BJS Survey Finds Violent Victimization Rate Dropped 22% Between 2019 And 2020

December 15, 2021

By a Biometrica staffer

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) released data from a survey that showed a 22% decline in the total violent victimization rate between 2019 and 2020. In addition, the survey found that the incidence of violent crime dropped to 16.4 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older, from the previous year’s 21 victimizations. The report also found that the rate of firearm victimizations dropped 24% between 2019 and 2020.

The National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) is conducted annually by the BJS. There is overlap between those offenses measured by the NCVS and the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program, though they are not identical. The difference between the two is in where they source their data from: the NCVS involves interviews with victims, while the UCR relies on law enforcement reporting.

For one, NCVS data excludes homicide obviously, as data is collected through interviews. It does cover rape or sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, simple assault, and property crimes like burglary, residential trespassing, and motor vehicle theft.

Secondly, many people never report being victimized to the police. For instance, the BJS says that last year only about 40% of violent victimizations and 33% of property victimizations were reported to the police. Between 2019 and 2020, the rate of violent crimes excluding simple assault that was reported to police decreased 18%.

Looking at the two data sets and results together could provide a more accurate and holistic picture of the state of crime in the U.S. in 2020. For instance, the UCR report found that violent crime rates went up and property crime rates dropped.

On the other hand, the NCVS data said the rate of violent crime (excluding simple assault) declined 23% in 2020. Simple assault rates fell to 10.7 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older in 2020, from the previous year’s 13.7. Similarly, aggravated assault rates decreased to 2.9 victimizations per 1,000 people from the previous 3.7. Rates of rape or sexual assaults and robberies did not change significantly over that period.

The NCVS also found that property crime rates dropped for a second consecutive year, to 94.5 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2020 from 2019’s 101.4. This was largely driven by decreases in the rates of burglary and trespassing, which decreased 19% and 24% respectively.

Infographic source: the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2020 Victimizations Report

Going off numbers alone, the BJS found that the number of violent crimes, excluding simple assault, fell to 1.6 million in 2020 from 2 million in 2019. The number of burglary and trespassing victimizations fell to 1.7 million from the previous 2.2 million.

In addition, the rate of domestic violence reported to the police declined by 42%, while the report rate for intimate partner violence was cut by over half (51%).