BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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Crime and Justice in the United States
and in England and Wales, 1981-96

Crime rates from victim surveys


Robbery:  Survey crime

Assault:  Survey crime

Burglary:  Survey crime

Motor vehicle theft: Survey crime

To the chart data

Notes on figures 1-4: National surveys of crime victimization provided the data for the graphics. U.S. surveys involve interviews with persons age 12 or older; English surveys, age 16 or older. The first U.S. survey was done for the year 1973; the first English survey, 1981. U.S. surveys are done every year but less often in England. Only the U.S. survey estimates rape victimization. In the graphics, robbery was defined in both countries as non-commercial robbery; assault was defined as aggravated assault in the U.S., and wounding in England; burglary was defined in both countries as residential burglary (excluding commercial burglary); motor vehicle theft was defined in both countries as completed non-commercial motor vehicle theft (excluding unsuccessful attempts and excluding thefts of commercial vehicles). Note that pre-1992 U.S. estimates for assault and burglary were adjusted to make them comparable to later year estimates.

One of the best ways to determine the level of serious crime in a country is through crime victim surveys. In these surveys of the general public, samples of persons are asked whether they had been victimized by crime in the recent past. Interviewers ask about all crime, whether reported to police or not.

National crime victim surveys are conducted in both the United States and England (including Wales). In 1995 --

  • survey-estimated robberies totaled 1.1 million in the United States and 313,000 in England
  • survey-estimated assaults totaled 1.9 million in the United States and 823,000 in England
  • survey-estimated burglaries totaled 4.8 million in the United States and 1.8 million in England
  • survey-estimated motor vehicle thefts totaled 1.1 million in the United States and ½ million in England.

The higher volume of crime in the United States is due, at least in part,to the greater population size of the United States. A more meaningful comparison is between the crime rates of the two countries.

According to victim surveys, which country has higher crime rates?

  • In 1995 (the latest year that could be compared), serious crime rates measured in victim surveys were all higher in England than in the United States (statistically significant at the 95% confidence level).

    According to 1995 crime victim surveys, the --

    • English robbery victimization rate was 1.4 times the U.S. rate (7.6 per 1,000 population versus 5.3) (figure 1)
    • English assault victimization rate was 2.3 times the U.S. rate (20.0 versus 8.8) (figure 2)
    • English burglary victimization rate was 1.7 times the U.S. rate (82.9 per 1,000 households versus 47.5) (figure 3)
    • English motor vehicle theft victimization rate was 2.2 times the U.S. rate (23.6 versus 10.8) (figure 4).

    According to national surveys of crime victims, is the crime rate increasing or decreasing in each country?

  • U.S. crime rates as measured in victim surveys generally (robbery, assault, and motor vehicle theft) fell in the early 1980's, rose thereafter until around 1993, and then fell again (figures 1, 2, and 4). For survey estimated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft, the latest U.S. rates (1996) are the lowest recorded in the 16-year period since 1981. By comparison, English crime rates as measured in victim surveys all rose. For robbery and assault, the latest English rates (1995) are the highest recorded since 1981 (figures 1-4).

    Comparing 1981 crime rates from victim surveys to rates for 1995 (the latest year that U.S. and English surveys have in common), the rate of victimization from --

    • robbery rose 81% in England (4.2 per 1,000 population rising to 7.6), but fell 28% in the United States (7.4 dropping to 5.3) (figure 1)
    • assault rose 53% in England (13.1 rising to 20.0), but declined 27% in the United States (12.0 dropping to 8.8) (figure 2)
    • burglary doubled in England (40.9 per 1,000 households rising to 82.9), but was cut in half in the United States (105.9 declining to 47.5) (figure 3)
    • motor vehicle theft rose 51% in England (15.6 rising to 23.6), but stayed virtually unchanged in the United States (10.6 in 1981, 10.8 in 1995) (figure 4).

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

    • the U.S. victim survey rate for robbery was nearly double England's in 1981, but in 1995 the English robbery survey rate was 1.4 times America's (figure 1)
    • the English victim survey rate for assault was slightly higher than America's in 1981, but in 1995 the English assault survey rate was more than double America's (figure 2)
    • the U.S. victim survey rate for burglary was more than double England's in 1981, but in 1995 the English burglary survey rate was nearly double America's (figure 3)
    • the English victim survey rate for motor vehicle theft was 1.5 times America's in 1981, but in 1995 the English survey rate for vehicle theft was more than double America's (figure 4).

    Chart data - in spreadsheets

     

    Figure 1

    Figure 2
    Robbery

    Assault


    Year
    United
    States
    England United
    States
    England
    1981 7.4 4.2 12.0 13.1
    1982 7.1 11.5
    1983 6.0 3.7 9.9 10.8
    1984 5.8 11.2
    1985 5.1 10.3
    1986 5.1 9.8
    1987 5.3 4.4 10 14.1
    1988 5.3 10.8
    1989 5.4 10.3
    1990 5.7 9.8
    1991 5.9 4.5 9.9 15.4
    1992 6.1 11.1
    1993 6.1 5.8 12.1 16.9
    1994 6.1 11.6
    1995 5.3 7.6 8.8 20.0
    1996 5.2 8.8
    Figure 3 Figure 4

    Burglary

    Motor
    vehicle theft

    Year
    United States
    England
    United States
    England
    1981 105.9 40.9 10.6 15.6
    1982 94.1 11.2
    1983 84.0 49.2 9.3 15.3
    1984 76.9 9.4
    1985 75.2 9.2
    1986 73.8 9.7
    1987 74.6 61.2 10.7 20.0
    1988 74.3 11.6
    1989 67.7 12.5
    1990 64.5 12.7
    1991 64.6 67.8 14.2 25.7
    1992 58.6 12.0
    1993 59.9 85.5 13 26.2
    1994 54.4 11.6
    1995 47.5 82.9 10.8 23.6
    1996 47.2 9.1

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