This is the fourth in a series of posts on the subject. Scroll to the end to see the most recent posts in the series.


The nation has been captivated by reports of rising crime and the wave of criminal justice reform. Some news outlets and elected officials claim a correlation between the two, but this is perhaps a hasty assessment. In order to better understand how criminal justice reform efforts could be affecting increases in crime, we will be digging into the data, history and current criminal justice reform efforts of six Safety and Justice Challenge sites across the United States. Readers can learn about unique criminal justice reform initiatives in these communities as well as whether the implementation of these efforts (or lack thereof) could be associated with an increase or decrease in crime. To learn more about this series, you can access the introduction here.

Location Information

Allegheny County, Pa., home to the “Steel City,” Pittsburgh, is known for its iconic rivers, hundreds of bridges and claim to multiple national championships across their professional sports teams. Over 100 law enforcement agencies serve approximately 1.2 million people and cover the 730 square miles of the county.

Crime Statistics

From 2016 to 2021, violent and property crimes in Allegheny County have dropped significantly: falling 40 and 50 percent, respectively. Allegheny County’s average daily jail population also fell significantly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has remained at that low level into 2022. The graph below shows the drop in crime and in jail population from 2016-2021.

Almost all the individual crimes—rapes, robberies, assaults, burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and larcenies—dropped dramatically from their six-year highs. Rapes and motor vehicle thefts saw an increase during that time, but both have still declined over the last two years. Murders dropped from 2017 to 2019, but then saw an increase in 2020 and remained steady in 2021. The graph below shows these individual crime trends.

Criminal Justice Reform Efforts

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County voters were swift to enact some police reforms–such as banning no-knock warrants in the city and limiting the use of solitary confinement at the Allegheny County jail–following high-profile cases like the officer-caused death of Breonna Taylor. Other criminal justice reform efforts in Allegheny County have been more grassroots-collaborative rather than legislative, and have focused on behavioral health issues and reducing jail populations. Allegheny County has implemented behavioral health-related reforms such as problem-solving courts—Mental Health Court, Drug Court, Veteran’s Court, PRIDE Court (prostitution cases) and DUI Court—and jail-based diversion, sending individuals from jail to alcohol and/or substance abuse treatment. Three additional criminal justice reform initiatives that help reduce jail populations in Allegheny County are further highlighted below.

Pre-arrest Diversion

Bail Reform

Probation Violations

Jailing individuals is expensive. In Allegheny County, it costs approximately $77.40 per night to hold someone in jail. The efforts that Allegheny County have implemented through probation and bail reforms and pre-arrest diversion tactics are a fiscally responsible option that upholds individuals’ rights without compromising public safety. Further, increased support through programs like LEAD and pretrial services can better serve the high number of individuals suffering from behavioral health issues that the county has seen.


Evaluation of the collected data shows there is no correlation between the criminal justice reform efforts in Allegheny County and an increase in crime.

Overall, property and violent crime have decreased in Allegheny County over the last six years, with murder rates being the only category to see an increase in the last two years. Given the data trends, these crimes could not have increased due to reform efforts in Allegheny County during this same time. If anything, the reduction in these crimes while the county implemented probation and bail reforms would indicate a positive correlation of reducing crime. It is important to note, however, that while the Foundation of Hope has been running their adult diversion program the last couple years with documented success, the effect of the expansion of pre-arrest diversion in the other municipalities is not yet known.

While the increase in murders over the past two years is concerning, the rate remains less than the number of murders reported from 2016, 2017 and 2018. In fact, the reduction in murders in 2019 follows the county’s bail and reform efforts mostly implemented in 2018. The increase in murders in 2020 also seems to follow national trends. Therefore, it is concluded that the recent increase in murders is not as a result of reforms implemented by Allegheny County.

This post will be updated with links to each part in the series. 

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