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How State Troopers Work

State Police Success Rates
The number of alcohol-related vehicle deaths has dropped 5 percent since 1996.
The number of alcohol-related vehicle deaths has dropped 5 percent since 1996.
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The success of state police departments is difficult to quantify. The FBI publishes a Uniform Crime Report each year that details the number of crimes committed and cleared, or solved. However, these statistics take into account the actions of local police departments as well, not just state troopers.

Nevertheless, let's look at state-by-state violent crime rates, since state troopers fill in where local police departments may leave off. From 2000 to 2006, 20 states showed an increase in violent crime incidents [source: Bureau of Justice Statistics]. That illustrates that state troopers continue to face many obstacles in attempting to curb crime.

But individual state police departments may report more favorable outcomes. For example, the Delaware State Police Department claims an average 93.5 percent clearance rate for homicide cases [source: Delaware State Police], and Maine State Police says it generally meets at least a 90 percent clearance rate for homicides [source: Maine State Police Department]. The Uniform Crime Report from the FBI shows a national clearance rate of 66.7 percent for murders [source: FBI].

Since state troopers and highway patrol play a major role in road safety, another measure of success may be found in this area. From 1996 to 2006, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration reported only a slight dip in the number of motor vehicle-related fatalities -- down from 33,534 to 32,092 [source: National Highway Safety Traffic Administration]. On the other hand, crash-related injuries consistently fell throughout that period by nearly one million incidents [source: National Highway Safety Traffic Administration]. Also, alcohol-related fatalities, which account for just under half of all road deaths, dropped by 5 percent [source: National Highway Safety Traffic Administration].

But why should we care about road safety? Isn't violent crime more of an immediate threat? Actually, in 2006 the murder rate per 100,000 people was 5.7 [source: FBI], while the motor vehicle fatality rate was almost triple at 14.24 [source: National Highway Safety Traffic Administration].

State police also play an important role with national drug enforcement efforts, as we've discussed. Likewise, drug-related arrests have climbed steadily since 1980. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were over 1.8 million state and local police arrests for drug charges in 2006, compared with 580,900 in 1980 [source: FBI]. Also, of the more than 14 million criminal arrests made nationwide in 2006, the largest portion came from drug-related activity [source: FBI].

With all of this information, a concrete evaluation of success is difficult to pin down. Many variables influence crime-related figures and reporting methods. While it is clear that troopers put much effort into public safety, the statistics provided reveal a mixed bag of highs and lows. To learn more about state law enforcement, go to the links on the next page.

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