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Personal Crime Flat Per Gallup
By Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.
Published: 11/13/2017

Crime



Making sense of crime in America can be a daunting task. There are three primary national measures and lots of sub-estimates (i.e., crime in schools, drug use, etc.).

The three primary measurements are:
  • Yearly data from the FBI of the US Department of Justice based on crimes reported to law enforcement
  • Yearly data from the National Crime Survey from the National Institute of Justice, US Department of Justice based on a survey of a representative sample of Americans
  • Twelve-month data from Gallup that includes the current and previous year based on a survey of a representative sample of Americans
Crime Rates for Recent Years

FBI: The bottom line is that violent and property crimes are still at record lows for the country and, generally speaking, have been decreasing for the last two decades except for recent years via FBI data (2011, 2012, 2015 and 2016 as examples).

Property crimes dropped 1.3 percent in 2016, marking the 14th consecutive year the collective estimates for these offenses declined.

National Crime Survey: Data from the National Crime Survey also state that we are at record lows for criminal activity. From 1993 to 2015, the rate of violent crime declined from 79.8 to 18.6 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older.

Per the National Crime Survey, violent crime rates remain flat in 2015 while property crime rates decreased.

Gallup: Last year, Gallup suggested that crime has increased to a historical high. New data from Gallup (below) provides a different story. See Crime in America for a partial explanation of the difference between Gallup and National Crime Survey data.

New Gallup Data Shows Decreases

“Fewer Americans Say Household Victimized by Crime,” is a measurement of household crime (how many people in a household were victimized) plus measures of individual violent victimizations. Vandalism is included.

The findings released in October of 2017 include:
  • 22% of Americans say someone in their household was a crime victim
  • This year’s percentage is the lowest since 2001
  • Average for previous decade had been 26%
  • 12% said someone in their household had money or property stolen, down from 17% in 2016.
  • 10% were the victims of vandalism, down from 14% last year.
  • 3% had their house or apartment broken into, down from 5%.
  • 3% had an automobile stolen, compared with 4% in 2016.
  • 2% said someone in their household was mugged or physically assaulted, compared with 3% last year.
  • 2% said someone in their household was sexually assaulted, compared with 1% in 2016.
  • 1% had money or property taken by force with a gun, a knife, another weapon or physical attack, compared with 2% in 2016.
Gallup Summation for Personal (Not Household) Victimization

Gallup states that the percentage of Americans personally victimized changed little over time.

Asked about their own experiences rather than the situation for their household as a whole, 15% of U.S. adults say they have been the victim of at least one of the crimes.

That is an insignificant drop of one percentage point from last year’s 16%. Since the index’s inception in 2000, annual results have ranged between 14% and 19%.

Context

All three indexes measure crime differently thus providing diverse and unique results.

Crimes reported to the police are seen by many as an indication of “serious” incidents because the victim takes the time to report the incident to law enforcement. Most violent and property crimes are not reported.

Surveys ask action-oriented questions (i.e., did someone strike you with an object?). Your drunken best friend may hit you with a bottle but you are unwilling to report the incident to police. You believe that the incident is a personal matter.

Asking someone about household crime (via Gallup) places that person in the position of accurately knowing everything about all members of the house within the timeframe mentioned. Personal victimization will be more accurate.

Summary

People simply want to know if crime is up or down as an indication of their own personal safety.

If we are going to qualitatively pick a reliable measurement, crimes reported to law enforcement seem to be the one that fits most people’s definition of personal risk. Just understand that the issue is intensely debated and the measures are open to interpretation.

If you are looking for a summation of data, violent crime is up per the FBI, property crime is down in all three indexes, and Gallup states that personal crime dropped slightly.

Reprinted with permission from http://www.crimeinamerica.net.

Contact us at crimeinamerica@gmail.com or for media on deadline, use leonardsipes@gmail.com.

Leonard A. Sipes, Jr has thirty-five years of experience supervising public affairs for national and state criminal justice agencies. He is the Former Senior Specialist for Crime Prevention for the Department of Justice’s clearinghouse and the Former Director of Information Management for the National Crime Prevention Council. He has a Post Master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University and is the author of the book "Success With the Media". He can be reached via email at leonardsipes@gmail.com.


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