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Crime and Justice  
FBI Report: Violent Crime Down for 2009

By Anthony Calabrese
September 14, 2010


Violent crime decreased overall by 5.3 percent last year, a decline for the third year in a row, according to a new FBI report, "Crime in the United States, 2009."

Nationwide, more than 1.3 million violent crimes were reported in 2009, and the violent crime rate fell to 429.4 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants. That's down from a rate of 730 per 100,000 in 1990.

Compared to 2008 estimates, each of the four violent crime offenses saw a decrease:

  • Murder and non-negligent manslaughter fell by 7.3 percent.
  • Robbery fell by 8 percent.
  • Aggravated assault fell by 4.2 percent.
  • Forcible rape dropped by 2.6 percent.

Take a look at trends over time using the interactive stack graph below:

Where the Data Come From

The report is a statistical compilation of offense and arrest data reported by law enforcement agencies that participate in the FBI's Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Participants in the program included 17,985 city, county, university and college, state, tribal and federal agencies representing 96.3 percent of the nation's population.

The program collects information on crimes reported by law enforcement agencies regarding the violent crimes of murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault.

Definitions of Violent Crime

The FBI defines the four violent crime offenses below:

Murder and non-negligent manslaughter: The willful (non-negligent) killing of one human being by another. Deaths caused by negligence, attempts to kill, assaults to kill, suicides, and accidental deaths are excluded.

Robbery: The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.

Aggravated Assault: An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Simple assaults are excluded.

Forcible Rape: The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Rapes by force and attempts or assaults to rape, regardless of the age of the victim, are included. Statutory offenses (no force used―victim under age of consent) are excluded.

Where the Crimes Are

Data from the report show that there were close to 582,000 arrests for violent crimes in the U.S. for the year and the crimes were not evenly distributed by region (See which states make up the U.S. Census regions). An estimated 42.5 percent of all violent crime occurred in the South according to the FBI. The West reported 22.9 percent, the Midwest 19.6 percent and the Northeast 15 percent.

Now, look at violent crime compared to the total U.S. population in the table below:

The report also provided in-depth state and regional breakdowns, but cautioned against using the data to compile rankings based on geographic location alone.

Data Sources:

Press Releases: FBI Releases 2009 Crime Statistics and Crime Rates Continue to Fall

Report: Crime in the United States, 2009 See Table -1

What Do You Think?

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Data visualization by Anthony Calabrese, a State of the USA Web producer.

© 2010 State of the USA.