When people discuss crime in the U.S., they tend to bunch all different types of crimes together into one lump group. This is understandable, as it makes it an easier topic to serve as a conversation point. Nonetheless, we are of the opinion that doing so is a disservice to the far-reaching topic of crime in general. By not subdividing crime into specific types, one will likely fail to account for the many nuances and aspects that make each variety of law-breaking unique. When talking about this issue, we must consider that not all crime is the same, not all types of crime have the same crime rate, and not all states in the U.S. have the same crime rates for different crimes, or even define them in the same manner. Although these points may sound simplistic to most, they should not go without mentioning. Even the best of us sometimes forget that there is a lot more to crime than just what we seen within our home state or country. In this article, we will break down U.S. crime into common categories by occurrence, and analyze each in turn.
Motor Vehicle Theft
First, let’s turn our attention to the topic of motor vehicle. The Insurance Information Institute reports that “699,594 motor vehicles were reported stolen in the U.S. in 2013”. More interestingly, 9 out of the 10 cities that had the highest auto theft were in California. Why California? Business Insider explored this very question. They suggested that two of the main reasons are 1) California's proximity to Mexico where many stolen cars are taken to be sold on the black market (as reported by Forbes), and 2) a 2011 Californian law often called "realignment," which essentially gives policemen and policewomen incentives to shorten jail sentences for nonviolent offenders.
Looking at Burglary, we find that 3 out of 5 of the U.S. cities with the highest burglary rates are in Ohio, with Cleveland coming taking the top spot with 1,787 burglaries per 100,000 people (2014). Conversely, New York has the lowest rate at 187 per 100,000 people, which may be attributed to its vigilant police force and the structure of the city. In Cleveland, many reasons have been posited; a large underclass that feels isolated and disconnected from the social fabric, a large number of vacant residents (50,000) which fuels indifference, and racial inequalities. These reasons have all been explored in depth by CNN and other major American news organizations.
In the case of Larceny-style thefts, Florida cities appears twice in the top five. It is, however, Tucson, Arizona claiming the highest rate of larceny in the US, at 5,221 annual events per 100,000 people. In comparison, Jersey City had the lowest rate at 1,078 per 100,000 people. Very interesting is the fact that California cities appear in 5 of the10 lowest ranks for rates of larceny-theft in the US. This is in stark contrast with automobile theft, was discussed above, where California was ranked worst in the US.
When it comes to Robbery, Oakland, California comes out as the worst offender, with a rate of 849 annual events per 100,000 people. In comparison, Chandler, Arizona registered only 44 events per 100,000 people in the same year. Again, this is fascinating because when looking at larceny, a city in Arizona is the worst in the US, but when looking at robbery a city in Arizona is the best. This just goes to show that even for similar crimes in the same area, one form may be significantly frequent while the other can be quite a rarity. This further illustrates the need to look at crime more closely to really reveal important insights, as opposed to just looking at the issue from a broad perspective.
When looking at property crime rates in the USA, we see that Tucson, Arizona comes out as the worst, with a rate of 6,581.9 annual events per 100,000 people. Surprisingly, New York City is the lowest, with 1,601.9 events per 100,000 people in the same time period. The low rate there can be attributed to many things, but something that is frequently mentioned is New York City’s vigilant police force and high arrest rates of offenders. The National Bureau of Economic Research’s article “What Reduced Crime In New York City” starts with the quote “the police measure that most consistently reduces crime is the arrest rate”.
When looking at the aggravated assault rate in the U.S. we find that Detroit, Michigan has the highest rate at 1,342.2 per 100,000 people. The lowest is found in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Interestingly, Chandler, Arizona is in the top 10 lowest rates for aggravated assault in the country, much like the robbery situation there.
Violent Crime, a category also encompassing Aggravated Assault, closely mirrors the same pattern as seen with the latter. When looking at the rates of violent crime in the U.S., we find Detroit, Michigan whit the highest rate, a staggering 1,988 annual events per 100,000 people. The opposite is Virginia Beach, Virginia, with a rate of just 146.3 annual events per 100,000 people.
When looking at rape rates in the U.S., Anchorage, Alaska has been found to see the highest rate. The high rate can be attributed to many things, including lack of law enforcement in remote areas adjacent to the Alaskan metropolis, and frequent adverse weather conditions that may complicate the reporting crimes and the ability for law enforcement to reach certain areas and carry out their duties undeterred. The Atlantic even produced a brilliant in-depth, long form piece to explore the shockingly frequent occurrences of rape in Alaska. Conversely, the place with the lowest rape rates in the U.S. is Bakersfield, California. In fact, cities in California appear a total of five times out of ten for the lowest rape rates among U.S. cities.
Murder and Non-Negligent Manslaughter
When looking at the rates of murder and non-negligent manslaughter in the U.S. we see St Louis, Missouri as the worst offender. The rate is 49.9 such events annually per 100,000 people. Conversely, Chandler, Arizona is the best, with a very low rate of 0.4 such events per 100,000 people. It’s interesting to see how Arizona cities have the highest rates in the US for some crimes, but the absolute lowest for others.
It’s tempting to discuss crime rates in the U.S. from a simplified perspective, bunching all crime types together into one lump statistic. When doing so, looking at things from a country wide perspective and placing all crimes into one neat bundle, then the statistics show that the crime rate in the U.S. is going down year to year, and has been doing so for decades, and that the overall crime rate in the US is lower now than it has been in decades. However, doing this does not paint a clear enough picture for those aiming to conduct effective criminology research.
As can be seen from this article, when breaking criminal offenses down into specific types, some places in the U.S. prove to have very low rates for certain crimes, but very high rates for certain others. There are even extreme cases where one place has the lowest rate in the U.S. for one crime, and at the same time the highest rate in the U.S. for another crime. This points to the idea that each state, and each city within each state, has its own individual attributes, its own culture, and its own make up. This uniqueness spills over into the criminal realm as well. To paint all cities, states, or individual crimes with one broad brush fails to provide the incredibly useful insights that can be gained when taking a look at these components on a closer, more individual level.
What is the Most Common Crime in the US?
Property crime is the most common type of crime committed in the United States, with an estimated number of 8.2 million crimes every year.
Types Of Crimes - By Number Of Offences In The US
|Type of Crime||# of crimes|
|Motor vehicle theft||689,527|
|Rape (legacy definition)||84,041|
|Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter||14,249|
Your MLA Citation
Your APA Citation
Your Chicago Citation
Your Harvard CitationRemember to italicize the title of this article in your Harvard citation.