How Common is Crime in the US?

Most of us will break a law in our lifetimes, even if you don’t realize it. There are many small laws that we break all of the time; laws that we might assume are immoral, but not illegal, or laws that we just don’t care about.

Such is the case with everything from jaywalking, to underage drinking and speeding. Have you ever given a tablet from your own prescribed medication to a friend because they have a headache or can’t sleep? You just broke a law, and quite a serious one. Have you ever urinated outside, driven without a seatbelt, or played a game of poker at home? Then you just broke the law in a couple dozen states.

Not only will all of us break a law in our lifetimes, but the majority of us will break at least 1 a week. In the United States, a society known for being particularly litigious, and one where laws can differ from state to state, this is especially true. But it is also the case in the UK, where it is said the average person breaks over 260 rules a year some of which could be defined as theft, reckless driving, copyright infringement and even fraud.

Serious Crime Rates

All of the crimes mentioned above are fairly small. They are still laws, of course, and there is usually a reason they exist (albeit not always) but they are not going to put anyone in harm’s way.

But what about crime that does expose someone to harm?

Well, in the United States in 2015 there were 15,696 recorded murders; over 90,000 rapes; over 325,000 robberies; and close to 1.2 million violent crimes. This had actually increased on previous years, but property crime fell.

This means that approximately 0.3% of the population was the victim of violent crime in that year. This is around a tenth of the number of arrests, which means you have a much greater chance of being the perpetrator of crime than the victim, although your chances of being the aggressor increase considerably if you are a white male who uses drugs.

The crimes on the increase are ones that speak of the tensions currently felt within the US. They include crimes of desperation and hate, such as car theft, shoplifting and assault; they include crimes that stem from an increase in drug use, which itself is symptomatic of difficult times.

All of this is why the United States legal system is the most expensive in the world. Criminal lawyers earn some of the most money; the legal process requires one of the most drawn-out processes; and all of this is why the US spends close to 2% of its GDP on the legal system, while many other first-world nations spend just 0.4%.

If you think that’s a scary stat, then take a look at these:

  • You have a 358/1 chance of dying from a firearm in the US
  • You have a 1 in 3 chance of being arrested by the time you reach 23
  • As many Americans have college degrees as criminal records