The number of Americans worried about crime and violence has hit a 15-year high, soaring 14 points just since 2014, according to a new Gallup survey.

The poll found that 53 percent of Americans "worry a great deal" about crime and violence, the highest number since before the 9/11 attacks. The concerns are up among non-whites, the Middle Class, men and independent voters.

What's more, Gallup found a big surge in people who are concerned about drug use, likely driven by the heroin epidemic stinging the nation, gang activity, and the surge in the release of drug convicts from jail.

The polling outfit struggled to find a reason for the public's concern, noting that crime hasn't increased much in recent years.

"The rise in Americans' level of concern about crime could reflect actual, albeit modest, increases in crime, as well as increasing media coverage of it. The number of violent crimes reported to police across the country in the first half of 2015 was up by 1.7 percent compared with the same period in 2014," said Gallup.

The increase in concern about crime and violence follows recent terrorism killings and the riots in Baltimore a year ago.

And several candidates are pushing for judicial and prison reforms that would let thousands of criminals out of jail.

A review of drug crimes and prosecutions compiled by Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions found that drug sentences are down and more and more drug abusers are being released from jail — all while drug overdoses have jumped.

From Sessions:

While drug overdoses have skyrocketed, federal prosecutions of dangerous drug traffickers have plummeted by 21 percent since 2011. Even when drug traffickers are prosecuted, they are receiving more lenient sentences: the average sentence for federal drug offenses has decreased by 19 percent since 2009. The sharpest decline in prosecutions and in average sentences for convicted federal drug felons has occurred since 2013, when then-Attorney General Eric Holder ordered Federal prosecutors not to charge certain drug felons with offenses that carry mandatory minimum sentences. This was a clear statement of administration policy to prosecutors – ease up on drug prosecutions.

Meanwhile, the Federal Bureau of Prisons reports that the federal prison population has decreased nearly 10 percent in the past two years alone. Approximately one-third of that decline was due to the early release of thousands of convicted drug traffickers pursuant to retroactive reductions to the sentencing guidelines. More than 30,000 additional convicted drug traffickers will be released early from federal prison due to these changes. Those serving sentences in federal prison for federal drug crimes are not low-level, non-violent drug possessors: according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 99.7 percent of federal drug felons were convicted of drug trafficking, not simple drug possession. As the DEA's 2015 National Drug Threat Assessment notes, "[t]hough gangs are involved in a multitude of criminal activities, street-level drug trafficking and distribution continues to be their main source of revenue, and they commit violent crimes, such as robbery, assault, threats, and intimidation, in furtherance of those ends.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at