The Numbers Are In: 2015 Crime Report on Drugs

Last updated on November 4th, 2019

The FBI just released their report on crimes and arrests in 2015. What kind of crimes topped the list? Beating out property crimes, drunk driving, and assaults – drug abuse was a major contributor to the numbers.

Here’s a quick look at the highlights:

  • Law enforcement made nearly 1.5 million drug abuse arrests in 2015. (For this report, the FBI defined drug abuse as “the sale, trafficking and possession of drugs.” This category was more common than all others in the report.)
  • Property crimes trailed behind at around 1.4 million
  • Drunk driving came in third with just under 1.1 million
  • “Other assaults” totaled 1.08 million
  • Far behind these leaders was “murder and nonnegligent manslaughter” at just over 11,000

Marijuana: Leader of the Possession Pack

Of the 1.5 million drug-related arrests, about 84 percent were for possession. The other 16 percent were for sales or manufacturing.

What did law enforcement catch people with the most? Marijuana. Possession of marijuana made up 38.6 percent of the drug abuse arrests. In fact, a staggering 1,500 arrests were made per day for marijuana possession.

Following this leader was “other dangerous non-narcotic drugs,” making up another 20 percent of the possession arrests. Then came “heroin or cocaine and their derivatives” at 19.9 percent.

With all these arrests being made, are jails filled with drug offenders? And, if so, are they mostly marijuana users? Is every cell occupied by a pot-smoking law-breaker? Not quite. But drug offenders do make up a big chunk of the prison population.

The Bureau of Prisons reports that 46.4 percent are there for drug offenses. And according to the Bureau of Justice, 99.5 percent of jailed federal drug offenders were put there for trafficking drugs, not possession.

Treatment or Time Served?

With this huge number of arrests in mind, many feel that drug offenders should be sent to treatment instead of prison. The arguments for this alternative include research that suggests “mandated treatment can be as effective as voluntary admission to rehab centers.” The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) points out that those who commit drug crimes need more than punishment to treat their addiction issues.

Over the last few decades, multiple justice system programs have been instituted across the country. These include treatment drug courts and mandated rehab. The oval office has even gotten involved. In an effort to “right the wrongs of the War on Drugs,” President Obama commuted a total of 673 sentences for those serving “overly harsh” sentences for their crimes.

The debate rages about the appropriateness and effectiveness of imprisonment alternatives. Will current efforts result in improvements in our justice system? Will they decrease the drug crime numbers? Looks like we may have to wait for the 2016 FBI report to find out.
Additional Reading:   What I Learned Getting Clean Behind Bars

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