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Arrests increase as crime rates fall

The violent crime rate in New York and around the country has fallen by about 50% since 1993, but a recent study from the RAND Corporation reveals that more Americans than ever are being arrested. Researchers from the California-based think tank looked at arrest and conviction data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, and they discovered that young people today are about 3.6 times more likely to have a brush with the law than their parents or grandparents.

The PSID data also reveals that many young people are being taken into custody for behavior that would have warranted little more than a stern admonishment just a few years ago. More than a quarter of the young men and nearly a third of the women found themselves behind bars after committing minor misdemeanors, and underage drinking accounted for almost half of these arrests. This has led to a situation where 23% of the Americans born between 1979 and 1988 have a criminal record.

RAND Corporation researchers found that arrest rates are rising at a particularly high rate among women and white men. Only about one in 100 women had an arrest on their records just a few decades ago. That figure has now risen to one in seven. Arrests of white men have almost tripled in recent years, but African-Americans are still more likely to be taken into custody.

A conviction for even a minor offense can make finding a job or renting an apartment more difficult, and individuals with a record tend to earn less when they do obtain work. A criminal defense attorney may point this out during plea negotiations if their client has not been in trouble with the law before. Legal counsel could also remind prosecutors that rehabilitation and not punishment should be the goal in these situations.