BJS: Bureau of Justice Statistics

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ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 9:00 A.M. EDT Bureau of Justice Statistics
WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 2, 2009 Contact: Kara McCarthy 202-307-1241 After hours: 202-598-0556



     WASHINGTON – The violent crime rate in 2008—19.3 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older—was unchanged from the previous year, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, announced today. The property crime rate declined during 2008 from 147 to 135 crimes per 1,000 households, primarily as a result of decreases in theft and motor vehicle theft.

     In 2008, an estimated 4.9 million violent crimes (rapes or sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults and simple assaults) occurred, as well as an estimated 16.3 million property crimes (burglaries, motor vehicle thefts and household thefts) and 137,000 personal thefts (picked pockets and snatched purses). These offenses included both crimes reported and unreported to police. With the exception of theft and motor vehicle theft, victimization rates for every type of crime measured were unchanged from the 2007 levels.

    Violent and property crime rates in 2008 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 1999 and 2008. The overall violent crime rate fell 41 percent and the property crime rate declined by 32 percent during the last 10 years.

     In 2008, 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 49 percent of violence against men. Twenty-three percent of the non-fatal violence against women was committed by an intimate (current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend), compared to three percent of the violence against men. 

     Between 1999 and 2008, the rate of firearm violence declined from 2.5 incidents per 1,000 persons age 12 or older to 1.4 per 1,000 persons. Offenders used firearms in seven percent of all violent crimes in 2008, unchanged from 1999.

     Nearly half of all violent crimes and 40 percent of all property crimes were reported to police in 2008. Of the violent crimes, robbery (61 percent) and aggravated assault (62 percent) were most reported. Forty-one percent of rape/sexual assaults and simple assaults were reported to the police. A higher percentage of motor vehicle thefts (80 percent) than burglaries (56 percent) and thefts (34 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 2008, 42,093 households and 77,852 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. Preliminary UCR results released by the FBI in June showed a 2.5 percent decline in violent crimes reported to the police and a 1.6 percent decline in property crimes during 2008.

     The report, Criminal Victimization, 2008 (NCJ 227777), was written by BJS statistician Michael Rand. Following publication, the report can be found at http:/

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


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The Office of Justice Programs (OJP), headed by Acting Assistant Attorney General Laurie O. Robinson, provides federal leadership in developing the nation's capacity to prevent and control crime, administer justice, and assist victims. OJP has five component bureaus: the Bureau of Justice Assistance; the Bureau of Justice Statistics; the National Institute of Justice; the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; and the Office for Victims of Crime. In addition, OJP has two program offices: the Community Capacity Development Office, which incorporates the Weed and Seed strategy, and the Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART). More information can be found at


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