NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

FBI And Justice Department Crime Reports Differ

June 14, 2001

The Justice Department has published a report which says violent crime in the U.S. dropped by nearly 15 percent last year -- the largest one-year decline ever recorded in the 27 years of the government's annual crime survey.

Nice, but that conclusion is starkly at odds with an FBI study released last month that says serious crime nationwide stabilized during 2000 after an eight-year period of significant decline.

So who do you believe? Lawrence Greenfield, acting director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, says that conflicts between his report and the FBI's involved differing methodologies. The Justice study collects data not only on crimes reported to law enforcement agencies, but also on a large number of incidents that go unreported, to obtain so-called victimization rates. But the figures do not include murders.

Greenfield says both reports have moved in the same direction in 20 of the 27 years they have been conducted.

Here are some of the findings in the Justice Department's report:

  • Americans experienced 1.1 million fewer violent crimes during 2000 than they did in 1999.
  • Property crimes -- which account for 75 percent of all criminal offenses nationwide -- fell by 10 percent.
  • There were 25.9 million violent and property crimes during 2000 -- nearly 3 million fewer than the year before.
  • When the government began surveying crime statistics in 1973, there were an estimated 44 million violent and property crimes.

The rate of 28 violent victimizations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or older in 2000 represented a 15 percent decrease from the 1999 rate of 33 per 1,000.

From 1999 to 2000, the number of crimes of violence completed or threatened dropped from 7.4 million to 6.3 million.

The report explained that the most common reasons people fail to report crimes is that they feel they are private matters, because the offender was unsuccessful, or the stolen property had been returned.

Source: Jerry Seper, "Violent Crime Rate Has Record Fall," Washington Times, June 14, 2001; based on Callie Marie Rennison, "Criminal Victimization 2000: Changes 1999-2000 with Trends 1993-2000," National Crime Victimization Survey, NCJ 187007, Bureau of Justice Statistics, June 2001.


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