Launching Arrest Trends

Launching Arrest Trends

Vera developed Arrest Trends to unlock important policing data. This tool helps to answer fundamental questions about U.S. policing by organizing publicly available datasets into one easy-to-use platform. Users can explore multiple visualizations that allow for a deeper understanding of police enforcement in local jurisdictions and across the country. Arrest Trends focuses on the following critical areas:

  • Arrests: How many arrests are made annually, and for what?
  • Demographics: How do arrest trends vary across demographic groups?
  • Clearance rates: How successful are the police at solving reported crimes?
  • Victimizations: How common are victimizations, and how often are they reported to the police?
  • Data reported: What gaps exist in policing data?

Through Arrest Trends, users can easily access and analyze decades of policing data that has previously been disparately located and difficult to interpret. Arrest Trends allows a broad group of stakeholders to access data related to policing at both a national and localized level, allowing users to better understand how police currently operate and helping to set the roadmap for reform.

What Arrest Trends does and who it helps

Arrest Trends allows users to:

  • explore multiple up-to-date indicators of enforcement in one comprehensive tool;
  • profile the use of arrests in individual agencies, counties, states, regions, and the United States as a whole;
  • understand how arrest trends vary over time, place, offense type, and arrestee demographic;
  • learn about gaps in policing data, when and where they exist, and how they affect information accuracy and transparency; and
  • identify situations (such as locations or non-serious offense types) in which enforcement is particularly heavy with limited public safety need.

By making data accessible to all, Vera hopes Arrest Trends will generate dialogue about the role of policing. Importantly, the tool can be used to highlight the extent to which local decisions about arrests create disparities and may act as a primary driver of mass incarceration. For example:

  • Community groups and activists can access the data of their local department and utilize it in campaigns promoting their visions for public safety.
  • Policymakers can access information that is critical to decisions about the potential impact of decriminalizing certain behaviors (such as vagrancy).
  • Criminologists and researchers working in related social policy disciplines can incorporate measures of enforcement into their analyses more easily.
  • Media outlets, educators, and advocates can use the tool to inform the public about the disparate impacts of arrests across the country and over time.
  • Police chiefs can use Arrest Trends to learn how various policing strategies and new approaches (such as decriminalizing select low-level offenses or implementing de-escalation strategies) might impact their communities.

What data is featured in Arrest Trends?

Arrest Trends collates information from nine major data series, so that users can easily explore police enforcement trends in one comprehensive location:

  • Uniform Crime Report (UCR) Arrests by Age, Sex, and Race;
  • UCR: County-Level Detailed Arrest and Offense Data;
  • Arrests Data Analysis Tool National Estimates;
  • U.S. Census Populations with Bridged Race Categories;
  • U.S. Census American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates;
  • UCR Offenses Known and Clearances by Arrest;
  • National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) Victimization Analysis Tool;
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Offenses Known to Law Enforcement;
  • Law Enforcement Agency Identifiers Crosswalk; and
  • Law Enforcement Management and Administration Statistics (LEMAS).

Vera has produced a separate technical report, Arrest Trends: Data Sources and Methodology, which readers can access for more information about these data sources and how they were analyzed and integrated into this tool. In general, however, Arrest Trends uses these data series to populate interactive visualizations of the following five policing indicators: (1) arrests, (2) arrest demographics, (3) clearance rates, (4) victimizations, and (5) reported data (in other words, gaps in data reported by police agencies to the FBI). Users can explore these indicators to better understand the extent, disparate impact, effectiveness, and transparency of U.S. policing enforcement practices.