The Bureau of Justice Statistics recently released results from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) on 2021 victimization rates. Estimates are based on the number and characteristics of crimes that respondents experienced during the prior 6 months. There were no statistically significant changes in violent victimization or property victimization rates from 2020 to 2021, with virtually no change in the violent victimization rate and only a small decrease in the property crime victimization rate.
Violent crimes included in the NCVS include rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Data were collected through interviews conducted with a sample of people age 12 and older. Results showed that 2.7 million people age 12 or older experienced at least one violent crime in 2021, with an overall rate of 7.5 violent victimizations per 1,000 people. From 2020 to 2021, overall estimates of violent crime remained unchanged, but the rate in urban areas increased from 19.0 to 24.5 victimizations per 1,000. About 7.1% of the violent victimizations in 2021 victimizations involved a firearm, down slightly from 7.7% in 2020. There were no differences regarding victimization rates across type of crime, sex, race, age, or ethnicity.
In the last 30 years, violent victimization rates have declined overall. This isn’t entirely surprising, considering that the 1990s was one of the worst decades for crime in American history. In 1993, the violent victimization rate was 79.8 per 1,000. It then declined steadily for the next 17 years, reaching a rate of 19.3 per 1,000 in 2010. Since then, the prevalence of violent crime has fluctuated. From 2010 to 2012, rates increased again (reaching 26.1 in 2012), before eventually declining to a low of 18.6 in 2015. By 2018, violent victimizations increased again but remained below 2012 levels at a rate of 23.2 per 1,000. Since then, violent victimization rates have fallen steadily, reaching a rate of 16.4 in 2020, which remained stable through 2021. Declines across types of violent crime followed a similar pattern, declining over the long term with brief upticks here and there, with no significant change from 2020 to 2021. Over the long term, the percentage of violent victimizations involving a firearm have ebbed and flowed with no real discernable trend, comprising between 5.4% and 9.1% of overall violent crime.
The percentage of violent crime victims who received assistance from a victim service provider increased in the last year, from 6% in 2020 to 9% in 2021. The increase in victim service utilization was evident across all four violent crime types. Over the long term though, there are no discernable trends in victim service provider utilization, with random spikes and declines across years.
From 2020 to 2021, the reporting rate for violent crime increased from 40.2% to 45.6%, but this increase was not statistically significant. Of those who didn’t report, more than 25% of respondents said they didn’t report because they would “deal with it another way,” while more than 20% believed the police “could not or would not do anything to help.” Not surprisingly though, the reporting rate is higher for firearm crimes, 73% of which were reported to the police in 2021. Over the long term, reporting rates for violent crime have fluctuated between 40% and 52%, with a high of 51.1% in 2010 and a low of 40.2% in 2020. There were no clear discernable trends across years.
Property crimes included in the NCVS are burglary, trespassing, motor vehicle theft, and other types of household theft. Data were collected from a sample of households, and estimates represent rates per household rather than per person. According to the NCVS estimates, there were 11.7 million property victimizations in 2021. The 2021 property victimization rate was 90.3 victimizations per 1,000 households, down slightly from 94.5 per 1,000 in 2020, but this drop was not statistically significant. There were some differences across type of crime, though. Rates of trespassing increased from 4.1 to 5.1 per 1,000 households, while other household theft declined from 76.6 to 72.1 per 1,000 households. There were no differences regarding victimization rates across sex, race, age, or ethnicity.
Over the last 30 years, property crime victimization rates have declined overall. In 1993, the property victimization rate was 351.8 per 1,000. It declined steadily over the years, reaching a rate of 125.4 per 1,000 in 2010. This was followed by a small uptick in 2012, when property crime rates were back up to 155.8 per 1,000 households. Since 2012 though, rates have fallen steadily, reaching 108.4 in 2017, and eventually falling below a rate of 100 per 1,000 for the first time in 2020. As stated above, in the last year, rates declined even further — from 94.5 to 90.3 per 1,000, but this change was not statistically significant. Long term trends varied slightly across type of crime, though. Since 1993, declines in “other theft” followed the overall pattern — declining over the long term, with a brief spike in 2012. But for motor vehicle theft, burglary, and trespassing, victimization rates have steadily declined over the long term without any real upticks.
The percentage of property crimes reported to the police decreased from 2020 to 2021, from 33.0% to 30.8%, but this change was not statistically significant. Researchers postulate that the decline is largely due to a decline in reporting for “overall theft,” for which reporting rates decreased by 3% from 2020 to 2021 (29% vs. 26%). Among those who didn’t report to the police in 2021, nearly 40% didn’t report because they believed police “could not or would not do anything to help.” Over time, reporting rates for property crime have fluctuated between 30% and 41%. For some reason, reporting rates between 2002 and 2010 were noticeably higher, fluctuating between 38.9% and the all-time high of 40.2% in 2008. There was a dip in 2012, when reporting rates fell to 33.5%. This is interesting, considering that victimizations were up that year. Reporting rates increased again to 37.0% by 2014, but have since declined to a low of 30.8% in 2021.
Violent crime victimization rates remained unchanged from 2020 to 2021, and this was true for all crime types. However, the rate in urban areas increased, from 19.4 to 24.5 per 1,000, while non-urban areas saw no change. Reporting rates for violent victimizations increased slightly (+6%), as did the percentage of violent crime victims who sought assistance from victim service providers (+3%).
Overall property crime victimization rates declined slightly from 2020 to 2021 (from 94.5 to 90.3 per 1,000), but this decline was not statistically significant. This wasn’t true for all types of property crimes, though, as rates of trespassing increased slighlty (from 4.1 to 5.1 per 1,000). Reporting rates for property crime decreased though (-2%), which was mostly due to a decrease in reporting for “other theft” (-3%).
Unfortunately, due to constraints in the NCVS data, we are unable to examine the differences between states. However, we believe it is likely that trends would differ across states. For more information on the data presented above, see the NCVS’ interactive data dashboard.