OJP Press Release letterhead

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 9 A.M. EDT
SUNDAY, AUGUST 24, 2003
Bureau of Justice Statistics www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/
Contact: Stu Smith
202-307-0784

VIOLENT CRIME AND PROPERTY CRIME FALL TO THE LOWEST LEVELS SINCE 1973

    WASHINGTON, D.C. –– Criminal victimization in 2002 continued a downward trend with 23 million violent and property crimes –– the lowest levels since 1973, when there were 44 million such victimizations, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), reported today.

    The 2002 violent crime rate was lower than the rate for 2001 (23 vs. 25 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 and older), but the 2-year average violent crime rates (2001-2002) were 21 percent lower than the average rates for the previous 2-year period (1999-2000). Comparing 2-year average rates allows for a more robust examination of short term changes in crime rates.

    The violent crime rate for people 12 years old and older decreased 54 percent in the past ten years –– from 50 victimizations per 1,000 persons to 23 per 1,000 persons 12 years old and older. The number of violent crimes fell from 10.5 million in 1993 to 5.3 million in 2002. Property crimes fell 50 percent –– from 319 crimes per 1,000 households to 159 per 1,000.

    The rate of every major violent and property crime measured by BJS declined from 1993 through 2002. Rape/sexual assault was down 56 percent, robbery down 63 percent, aggravated assault down 64 percent, simple assault (no weapon or serious injury) down 47 percent, household burglary down 52 percent, motor vehicle theft down 53 percent and property theft down 49 percent.

    The decline in violent victimization between 1993 and 2002 was experienced by persons in every demographic category considered –– gender, race, Hispanic origin and household income. Property crime rates also fell for every demographic group examined –– region, property tenure, location and household income.

    Persons who have been historically the most vulnerable to violent victimization in the past –– males, blacks and youths –– continued to be victimized at rates higher than others in 2002.

    As in past years, in 2002 females were most often violently victimized by someone they knew (67 percent by non-strangers) while males were more likely to be victimized by a stranger (56 percent by strangers).

    Seven percent of all violent crime victims faced an offender with a firearm last year.

    The rate of reporting crimes to police increased during the decade, from 43 percent for all violent crimes in 1993, to 49 percent in 2002, and from 34 percent of property crime in 1993 to 40 percent in 2002. In 2002, motor vehicle theft was the crime most likely to be reported (86 percent), and property theft the least likely (33 percent).

    Based on preliminary FBI estimates, 16,110 people were murdered in the U.S. during 2002, an increase of 0.8 percent from 2001, when 15,980 people were murdered. Final FBI numbers will be available later this year. With the exception of data on murders, all the statistics were derived from the National Crime Victimization Survey, conducted by BJS since 1973. Data on murders came from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.

    The National Crime Victimization Survey report, “Criminal Victimization, 2002" (NCJ-199994), was written by BJS statisticians Callie Marie Rennison and Michael R. Rand. Single copies may be obtained by calling the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800-851-3420. Upon release, this document can be accessed at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/abstract/cv02.htm.

    For additional information about Bureau of Justice Statistics statistical reports programs, please see the BJS website at http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs.

    BJS media calls should be directed to Stu Smith in OJP’s Office of Communications at stu@ojp.usdoj.gov or 202-307-0784. After hours: 301-983-9354.

    The Office of Justice Programs (OJP) provides federal leadership in developing the nation’s capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist crime victims. OJP is headed by an Assistant Attorney General and comprises 5 component bureaus and 2 offices: the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and the Office for Victims of Crime, as well as the Executive Office for Weed and Seed, and the Office of the Police Corps and Law Enforcement Education. Information about OJP programs, publications, and conferences is available on the OJP Web site, www.ojp.usdoj.gov.

# # #

BJS03126