The BJS reported 10,800,000 arrests in 2015, slightly down from the 11,200,000 in 2014. However, in keeping with the rise in violent crime, arrests for murder were up 4.9 percent to 11,902. Arrests for rape (22,863), robbery (95,527), and aggravated assault (376,154) were all up a few percentage points as well.
Most commentators consider the BJS figures complete and accurate, but they are not. First, not all police agencies in the United States report crime information to DOJ. In 2015, the BJS got information from police departments that cover 247 million Americans. That left out 22.8 percent of the total 2015 US population of 320 million, so those crime data are completely missing from the report. Sometimes the BJS estimates what the actual national totals should be; sometimes it doesn’t.
Furthermore, the information that 77.2 percent of the country reported to BJS was inconsistent. In particular, some agencies distinguished whites from Hispanics, but many just lumped Hispanics in with whites. The BJS reports the Hispanic/non-Hispanic information it gets from local agencies, but the information is so incomplete that most of the time it is impossible to calculate separate crime rates for whites and Hispanics. They have to be treated as a single group.
Finally, the BJS reports numbers of arrests, which are far different from the actual numbers of crimes. Every year, millions of crimes are not even reported to the police, and even when they are, yet more millions of crimes do not lead to an arrest. For example, the National Crime Victimization Survey, which asks a huge sample of Americans about their experiences as crime victims found 578,580 cases of robbery in 2015, of which 358,141 were reported to the police. However, in 2015, police made only 95,527 arrests for robbery, which was just 26.7 percent of robberies reported to the police, and 16.5 percent of the robberies reported by Americans in the survey. (Interestingly, the victimization survey, which is a more accurate assessment of actual crime than arrest figures, found no increase in violent crime in 2015. There is no doubt about the rise in murders, however; police found the bodies.)
There is another reason arrests are not the same as crimes: some arrests lead to release without a charge and others end in acquittal. However, extensive survey and other data confirm that comparing arrest rates for different racial groups is a reasonably accurate way tocompare their actual crime rates.