BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS)
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Crime and Justice in the United States
and in England and Wales, 1981-96

Crime rates from police records


Murder: Police-recorded

Rape: Police-recorded

Robbery: Police-recorded

Assault: Police-recorded

Burglary: Police-recorded

Motor vehicle theft: Police-recorded

To the chart data

Notes on figures 5-10: Crimes that were officially recorded in police statistics provided the data for the graphics. Victims of all ages are counted in police statistics. For these graphics, murder was defined as murder or nonnegligent manslaughter in the United States, and murder/manslaughter or infanticide in England; rape was defined in both countries as forcible penetration of a female; robbery was defined in both countries as all types of robbery (both residential and commercial robberies); assault was defined as aggravated assault in the United States, and wounding in England; burglary was defined in both countries as all types of burglary (both residential and commercial); motor vehicle theft was defined in both countries as all thefts of motor vehicles (both residential and commercial, both completed and attempted).

Police in both the United States and England (including Wales) keep annual statistics on the volume of crime that comes to their attention. According to latest police statistics (1996) --

  • police-recorded murders totaled 19,650 in the United States and 681 in England
  • police-recorded rapes totaled 95,770 in the United States and 5,759 in England
  • police-recorded robberies totaled 537,050 in the United States and 74,035 in England
  • police-recorded assaults totaled 1,029,810 in the United States and 228,636 in England
  • police-recorded burglaries totaled 2,501,500 in the United States and 1,164,583 in England
  • police-recorded motor vehicle thefts totaled 1,395,200 in the United States and 493,489 in England.

The higher volume of crime recorded by the police in the United States is due, at least in part, to the larger population of the United States (265 million in 1996) as compared to that of England and Wales (52 million). A more meaningful comparison is between the crime rates of the two countries.

According to latest police statistics (1996), is the serious crime rate higher in the United States or England?

  • In 1996, rates of murder, rape, and robbery recorded by the police were all higher in the United States than in England, while assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft rates were all higher in England than in the United States.

    According to police statistics for 1996 --

    • the U.S. murder rate was 5.7 times higher than England's (0.074 per 1,000 population versus 0.013) (figure 5)
    • the U.S. rape rate was about 3 times higher than England's (0.71 per 1,000 female population versus 0.22) (figure 6)
    • the U.S. robbery rate was 1.4 times higher than England's (2.0 versus 1.4) (figure 7)
    • the English assault rate was 1.1 times higher than the U.S. rate (4.4 versus 3.9) (figure 8)
    • the English burglary rate was 2.4 times higher than the U.S. rate (22.4 versus 9.4) (figure 9)
    • the English motor vehicle theft rate was 1.8 times higher than the U.S. rate (9.5 versus 5.3) (figure 10).

    According to police statistics, is the crime rate increasing or decreasing in each country?

  • U.S. crime rates as measured in police statistics generally (all crimes except burglary) fell in the early 1980's, rose thereafter until around 1993, and then fell again (figures 5-10). For murder, robbery, and burglary recorded by the police, the latest U.S. rates (1996) are the lowest recorded in the 16-year period from 1981 to 1996. By comparison, crime rates as measured in English police statistics have all risen since 1981. For rape, robbery, and assault recorded by the police, the latest English rates (1996) are the highest recorded since 1981 (figures 6, 7, and 8).

  • The major exception to the U.S. pattern is the steady decline in the burglary rate since 1981. The major exception to the English pattern is downturns since 1993 in rates of burglary and motor vehicle theft.

    According to police statistics --

    • the English murder rate rose slightly after 1981 (0.011 per 1,000 population in 1981, 0.013 in 1996), while the U.S. rate fell in the early 1980's, increased thereafter until 1991, and then fell again, reaching a 16-year low in 1996 (0.098 in 1981, 0.074 in 1996) (figure 5)
    • the English rape rate rose almost continuously after 1981, reaching a 16-year high in 1996 (0.04 per 1,000 female population in 1981, 0.22 in 1996), while the U.S. rate fell in the early 1980's, rose thereafter until 1992, and then fell again, returning in 1996 to its 1981 level (0.7) (figure 6)
    • the English robbery rate rose fairly continuously since 1981, reaching a 16-year high in 1996 (0.4 in 1981, 1.4 in 1996), while the U.S. rate fell in the early 1980's, rose thereafter until 1991, and then fell again, reaching a 16-year low in 1996 (2.59 in 1981, 2.02 in 1996) (figure 7)
    • the English assault rate rose fairly continuously since 1981, reaching a 16-year high in 1996 (2.0 in 1981, 4.4 in 1996), while the U.S. rate fell in the early 1980's, rose thereafter until 1992, and then fell again (2.9 in 1981, 3.9 in 1996) (figure 8)
    • the English burglary rate generally rose from 1981 to 1993 and fell thereafter (14.5 in 1981, 22.4 in 1996), while the U.S. rate fell fairly continuously after 1981, reaching a 16-year low in 1996 (16.5 in 1981, 9.4 in 1996) (figure 9)
    • the English motor vehicle theft rate generally rose from 1981 to 1993 and fell thereafter (6.7 in 1981, 9.5 in 1996), while the U.S. rate fell in the early 1980's, rose thereafter until 1991, and then fell again (4.7 in 1981, 5.3 in 1996) (figure 10).

    As a result of different crime trends in the two countries --

    • the police-recorded U.S. murder rate was 8.7 times England's in 1981 but 5.7 times in 1996 (figure 5)
    • the police-recorded U.S. rape rate was 17 times England's in 1981 but 3 times in 1996 (figure 6)
    • the police-recorded U.S. robbery rate was 6 times England's in 1981 but 1.4 times in 1996 (figure 7)
    • the police-recorded U.S. assault rate was 1.5 times England's in 1981, but in 1996 the English assault rate was slightly higher than America's (figure 8)
    • the police-recorded U.S. burglary rate was slightly higher than England's in 1981, but in 1996 the English burglary rate was more than double America's (figure 9)
    • the police-recorded English motor vehicle theft rate went from 1.4 times America's in 1981 to nearly 2 times in 1996 (figure 10).
    Chart data - in spreadsheets
    Figure 5 Figure 6 Figure 7
    Murder Rape Robbery

    Year
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    1981 0.0983 0.0113 0.7059 0.0419 2.5875 0.4086
    1982 0.0907 0.0125 0.6671 0.0525 2.3890 0.4603
    1983 0.0825 0.0111 0.6614 0.0523 2.1650 0.4452
    1984 0.0791 0.0125 0.6993 0.0561 2.0538 0.4997
    1985 0.0795 0.0124 0.7283 0.0719 2.0854 0.5494
    1986 0.0855 0.0132 0.7439 0.0890 2.2515 0.5985
    1987 0.0826 0.0137 0.7340 0.0959 2.1270 0.6485
    1988 0.0841 0.0124 0.7378 0.1105 2.2089 0.6227
    1989 0.0866 0.0126 0.7464 0.1275 2.3297 0.6544
    1990 0.0942 0.0132 0.8086 0.1304 2.5703 0.7115
    1991 0.0979 0.0142 0.8288 0.1550 2.7272 0.8869
    1992 0.0931 0.0134 0.8383 0.1582 2.6363 1.0315
    1993 0.0951 0.0130 0.8060 0.1749 2.5585 1.1245
    1994 0.0896 0.0141 0.7699 0.1912 2.3775 1.1625
    1995 0.0822 0.0144 0.7273 0.1890 2.2095 1.3137
    1996 0.0741 0.0131 0.7079 0.2177 2.0244 1.4235
    Figure 8 Figure 9 Figure 10
    Assault Burglary Motor vehicle theft

    Year
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    United
    States

    England
    1981 2.8973 1.9749 16.4947 14.4736 4.7472 6.7009
    1982 2.8915 2.1422 14.8881 16.2334 4.5885 7.0794
    1983 2.7921 2.1936 13.3767 16.2706 4.3076 6.5558
    1984 2.9021 2.2411 12.6373 17.9266 4.3708 6.9224
    1985 3.0294 2.3762 12.8730 17.3371 4.6197 7.3498
    1986 3.4608 2.4349 13.4455 18.5722 5.0776 8.1946
    1987 3.5131 2.7252 13.2958 17.8872 5.2946 7.7418
    1988 3.7025 3.0396 13.0920 16.1981 5.8294 7.2635
    1989 3.8338 3.3894 12.7627 16.2976 6.3036 7.7627
    1990 4.2413 3.5126 12.3594 19.7919 6.5775 9.7151
    1991 4.3332 3.5940 12.5198 23.8643 6.5894 11.3875
    1992 4.4181 3.7923 11.6821 26.4304 6.3148 11.4643
    1993 4.4032 3.8388 10.9915 26.6254 6.0607 11.6161
    1994 4.2759 4.0568 10.4202 24.3444 5.9126 10.4947
    1995 4.1833 3.9263 9.8761 23.9190 5.6048 9.8118
    1996 3.8819 4.3960 9.4295 22.3915 5.2593 9.4883

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