U.S. Arrest Rates Skyrocketing
By Julia Cole, Junior Editor
United States citizens are being arrested at a staggering pace. According to a recent article published by The Wall Street Journal, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) estimates that authorities have made over 250 million arrests over the past 20 years. That means that about 12.5 million people are arrested each year. Consequently, there are almost 78 million individuals listed in the FBI’s criminal database with between 10 and 12 thousand new names being added every day.
Arrest rates in the U.S. are incredibly high, and those who have been arrested by law enforcement officials may potentially be forced to deal with the consequences for years to come. The process of expunging an arrest from one’s record can be complicated and expensive, so many people do not bother to pursue an expungement; some may not even realize that they need to.
Even if a charge is dropped or the individual is found not-guilty of an offense, the arrest can remain on their record. Those arrest records are publicly available, meaning that employers, admissions offices at educational facilities, and financial institutions can – and often will explore an applicant’s background information to discover whether they have ever been arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime. People are often denied positions or loans based on their criminal history, and those who were acquitted or had their charges dropped are not always afforded the opportunity to explain or verify their innocence.
A crackdown in the 1980s and early 1990s lead to the large wave of arrests. Federal dollars were funneled into local police forces and new, zero-tolerance policing tactics were implemented in order to manage crime problems. Officers were encouraged to make arrests for even the most minor infractions as a means to deter individuals from committing more serious offenses in the future.
High arrest rates indicate that too many people have developed records within the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, if you are arrested and subsequently cleared, that does not make the arrest itself disappear. Even those who are wrongly accused will have to deal with the unfair and unnecessary ramifications of an arrest.
With the ease of access to information thanks to modern technology and the Internet, even perfect strangers can find out whether or not you have ever been arrested. A quick online search allows someone to find out whether you were arrested, if you were ever charged with a criminal offense, as well as the outcome of the case. Should the people who find out about a previous arrest actually know you, you may have to face the social stigma that often haunts people who are accused of wrongdoing, whether you have committed a crime or not.
As a firm devoted to protecting the rights of the accused, we find it appalling that so many individuals nationwide are being arrested for minor offenses or crimes they never even committed. A system of over-arresting individuals not only leads to unnecessary negative consequences for innocent people, but it also creates a culture of extreme, militant policing among law enforcement. How can police protect and serve if they are too concerned with accusing and attacking?