BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Drugs and Crime Facts

Drug law violations

Enforcement

Arrests and seizures | Law enforcement operations


Arrests and seizures

Arrests

Federal, state, and local agencies share responsibility for enforcing the Nation's drug laws, although most arrests are made by state and local authorities. In 2007 the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) estimated that there were about 1,841,200 state and local arrests for drug abuse violations in the United States.

Drug arrest for sales and possession [D]

Click on the chart to view the data.
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annually.

According to the UCR, drug abuse violations are defined as state and/or local offenses relating to the unlawful possession, sale, use, growing, manufacturing, and making of narcotic drugs including opium or cocaine and their derivatives, marijuana, synthetic narcotics, and dangerous nonnarcotic drugs such as barbiturates.

More than four-fifths of drug law violation arrests are for possession.

Drug arrests for sales or possession [D]

Click on the chart to view the data.
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annually.

The estimated number of arrests for drug abuse violations has been increasing. Arrests of adults increased in recent years, while arrests of juveniles decreased slightly. Juveniles are defined as persons under age 18. Adults are defined as persons age 18 or older.

In 1987 drug arrests were 7.4% of the total of all arrests reported to the FBI; by 2007, drug arrests had risen to 13.0% of all arrests.

Drug arrests by age [D]

Click on the chart to view the data.
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annually.

In 2007, according to the UCR, law enforcement agencies nationwide made an estimated 14 million arrests for all criminal infractions except traffic violations. Among the specific categories, the highest arrest counts were --

  • 1.8 million for drug abuse violations;
  • approximately 1.4 million for driving under the influence;
  • 1.3 million for simple assaults; and
  • 1.2 million for larceny-thefts.
Estimated totals of top seven arrest offenses in the United States, 2007

Type of arrest   Number of arrests*

Total arrests*
  14,209,400
Drug abuse violations   1,841,200
Driving under the influence   1,427,500
Simple assaults   1,305,700
Larceny/theft   1,172,800
Disorderly conduct   709,100
Liquor laws   633,600
Drunkenness   589,400

*Arrest totals are based on all reporting agencies and estimates for unreported areas.
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annually.

From 1987 to 1995 more drug arrests involved heroin or cocaine than other types of drugs. Since 1996 the number of arrests involving marijuana exceeded that for other types of drugs.

Arrests by drug type [D]

Click on the chart to view the data.
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annually.

The Northeastern region had a higher proportion of sale/manufacturing drug arrests than the other regions.

Arrests for drug abuse violations, by geographic region, 2007

             Percent of arrests for drug abuse violations
   
Type of violations U.S. total Northeast    Midwest   South   West  

    Total* 100.0 % 100.0 % 100.0 % 100.0 % 100.0 %
Sale/manufacture* 17.5 % 22.5 % 18.3 % 17.1 % 15.0 %
  Heroin or cocaine and their derivatives 7.9   14.2   6.2   7.9   5.5  
  Marijuana 5.3   5.7   7.7   4.6   4.7  
  Synthetic or manufactured drugs 1.5   1.1   1.1   2.6   0.7  
  Other dangerous nonnarcotic drugs 2.8   1.6   3.3   2.0   4.2  
                       
Possession* 82.5 % 77.5 % 81.7 % 82.9 % 85.0 %
  Heroin or cocaine and their derivatives 21.5   22.3   14.7   22.8   22.7  
  Marijuana 42.1   44.2   53.1   47.9   29.6  
  Synthetic or manufactured drugs 3.3   2.3   3.2   4.3   2.8  
  Other dangerous nonnarcotic drugs 15.6   8.6   10.7   7.8   29.9  

*Detail may not sum to total because of rounding.
Source: FBI, Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the United States, annually.

Drug seizures

Many federal agencies are involved in the removal of illicit drugs from the market. The Federal-Wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS) contains information about drug seizures made within the jurisdiction of the United States by the FBI, DEA, U.S. Customs Service (USCS), and U.S. Border Patrol as well as maritime seizures made by the U.S. Coast Guard.

    Seizures in pounds
   
Drug FY 2000 FY 2001 FY 2002 FY 2003

  Total 2,894,200 2,917,796 2,648,068 2,952,797
Heroin 6,640 4,378 6,874 5,643
Cocaine 248,827 239,576 225,758 245,499
Marijuana 2,614,746 2,673,410 2,415,243 2,700,282
Hashish 23,987 433 193 1,373

Note: Table constructed by staff of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Federal-wide Drug Seizure System (FDSS), Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, 2003, NCJ 208756, July 2005.

According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) --

  • the federal government seized 16,270 illegal drug laboratories between fiscal years 1975 and 2003
  • in fiscal year 2003, of the 420 labs seized, 409 (97%) manufactured methamphetamines
  • in 2008 the DEA program for eradicating domestic marijuana resulted in the destruction of 8.0 million plants in 20,120 plots, 8,296 arrests, 5,305 weapons seized, and assets seized valued at $66 million.

    Source: Data provided by U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration as reported in the BJS, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics Online, Table 4.38, May 2008 revision and Drug Enforcement Administration's Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, by State, 2008. 

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Law enforcement operations

Federal agencies

As of September 2004 federal agencies employed about 105,000 full-time personnel authorized to make arrests and carry firearms in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to data provided by agencies in response to a Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) survey. Compared with data reported by agencies for 2002, employment of such personnel increased by 13%.

The DEA employed about 4,400 officers with the authority to make arrests and carry firearms as of September 2004. These DEA agents primarily investigate major narcotics violators, enforce regulations governing the manufacture and dispensing of controlled substances, and perform various other functions to prevent and control drug trafficking.

The FBI employed 12,242 full-time personnel with arrest and firearm authority. These agents investigate more than 200 types of federal crimes. The FBI has concurrent jurisdiction with the DEA over drug offenses under the Controlled Substances Act.

Source: BJS, Federal Law Enforcement Officers, 2004, NCJ 212750, July 2006.

State agencies

Among those state agencies with 100 or more officers, 71% operated a full-time
drug enforcement unit in 2000.

Local agencies

Of those local agencies with 100 or more officers a large percentage operated a full-time drug enforcement unit in 2000.


Participation of agencies with primary drug enforcement responsibility:

Type of agency Agencies with 100 or more officers
     
County police 87 %
Municipal police departments 79  
Sheriffs' offices 69  

Source: BJS, Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics, 2000: Data for Individual State and Local Agencies with 100 or More Officers, NCJ 203350, April 2004.

In 2003 about 9 in 10 local police departments regularly performed drug enforcement functions. More than 90% of the departments in each population category of 2,500 or more had drug enforcement responsibilities, including all of those serving 250,000 or more residents. Departments with drug enforcement responsibilities employed 97% of all local police officers.

Source: BJS, Local Police Departments 2003, NCJ 210118, May 2006.

In 2003, 90% of sheriffs' offices regularly performed drug enforcement functions. More than 80% of the offices in each population category below 250,000 had drug enforcement responsibilities.

Source: BJS, Sheriffs' Offices 2003, NCJ 211361, May 2006.

Drug enforcement responsibilities of local police and sheriffs' offices, by size of population served, 2003

Type of agency and population served Percent of agencies regularly providing drug enforcement

Local police departments    
  All sizes 91 %
1,000,000 or more 100 %
500,000-999,999 100  
250,000-499,999 100  
100,000-249,999 99  
50,000-99,999 96  
25,000-49,999 94  
10,000-24,999 95  
2,500-9,999 92  
Under 2,500 87  
     
Sheriffs' offices    
  All sizes 90 %
1,000,000 or more 89 %
500,000-999,999 78  
250,000-499,999 70  
100,000-249,999 81  
50,000-99,999 87  
25,000-49,999 94  
10,000-24,999 94  
Under 10,000 91  

Source: BJS, Local Police Departments 2003, NCJ 210118, May 2006, and Sheriffs' Offices 2003, NCJ 211361, May 2006.

Multiagency task forces

In 2003 an estimated 23% of local police departments had one or more officers assigned full time to a multiagency drug enforcement task force. About 65% of all local police officers worked for a department that assigned officers to a task force. About 5,959 officers were assigned full time to a drug task force.

The average number of officers assigned full time ranged from 39 in departments serving a population of 1 million or more to 1 or 2 in those serving fewer than 50,000 residents.

Source: BJS, Local Police Departments 2003, NCJ 210118, May 2006.

In 2003 an estimated 47% of sheriffs' offices had one or more officers assigned full time to a multiagency drug enforcement task force. An estimated 3,477 officers were assigned full time to a drug task force. The average number ranged from 9 in sheriffs' offices serving a population of 1 million or more to 1 in those serving fewer than 10,000 residents.

Source: BJS, Sheriffs' Offices 2003, NCJ 211361, May 2006.

Multiagency drug enforcement task force participation of local police and sheriffs' offices, by size of population served, 2003

  Multiagency drug enforcement task forces
   
  Percent of agencies participating Number of officers assigned full time
 
Population served Total Average*

Local police departments      
  All sizes 23 % 5,959 2  
1,000,000 or more 75 % 484 39  
500,000-999,999 89   277 8  
250,000-499,999 95   261 6  
100,000-249,999 80   557 4  
50,000-99,999 75   802 3  
25,000-49,999 59   881 2  
10,000-24,999 38   1,000 1  
2,500-9,999 18   1,132 2  
Under 2,500 8   565 1  
           
Sheriffs' offices          
  All sizes 47 % 3,477 2  
1,000,000 or more 89 % 229 9  
500,000-999,999 73   342 7  
250,000-499,999 52   262 4  
100,000-249,999 73   653 3  
50,000-99,999 68   575 2  
25,000-49,999 54   678 2  
10,000-24,999 41   592 2  
Under 10,000 16   145 1  


*Excludes agencies not having number assigned full time.
Source: BJS, Local Police Departments 2003, NCJ 210118, May 2006 and Sheriffs' Offices 2003, NCJ 211361, May 2006.

 

In 1994, 46% of all prosecutors' offices indicated that at least one prosecutor has been a member of a multijurisdictional task force. Of offices on such a task force, 76% indicated drug enforcement to be the goal. In 1992, 30% of prosecutors' offices reported involvement with a multijurisdictional task force. Almost 80% of these offices also were involved with a drug task force.

Source: BJS, Prosecutors in State Courts, 1992 and 1994, NCJ 145319, June 1996.

Over 80% of full-time offices in large jurisdictions had at least one prosecutor who served as a member of a multijurisdictional task force. The percentages of full-time large offices with at least one prosecutor serving on a multi-jurisdictional task force were --

Drug 91 %
Gang 54  
Crime prevention 41  
Organized crime 28  

Source: BJS, Prosecutors in State Courts, 1992 and 1994, NCJ 145319, June 1996.

Drug testing for applicants

State agencies

In 2000, 76% of state agencies with 100 or more officers use drug test screening
as one of their procedures for selecting new officer recruits.

Source: BJS, Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics, 2000: Data for Individual State and Local Agencies with 100 or More Officer, NCJ 203350, April 2004.

Local agencies

In 2003, at least 8 in 10 departments in each population category of 10,000 or more administered drug tests in the selection of new officer recruits. At least 7 in 10 departments serving a population of 2,500 to 9,999, and 6 in 10 departments serving fewer than 2,500 residents did also.

Source: BJS, Local Police Departments 2003, NCJ 210118, May 2006.

In 2003, sheriffs' offices serving a population of 100,000 or more were the most likely to administered drug tests in the selection of new officer recruits, with percentages in these categories ranging from 78% to 97%. Departments serving a population of under 10,000 (55%) were the least likely to test any officers for drug use.

Source: BJS, Sheriffs' Offices 2003, NCJ 211361, May 2006.





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