Arrests and Criminal Victimizations for Older Americans Increase

Police Van


This article offers insight as to the rise in crimes against older Americans, and increases in arrests for those over the age of 55.

The initial wave of the baby boom generation turned 65 years old in 2011, a generation that comprises 30% of the total US population.


Leonard Adam Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of speaking for national and state criminal justice agencies. Interviewed multiple times by every national news outlet. Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse. Former Director of Information Services, National Crime Prevention Council. Post-Masters’ Certificate of Advanced Study-Johns Hopkins University


The initial wave of the baby boom generation turned 65 years old in 2011, a generation that comprises 30% of the total US population.

The size of this generation and their longer life expectancies led the US Census Bureau to project that the number of older adults will increase from 40.3 million to 72.1 million between 2010 and 2030.

Most discussions of crime ignore older Americans. All one has to do is to look at the FBI’s data on arrests, and you can easily dismiss older Americans as “players,” see FBI-Age at Arrest.

Arrest Data

The arrest data cited by the New York Times (below) addresses dementia and deteriorating mental capacities as reasons for the increase of older Americans arrested.

As someone retired from the federal criminal justice system as a multi award-winning spokesperson, I find the New York Times,’ “Possible Indignity of Agetitle both impertinent and misleading.

The older Americans I know are just as involved in daily activities as any other age group. As the shackles of parenting and career ease, they are “out and about” more than previous years would allow.

Reasons for Increased Arrests and Crime

A basic tenant of victimology is availability; criminal activity is principally based on what you do, not who you are, see Crime in America-Crime Prevention.

Substance abuse among older Americans is increasing, see National Institutes of Health. We are all aware of correlate data connecting drug use and crime.

As America gets older, we will discover that “the wisdom of age” adage may be tested as older people take to their motorcycles and off-road vehicles, drink alcohol in bars and dance the night away.

Yes, violent crime decreased over recent decades (while rising in 2015-2016). And yes, older Americans have lower rates for most crimes compared to their younger counterparts.

We can’t dismiss the fact that older Americans are increasingly engaged in everyday life.

With time on their hands, and with vastly increasing numbers, they will get into mischief, get arrested and victimized.

Crime is an equal opportunity equation. Crime is an ageless proposition. Older Americans are yet another group where we need to understand their circumstances and encourage preventive measures.


From the New York Times, “From 2002 to 2012, the rate fell by 11 percent among those ages 18 to 64, according to federal data analyzed by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

But the arrest rate rose by 23 percent for people over 55. It rose even more markedly — by 28 percent — among those over 65, more than 106,000 of whom were arrested in 2012, the last year for which statistics are available.” New York Times.


Property crimes for those 66 and above are higher than all age groups except those age 21-30.

Those age 66 and above have the highest number of fraud offenses. They also have the largest numbers for embezzlement and counterfeiting/forgery.

Those age 66 and above have the highest raw numbers for burglary and breaking and entering; no other group comes close.

They also have the highest numbers for arson.

See Crime in America-Older Americans and Crime.

Victimizations-National Crime Survey

From 2003 to 2013 rates of nonfatal violent crime against the elderly increased 27 percent, from 3.4 to 4.4 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 65 or older.

The majority (93 percent) of crimes against the elderly were property crimes, including household burglary, motor vehicle theft and other theft.

From 2003 to 2013, for every violent crime committed against the elderly, 13 property crimes were committed against households headed by an elderly person.

See Crime in America-Crime and the Elderly.


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