Violent crime in America–lowest levels since 1973. Americans in cities remain confused.

Dear readers: In a day of huge budget cuts to criminal justice agencies and overall economic doom and gloom, crime continues to do down throughout America. Generally speaking, its been going down for the last 20 years.

But every time we post national crime data (see below) about decreasing crime we get calls and e-mails from people who live in crime-prone areas angry and confused; “if crime is going down so much,” they say “then why is there so much crime in my city?”

The answer is that “your city” does not represent the norm in America and we bet that crime “has” gone down in your city; just not enough. You hear and read about violent crimes in the media, you see the graffiti and trash, you hear about businesses moving and schools not doing well because of crime. As far as you are concerned, your city has an enormous crime problem that continues to drag the entire area down socially, economically and physically.

Our cities are seemingly the last frontier (at least for the moment) regarding crime and it will take a concentrated effort on the part of every citizen, business person and politician in cooperation with the criminal justice system to deal with it.

We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to attack crime in cities. National and regional crime rates will not continue on a downward trend forever. We need to act now while we still have a chance.

The report:


WASHINGTON – The violent crime rate declined from 19.3 to 17.1 victimizations per 1,000 persons during 2009, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today. This decline continued a longer-run decline from 51.2 victimizations per 1,000 persons in 1994 and brought violent crime rates to their lowest levels since 1973, the first year that BJS collected data from crime victims through its National Criminal Victimization Survey (NCVS).

The property crime rate declined during 2009 from 134.7 to 127.4 crimes per 1,000 households, primarily as a result of a decrease in theft.  This decline continued a longer-term trend of declining rates from 553.6 crimes per 1,000 households in 1975. 

In 2009, an estimated 4.3 million violent crimes (rapes or sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults and simple assaults) occurred, as well as an estimated 15.6 million property crimes (burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and household thefts) and 133,000 personal thefts (picked pockets and snatched purses). These offenses included both crimes reported and unreported to police.

Violent and property crime rates in 2009 remain at the lowest levels recorded since 1973, the first year that such data were collected. The rate of every major violent and property crime measured by BJS fell between 2000 and 2009. The overall violent crime rate fell 39 percent and the property crime rate declined by 29 percent during the last 10 years.

Between 2000 and 2009, the rate of firearm violence declined from 2.4 incidents per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to 1.4 per 1,000 persons. Offenders used firearms in 8 percent of all violent crimes in 2009.

In 2009, men were slightly more likely than women to be victims of violent crime.  Women were more likely than men to be victimized by someone they knew. Seventy percent of all violent crimes against women were committed by a known offender (an intimate, family member or friend/acquaintance), compared to 45 percent of violence against men. Twenty-six percent of the non-fatal violence against women was committed by an intimate (current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend), compared to 5 percent of the violence against men. 

Nearly half of all violent crimes and about 40 percent of all property crimes were reported to police in 2009.  Of the violent crimes, robbery (68 percent) and aggravated assault (58 percent) were most reported. Fifty-five percent of rape/sexual assaults and 42 percent of simple assaults were reported to the police. A higher percentage of motor vehicle thefts (85 percent) than burglaries (57 percent) and thefts (32 percent) were reported to police.

These findings are drawn from BJS’s National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), the nation’s primary source for information on the frequency, characteristics and consequences of criminal victimization. Conducted since 1973, the NCVS is one of the largest continuous surveys conducted by the Federal government. In 2009, 38,728 households and 68,665 individuals age 12 or older were interviewed twice during the year for the NCVS.

Estimates from the NCVS, which includes offenses both reported and unreported to police, complement those from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Program (UCR), which measures crimes reported to law enforcement agencies across the Nation. Unlike the NCVS, the UCR includes crimes against persons of all ages and businesses, as well as fatal crimes. UCR results released by the FBI in September showed a 6.1 percent decline in the rates of violent crimes reported to the police and a 5.5 percent decline in the rates of property crimes during 2009.

The report, Criminal Victimization, 2009 (NCJ 231327), was written by BJS statisticians Jennifer Truman and Michael Rand. Following publication, the report can be found at

For additional information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ statistical reports and programs, please visit the BJS Web site at

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  1. Sharon Martin says:

    PS, I have read Crime in the US. I thought the article was good and I really enjoy your website. Sharon Martin

  2. Sharon Martin says:

    Dear Adam, Thank you for responding to my questions. I realize that dead people can not be interviewed, but when someone commits homicide and is convicted does that conviction become a statistic? And crimes against children are reported and convictions happen every day. So why are they not part of the national crime statistics? Maybe because people would fall of their chairs by the rise in the numbers. It seems as though violent crimes against children are on the rise not counting the ones that are not reported. Sincerely, Sharon Martin

  3. Sharon Martin says:

    I read your article on Violent Crimes in America , at lowest levels since 1973 . and I find that you do not include murder or crimes against children . dont they count? or are they part of another report?

    • Hi. Thanks for your question. The National Crime Survey cannot interview dead people so homicides are not included. They do not interview children.
      Please see “Crime in the US” on the banner of this site for information on homicides and crimes against children.
      Best, Adam.

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