Public Safety

Crime can cause long-lasting trauma to individuals and disruption to a community. This makes safety a top priority for most residents. Overall, Berks County is similar to Pennsylvania in terms of its crime and incarceration rates. Property crimes in particular are on the decline, and the county’s drug-related arrest rate is lower than the state rate. However, the county’s rate of protection from abuse orders – a potential indicator of domestic violence – is higher than at the state level.

In 2017, there were 2.6 violent crimes reported per 1,000 residents in Berks County – similar to Pennsylvania as a whole. These crimes include murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault. The state’s violent crime rate dropped 23% from 2005 to 2017, similar to Berks County’s rate. 

There were 15 property crimes reported per 1,000 residents in Berks County in 2017, just below the state rate of 17. These offenses include arson, burglary, theft, fraud, embezzlement and vandalism. The county rate dropped significantly between 2012 and 2017, and decreased more than at the state level.

Incarceration removes an offender from a community, but it also can create hardships on families whose relative is imprisoned. After release, formerly incarcerated people often encounter challenges in obtaining employment. In 2016, there were 2.5 county jail inmates per 1,000 residents in Berks County. This rate was similar to Pennsylvania. The county’s incarceration rate fell from 2006 to 2011, but climbed again in 2012 before falling slightly in 2016.

Drug use, sale and other illegal drug-related activity can have immediate as well as long-term negative health, social and economic consequences for people and communities. In 2017, there were 4.8 drug abuse arrests per 1,000 residents in Berks County, similar to the statewide rate.

A protection from abuse order is a civil order from a court to safeguard victims of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking. In 2017, there were 4.3 abuse protection orders issued per 1,000 residents in Berks County. This was 40% higher than the Pennsylvania rate, but it is impossible to say whether this is because there is more domestic violence in Berks County or because local policies lead courts to issue more orders here than in other parts of the state. Berks County’s rate has fluctuated year to year, while the statewide rate was essentially flat from 2005 to 2017.