rate is lower now than in the 1990.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) serves as the primary source for national crime data, with local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies voluntarily providing crime statistics to the FBI. However, it's important to note that data beyond 2020 is limited due to changes in reporting systems.

Violent crimes encompass offenses involving the use of force or the threat of force, including murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Property crimes, on the other hand, involve the unlawful taking of property or money without the use or threat of force. Examples include burglary, larceny or theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. The FBI's detailed definitions of crime types can be found on its website.

Violent crimes and property crimes are not shown on the same line chart so trends in both can be seen individually.

Correctional population

In 2021, 5.4 million people were part of the correctional system under incarceration or community supervision.

During the pandemic, the correctional population fell to its lowest level since the mid-1990s.

People in the correctional population have been arrested, convicted, or sentenced for criminal offenses and are under government supervision. There are two categories of corrections: incarceration and community supervision.

People under incarceration are in government care and custody at one of two types of institutional facilities. Jails house people awaiting court dates and are usually run by local law enforcement. Prisons house people after conviction and are under the authority of state departments of corrections or the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Some jails and prisons are privately operated.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics publishes data on the US corrections population regularly.

Correctional population rate per 100,000 adults

In 2021, 2,100 out of 100,000 adults in the US were either incarcerated or under community supervision.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics provides correctional population rates based on demographic characteristics.

State and local police officers

In 2021, there were the equivalent of 725,000 full-time police officers.

The Census Bureau conducts an annual survey of state and local government employees, including job types. That includes police officers who have power of arrest.

The information shown excludes federal employees with policing powers.

State and local police officers per 100,000 people

In 2021, there were 219 state or local police officers per 100,000 people.

Washington, DC has more full-time equivalent police officers than any state.

Combining the Census Bureau's annual dataset on government employment with its population data can help determine the number of police officers with the power of arrest in the US and its states compared to the overall population. The data featured here represents full-time equivalent workers, a calculation that combines the amount of time worked by part-time workers with the amount of time full-time workers are on the job.

The information shown excludes federal employees with policing powers.

Firearm background checks

In 2022, there were 30.9 million firearm-related background checks completed.

Background checks peaked in 2020.

The FBI oversees the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which is used by licensed firearms sellers to conduct background checks on buyers. If the background check finds that the buyer is ineligible to buy a gun, primarily due to a criminal record, local law enforcement is notified. Since it launched in 1998, more than 400 million background checks have been processed. All states participate in the program.

While background checks can indicate trends in gun buying, the data does not represent the number of guns sold because background checks are used in varying ways based on state laws and shopping scenarios.

Government spending

In fiscal year 2020, federal, state, and local governments spent $275.5 billion on crime and justice.

That's $838 per person.

USAFacts categorizes government budget data to allocate spending appropriately and to arrive at the estimate presented here. Most government spending on crime and justice occurs at the state and local levels.

Government revenue and expenditures are based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Each is published annually, although due to collection times, state and local government data are not as current as federal data. Thus, when combining federal, state, and local revenues and expenditures, the most recent year for a combined number may be delayed.

Agencies and elected officials

Key actors

Crime prevention

FBI, Drug Enforcement Agency

Investigate crimes and enforce federal laws

Justice system

Department of Justice

Investigate and prosecute criminals for federal crimes


Bureau of Prisons

Manage federal prison system


Crime prevention

Justice system