The rate of estimated violent crime victimizations in the U.S. dropped 15 percent last year after rising since 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported on Monday. The estimated number of victims was about 1.2 million.
BJS’ report was the annual National Crime Victimization Survey, which is based on interviews with a sample of U.S. residents 12 and older asking whether they had been victims during the year.
It differs from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which is a compilation of crime reports to local police departments. The UCR totals for 2019 are yet to be released.
The BJS survey indicated that there were 880,000 fewer victims of serious violent or property crimes (generally those classified as felonies) last year than in 2018, a 19 percent drop.
Among all crimes classified as “serious,” 29 percent fewer Black persons and 22 percent fewer whites were victims last year. Property crimes included in the “serious” category included those whose households experienced a completed burglary or a completed motor-vehicle theft.
The violent crime decrease was especially large among women, whose victimization rate fell 27 percent during the year.
BJS revised its definitions of urban, suburban and rural areas in an effort to present a more accurate picture of crime victimization.
Based on the survey’s new classifications, the rate of violent victimization in urban areas declined 20 percent.
The new definition of “urban” is based on the “notion that urban places are those that are densely populated, are at the center of a major metropolitan area, or some combination of these,” said BJS director Jeffrey Anderson.
Across all crime types, victimization totals were the number of times people or households said they were victimized by crime.
Last year, only 41 percent of violent victimizations were reported to police.
In 2018, the last year for which both major national crime reports were issued, the victimization survey estimated 2,365,770 million violent crime victims, while only 1,206,836 violent incidents were reported to local police departments, the FBI said. (Both totals exclude “simple assaults,” which exceeded four million in the BJS report.)
The victimization report for 2019 said reporting differences changed sharply for at least two crimes, with only 47 percent of people reporting robberies, down from 63 percent in 2018, but many more people reporting intimate partner violence incidents, up from 45 percent to 58 percent.
Whites reported violent incidents less than blacks, at a 37 percent level compared with 49 percent for both Blacks and Hispanics.
The portion of violent incidents involving Black offenders, 25 percent, was 2.3 times the portion involving black victims (11 percent). The portion involving white offenders, 50 percent, was lower than the portion involving white victims, 62 percent.
The property crime rate declined six percent last year from 2018, led by a 22 percent drop in burglary.
BJS said the burglary rate was at its lowest level since the victimization survey was redesigned in 1993.
Supporters of President Donald Trump’s re-election may contend that the victimization survey’s result reflects well on his “law and order” record, although crime rates were on the increase during his first two years in office.
Because the survey interviews victims, it does not include homicides, which have increased in many big cities.
When the 2020 crime data are reported next year, the reports may be far different because the nation will have been shut down by the coronavirus pandemic for much of the year.
Overall crime is down 5.3 percent in 25 large cities through May relative to the same period in 2019, with violent crime down two percent, New Orleans-based crime analysts Jeff Asher and Ben Horwitz told the New York Times in July.
Yet murder in these 25 cities is up 16.1 percent in relation to last year. Property crime was down in 18 of the 25 sampled cities, a trend some attributed to a decrease in burglaries as many more residents stayed home during the pandemic.
The rate of estimated domestic violence was about the same in 2018 and 2019, the victimization survey said. The total may end up rising this year, with Americans spending more time at home.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has not yet released its Uniform Crime Report for 2019, which is based on reports from local police departments.
In a preliminary report issued earlier this, the bureau said that in reports in all categories of violent crime offenses dropped in the first half of 2019 compared with the first half of the previous year.
That compilation included murder totals down 3.9 percent, robbery down 7.4 percent, rape down 7.3 percent, and aggravated assault down .3 percent.