A new Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) bulletin released last month examining criminal victimizations for 2014 shows decreases in the incidence of both violent and property crime victimization compared to 2013.
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS)—a collection of information intended to measure both reported and unreported crimes to law enforcement—overall violent crime victimization rates decreased from 23.2 per 1,000 persons in 2013, to 20.1 per 1,000 in 2014. This follows the general downward trend of violent victimizations seen since 1993, when the rate of violent crime stood at 79.8 per 1,000 persons—a rate decrease of 74.8% over the course of 21 years.
Property crime victimizations similarly decreased between 2013 and 2014. Overall property crime rates (which includes household burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft) decreased from 131.4 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2013, to 118.1 victimizations per 1,000 in 2014 (a statistically significant finding), with declines in theft accounting for much of that decrease.
This decrease between 2013 and 2014 contributes to an overall reduction in property crime victimization rates since 1993, as well. That year, the rate stood at 351.8 per 1,000 households, and with a 2014 rate at 118.1 per 1,000, property crime victimizations have fallen by 66.4% in 21 years:
These data points have important implications, given that some believe that we are currently in the middle of a small perceived crime spike in several cities across the country.
First, this survey captures national crime victimization data, not just data from cities potentially seeing spikes in crime. This matters because if local data sets indicate crime increases in urbanized areas, but the NCVS reports overall decreases nationwide, this would suggest that factors unique to those cities (i.e. changes in policing policy, etc.) is driving crime there that isn’t being experienced writ large. In other words, having a nationally representative sample yields information that simply focusing on cities might not produce.
Additionally, this recent survey represents the most complete information available to those interested in the direction that crime rates may or may not to taking. As such, more confident conclusions can be drawn from this report, as opposed to more up-to-date—albeit incomplete—data based on year-to-date totals. Crime spikes occur stochastically, so having longitudinal data available to delineate possible trends over time is important.
With this NCVS report, the same trend we’ve seen recently continues through 2014: overall crime rates are still falling. In the future, we ought to look to those places that have had particular success in reducing their crime rates, decide what lessons can be learned from them, and apply them elsewhere.