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DOJ Survey: Violent Crime Now on the Rise

The general trend of violent crimes committed in the U.S. has been steadily declining since the 1990s, but that crime rate appears to have reversed in recent years, based on findings released Tuesday from the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

NCVS reports that from 1994 to 2015, violent crime declined by 60 percent. However, new data reported shows that “Among U.S. residents age 12 or older, the number of violent-crime victims rose from 2.7 million in 2015 to 3.3 million in 2018, an increase of 604,000 victims.”

Researchers conclude this increase of individuals being victimized is driven by the rising numbers of rape cases and sexual assault (“from 204,000 in 2015 to 347,000 in 2018”), aggravated assault (“from 561,000 to 694,000”) and simple assault (“from 1.7 million to 2.1 million”) cases.

This Bureau of Justice Statistics’ report differs from the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR), considering the fact that the NCVS looks at non-fatal reported crimes and self-reported surveys, whereas the FBI’s UCR collects data solely from police databases.

The NCVS self-reported surveys are administered annually starting January 1 to December 31 of the current year. The self-reporters detail events of their victimization for the 6 months prior, not including the month they were interviewed.

The FBI’s UCR report will likely be published later this month, and its data findings are typically close to what the Bureau of Justice Statistics uncovers. However, this may change.

NCVS argues that this stark increase in the rate of violent victimizations, “was largely due to crimes that were not reported to police.”

Researchers found that “From 2015 to 2018, the rate of violent victimizations that went unreported to police rose from 9.5 to 12.9 per 1,000 persons age 12 or older, while the rate of violent victimizations that were reported to police showed no statistically significant change.”

While there are some checks and balances that even out the data that the two sources collect, the UCR excludes sexual assault statistics, which the NCVS includes.

It is also important to note that in NCVS’s data, “Crimes are classified by the year of the survey and not by the year of the crime.”

The full report, Criminal Victimization, 2018 (NCJ 253043), was written by BJS statisticians Rachel E. Morgan and Barbara A. Oudekerk. The report and related documents can be found here.

Andrea Cipriano contributed to this report.