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Violent crime statistics in the U.S.

In the United States, violent crimes are defined as incidents involving force or the threat of force. The main offences reported under violent crime are murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape and sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. Despite the horrific nature of, and high number of casualties from mass shootings, they are generally not reported as a separate category owing to their relative infrequency. Violent crime is generally contrasted with property crime, with the latter defined as the taking of money or property without force (or the threat of force) against the victims. Note that in these definitions, robbery counts as violent crime whereas burglary does not. Comparing the the number of committed crimes in U.S. by category, property crime far outnumbers violent crime, while aggravated assault accounts for some two-thirds of all violent crime.

Is violent crime increasing?

The number of violent crimes in the United States has dramatically fallen over the last two decades, although the number of reported violent crimes has risen slightly in the past few years. A similar story is told by looking at the violent crime rate per 100,000 residents, which factors in the role population growth plays in increasing the overall number of crimes. It is important to note that violent crime figures may not always be precise, as there is a worryingly high rate of violent crimes not reported to police. This is particularly the case for rape and sexual assault, where only around one quarter of offences are reported. It is therefore almost certain that the actual rate of violent crime is considerably higher than official figures suggest.

Canada is safer: Violent crime statistics by country

It can be difficult to compare violent crime rates between countries as many countries use different categories to distinguish between crimes. One metric that can be relatively easily compared, though, is the murder rate. Looking at the cities with the highest murder rate in the world, even the most dangerous U.S. cities are much safer than some Latin American cities. However, St Louis recorded the thirteenth-highest murder rate of any city in 2020, and the United States has the dubious honor of being the only developed country with any cities in the top fifty – of which it has four. At the country level, comparing U.S. and Canadian rates of violent crimes tells a similar but more complex story. While the rate of crimes like robbery and homicide are significantly lower in Canada, the rate of serious assaults appears only slightly below that of the U.S. – although the differing reporting categories between each country means these comparisons are provisional at best.

The prevalence of violent crime by race

Despite a widespread perception that crime is more common among some ethnic communities than others, the racial breakdown of the prevalence of violent crime shows little difference between the share of people who were victims of violent crime in America’s three main racial groups. This similarity suggests the need to consider other factors, such as poverty and opportunities for social mobility, in order to understand how crime levels may differ between communities.


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