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Mason research looks at arrest rates in Virginia's immigrant population

November 3, 2017

James Witte

George Mason University’s Institute for Immigration Research has recently released research data comparing arrest rates with immigrant populations in Virginia, and found no correlation between the proportion of foreign-born individuals living in an area and those rates.

“Our results on the lack of correlation between the proportion of immigrants in Virginia’s cities and counties shows that with high-quality data and careful analysis, there are facts,” said institute director James Witte. “We need to recognize facts that go beyond anecdotes and stereotypes to look at overall patterns.”

According to data from the Virginia State Police, FBI and U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, there were an estimated 8.3 million people living in Virginia and an estimated 268,000 arrests, including some individuals who were arrested on multiple occasions, to yield a ratio of arrests to the population of 3.2 percent.

The areas of the state where the proportion of immigrants was the highest—such as Manassas Park, Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria—saw lower arrest rates at 2.1 percent, 2.1 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively, well below the state average of 3.2 percent and the national average of 3.4 percent.

Conversely, the three state locales with relatively low percentages of immigrants—Colonial Heights City, Norton City and Emporia—listed the state’s highest arrest rates of 17.5 percent, 17.1 percent and 11.5 percent, respectively.

“People learn to be fearful and learn to be prejudiced,” Witte said. “Our work is designed to step in and substitute facts for fear.”

Learn more about the research, including county-by-county proportions of immigrants and arrest rates, at the IIR website.

James Witte can be reached at 864-508-2425 or

For more information, contact John Hollis at 703-993-8781 or

About George Mason

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.