One in Four Households Victimized by Crime During Past Year

by David W. Moore

Slightly higher crime rate than last year, plus higher rate of reporting incidents

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Gallup's annual update on Americans and crime shows that 25% of all households experienced some type of crime during the past year, with 16% mentioning one incident and another 9% mentioning two or more incidents. The poll also shows that 28% of all crime incidents in the past year were not reported to the police.

A similar poll conducted a year ago found a slightly lower victimization rate, and a lower rate of reporting the crime to the police, suggesting that official government figures this year should reflect a higher increase in crime over the past year. According to last year's poll, 22% of all households experienced some type of crime, just three percentage points lower than this year's number, and within the polls' margins of error. Last year's poll also showed that 64% of all crime was reported, compared with 72% this year.

The poll this year finds results that are much closer to those found two years ago than to those found last year. In 2000, the crime poll found 24% of households experiencing some crime, with 26% of all incidents not reported.

All three polls asked respondents if specific crime incidents had happened to them, or to anyone in their household, over the past 12 months. The polls also asked whether each incident had been reported to the police. As shown in the table below, the two most frequently mentioned crimes in all the polls were theft of money or property (11% to 14%) and vandalization of one's home, car, or property (11% to 15%).

 

Please tell me which, if any, of these incidents have happened to you or your household within the last 12 months?

CRIME INCIDENT

2002

2001

2000

%

%

%

A home, car, or property owned by you or other household member vandalized

15

11

12

Money or property stolen from you or another member of your household

12

11

14

Your house or apartment broken into

5

3

4

A car owned by you or other household member stolen

4

3

4

You or other household member mugged or physically assaulted

3

3

3

Money or property taken from you or other household member by force, with gun, knife, weapon, or physical attack, or by threat of force

1

1

2

You or other household member sexually assaulted

2

--

1

Net Percentage of Households Experiencing Any Crime

25

22

24

Net Percentage of Households Experiencing Violent Crime

3

4

4

Percentage of All Crime Not Reported to Police

28

36

26



Five percent of respondents this year say their house or apartment was broken into, 4% say that a car owned by someone in the household was stolen, 3% say that someone in their household was mugged, and 1% say that someone in their household was robbed. Another 2% say that someone in their household was sexually assaulted. A net total of 3% of all American households experienced one or more violent crimes.

Like Last Year, Crime Highest Among the Young and People in Urban Areas

While there are some variations over the past three years, the table below shows that the highest rates of victimization continue to be among young people and those who live in urban areas, while people 65 and older are by far the least likely to report any experience with crime in the past year.

 

CRIME INCIDENTS COMPARED BY SELECTED DEMOGRAPHICS

(Percent Experiencing Any Crime During Past Year)



 

2002

2001

2000

%

%

%

All Households

25

22

24

Age

18-29

43

30

39

30-49

25

27

25

50-64

20

17

19

65+

12

8

8

Region

East

24

19

20

Midwest

26

20

23

South

20

22

30

West

33

29

22

Community

Urban

35

28

32

Suburban

20

20

23

Rural

23

21

16

Race

White

22

21

23

Nonwhite

36

32

31

Income

<$20k

27

21

18

$20-<$30k

29

27

34

$30-<$50k

26

26

19

$50-<$75k

21

19

28

$75k+

28

22

19

Gender

Male

22

21

27

Female

28

23

21



Major findings:

  • The most pronounced differences in the crime rate are found among age groups. The younger the American, the more likely he or she is to report having been the victim of a crime. Forty-three percent of respondents in the youngest age group (18-29) report that their household experienced some crime in the past year, compared with 25% in the 30- to 49-year-old group, 20% in the 50-64 group, and only 12% among people 65 or older.
  • Over the past year, the largest increase in the household crime rate occurred among the youngest age group, going from 30% last year to 43% this year.
  • Urban households report a significantly higher rate of crime than suburban and rural households -- 35% vs. 20% and 23% respectively.
  • In all three years, the urban rate is higher than the rates in suburban and rural communities, but this year the gap between the urban and suburban communities is the largest -- 15 points, compared with eight and nine points in the two previous years. The crime rate in urban areas is higher this year than last, while the rate in suburban and rural areas is essentially unchanged.
  • The poll this year shows that crime rates are almost evenly distributed across the income groups. In four of the five groups, the household crime rate varies only slightly, from 26% to 29%. The other group, people earning from $50,000 to $75,000 a year, shows a rate of 21%.
  • Trends in crime rates over the three years show contradictory patterns in the South and West, while the patterns in the Midwest and East are similar. The West shows an increase in the rate, from 22% in 2000 to 33% now. The South shows the opposite trend, from a 30% rate two years ago that declines to 20% now. The other two regions show slight declines from 2000 to 2001, but five to six point increases from last year until now.
  • The gap in crime rates between whites and non-whites has grown over the past two years. This year, 36% of non-white households, compared with 22% of white households, report some experience with crime -- a 14-point gap. The gap last year was 11 points (32% vs. 21%) and in 2000, the gap was eight points (31% to 23%).

Survey Methods

The results reported here are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected sample of 1,002 adults across the 48 contiguous states, aged 18+, conducted Oct. 14-17, 2002. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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