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.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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 below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links

Sources:

  • Bureau of Justice Statistics. "Drugs and Crime Facts: Enforcement." September 2006. (March 7, 2008) http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/dcf/tables/arrtot.htm
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Police and Detectives." December 18, 2007. (March 4, 2008) http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos160.htm
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Clearances." Uniform Crime Reports. 2007. (March 4, 2008) http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/offenses/clearances/index.html#figure
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Estimated Number of Arrests: United States, 2006." Uniform Crime Reports. 2007. (March 7, 2008) http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/data/table_29.html
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. "Police Employees." Uniform Crime Reports. 2007. (March 4, 2008) http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2006/police/index.html
  • FindLaw. "Avoiding Traffic Tickets: How to Stay Out of Trouble." 2004. (March 5, 2008) http://public.findlaw.com/traffic-ticket-violation-law/traffic-ticket-overview/avoiding-traffic-tickets.html
  • Georgia Bureau of Investigation. "Bing Unit." (March 6, 2008) http://gbi.georgia.gov/00/channel_modifieddate/0,2096,67862954_88103912,00.html
  • Georgia Department of Public Safety. "2003 Annual Report." (March 6, 2008)http://dps.georgia.gov/vgn/images/portal/cit_1210/13/12/1070479162003_Annual_Report.pdf
  • Illinois State Police. "Governor Sets up Gun Crime Unit in State Police." March 15, 2005. (March 4, 2008) http://www.isp.state.il.us/media/pressdetails.cfm?ID=245
  • Levenson, Michael and Saltzman, Jonathan. "Troopers can arrest illegal immigrants in Romney deal." The Boston Globe. December 3, 2006. (March 5, 2008) http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/12/03/troopers_can_arrest_illegal_immigrants_in_romney_deal/
  • Maryland State Police. "Rank Structure." (March 4, 2008)http://www.mdsp.org/about_us/ranks.asp
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Traffic Safety Facts: 2006 Data --- Overview." (March 5, 2008) http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.6a6eaf83cf719ad24ec86e10dba046a0/
  • National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "Traffic Safety Facts: 2006 Data --- Speeding." (March 5, 2008) http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/portal/site/nhtsa/menuitem.6a6eaf83cf719ad24ec86e10dba046a0/
  • New York State Troopers Police Benevolence Association. "Troopers at Work." (March 4, 2008) http://www.nystpba.org/pages/public/helpTroopers.asp?cat=B
  • North Carolina Highway Patrol. "Statistics: Drug Seizures." North Carolina Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. (March 7, 2008)http://www.nccrimecontrol.org/Index2.cfm?a=000003,000014,000791
  • Olsen, Marilyn. "State Trooper: America's State Troopers and Highway Patrol." 2001. Turner Publishing Company. (March 3, 2008)http://books.google.com/books?id=ZdsFbsaBnRsC&printsec=frontcover&dq=state+troopers&lr=&sig=tzwHKy2NJoGazC8eojr980JNRp4#PPA41,M1
  • Pennsylvania State Police. "2006 Annual Report." (March 6, 2008)http://www.psp.state.pa.us/psp/lib/psp/psp_2006_annual_report.pdf
  • Reaves, Brian A. "Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, 2004." Bureau of Justice Statistics. June 2007. (March 4, 2008)http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/csllea04.pdf
  • Russell, Gregory et al. "Law Enforcement in the United States." Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 2005. (March 4, 2008)http://books.google.com/books?id=8olkayVkVSIC&pg=PA85&dq=state+patrol+jurisdiction&lr=&sig=bK0oa5615XZ-A5iy6xjBvIP3q5Q

More to Explore