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Today, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released its annual National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), which found no statistically significant change in the nation’s violent crime rate. Here are the highlights:

  • Across the country, violent crime remains near record lows. Since 1993, violent crime rates have dropped by nearly 76 percent.
  • In 2015, fewer than 1% of Americans over the age of 12 reported enduring a crime of violence.
  • From 2014 to 2015, rates of property crime decreased by 6 percent. Property crime rates remain at historic lows. Since 1993, property crime rates have fallen over 68 percent.

These results are consistent with the 2015 FBI Uniform Crime Report, released last month, which found that violent crime increased slightly from the previous year, but nonetheless remained near fifty year lows. Indeed, 2015 had the 3rd lowest violent crime rate and 1st lowest property crime rate since 1971. Additionally, the 2015 FBI Report found:

  • 1st lowest burglary rate since 1966
  • 2nd lowest robbery rate since 1966.
  • 6th lowest homicide rate since 1966.

John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law, offered the following to explain the relationship between the National Crime Victimization Survey (violent crime holds steady near record lows) and the FBI Uniform Crime Report (violent crime increased slightly from 2014, but remains near record lows):

“When, like today, the NCVS and the UCR yield contradictory results—the NCVS says that most violent crimes fell over 2015, the UCR that they rose—it’s understandable to immediately ask “well, which one is right?” That’s not, however, the right way to think about it. Crime is something that is very hard to measure well, and the two studies estimate it in different ways using different sources; it’s not a question of which one is “better,” but rather what they suggest when viewed together. Which means that the NCVS results do not necessarily mean the UCR ones are “wrong” (or vice versa), but they certainly provide yet another reason to view claims that crime is clearly rising with caution, and to make sure we do not over-react in response.” John Pfaff, a law professor at Fordham University School of Law

In response to today’s release of the National Crime Victimization Survey, our partners offered the following responses:

“I am encouraged that violent crime rates remain stable and near historic lows. We are doing very well, and to do even better, we need to continue to invest in targeted evidence based programs that focus on prevention and treatment.” William Lansdowne, Former Police Chief of San Diego, San Jose and Richmond, California

“Violent crime remains near all time lows. We can do even better, though. We need to work hard to restore trust between law enforcement and the communities that they are entrusted to protect. And we need to understand violence as a public health problem; investing in the prevention and treatment programs that help individuals and communities thrive.” Carter Stewart, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio

“Americans are safer today than at almost any other time in modern history. As expected, the National Crime Victimization Survey confirms our nation’s historic, steady, and stable crime decline.” Ronald Sullivan, Clinical Professor of Law, Harvard Law School

“Rumors of a rising violent crime wave appear to be just that: rumors. Putting the reactionary rhetoric aside, the actual data from the crime victimization survey tells a much less dramatic tale. America has witnessed no rise, and perhaps even a slight drop, in violence.” Daniel Medwed, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Finally, while violent crime rates remain very low nationally, there is a persistent and disturbing trend in the data: According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, black people were 24 percent more likely to have been victimized in 2015 and nearly one-third more likely to have been the victim of a violent crime. There is a sensible path towards reducing these troubling disparities, however. As Aswad Thomas, national organizer for Alliance for Safety and Justice and a victim of gun violence himself, explains:

“The communities hit hardest by crime and violence are also the least supported by the justice system. These communities need investments in trauma recovery, mental health counseling and drug treatment to stop the cycle of crime and reduce victimization.” Aswad Thomas, national organizer for Alliance for Safety and Justice