Nearly 23 million American households, or 24 per cent, were victimized by crime in 1991, the same proportion as in 1990. This percentage continues to be the lowest recorded since 1975, the first year that the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) produced this estimate. From 1985 through 1989 the proportion of households victimized had remained fairly constant, at about 25 per cent.
The NCVS is an ongoing survey of victims of crime, which was first administered in 1972. The NCVS measures the personal crimes of rape, robbery, assault, and theft, as well as the household crimes of burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. Since it is a survey of victims, the NCVS may obtain data on crimes reported to the police as well as those that were not reported, but does not obtain information on homicides. Commercial crimes are also excluded from the survey. Over the past 16 years this indicator, which reports the proportion of households that experienced an attempted or completed crime, has been calculated to estimate the dispersion of crime.
A household refers both to a dwelling unit, like a house or apartment, and to the people who live in it. A household was counted as having experienced a crime during the year if it met one of these criteria:
â€¢ It fell victim to a burglary, auto theft, or household theft.
â€¢ A household member age 12 or older was raped, robbed, or assaulted.
â€¢ A household member age 12 or older experienced a personal theft.
Since the inception of the households- victimized-by-crimes indicator in 1975, the proportion of U.S. households experiencing a crime of any type has never shown a significant year-to-year increase. The proportion of households victimized declined by 22 per cent between 1975 and 1985, with 32 per cent of all households reporting at least one victimization in 1975 compared to 25 per cent in 1985. After a period of stability between 1985 and 1989, the proportion of households touched by crime decreased to 24 per cent in 1990 and remained at this level through 1991.
Race and Ethnicity of Household
Black households were generally more likely than white households to have been victimized in 1991. Members of black households were 2.5 times more likely than members of white households to sustain a robber (2.1 % versus .8% ). There was some evidence that the members of white households were more frequently victims of simple assaults, Whites were also more likely than blacks to fall victim to a personal theft without contact.
Black households were twice as likely as white households to experience a motor vehicle theft. These households were also more likely than both white households and households of "other races" to be burglarized.
Larger proportions of Hispanic than non-Hispanic households were touched by most of the violent crimes and all the household crimes measured in the NCVS. There were no significant differences between Hispanic and non-Hispanic households for the crimes of assault and personal theft.
Generally, as household income increased so did the household's susceptibility to personal theft. For instance, households in the highest income bracket were twice as likely as households in the lowest income group to experience a theft. Only households earning under $7 ,500 annually and those earning between $7,500 and $14,999 a year were victimized in similar proportions.
Violent and household crimes did not present such a consistent pattern of victimization. Members of households in the lowest income category were more likely than members of households earning $15,000 or more annually to sustain a violent crime, excluding simple assaults. There was some evidence that members of households earning less than $7,500 a year were more likely to experience these crimes than members of households earning $50,000 or more, but there were no other significant differences among household income categories.
Similar proportions of households with annual incomes under $7,500 and those with incomes between $7,500 and $14,999 were victimized by violent crime. However, there was some evidence that members of households in the lowest income category were more frequently victims of aggravated assault.
Households in the lowest income group were the most likely to be burglarized; there were no significant differences among households earning at least $15,000 a year. Low income households were least likely to sustain a motor vehicle theft, and there were no significant differences among the proportions of households in each income group that had experienced a household larceny.
Place of residence
Urban households were the most likely and rural households the least likely to experience a crime, with a few exceptions. Although larger percentages of urban households sustained assaults and burglaries compared to suburban and rural households, suburban households were not more likely than rural households to experience these crimes. Members of households located in rural areas were less likely than members of both urban and suburban households to be victims of personal theft (7.2% versus 11.7% and 10.9%, respectively).
As in previous years, northeastern households experiences some of the lowest and western households some of the highest rates of crime. The proportions of midwestern and southern households victimized tended to be similar. Some exceptions to this rule included:
The proportions of households in the northeast whose members had experiences a simple or aggravated assault were lower than those of the remaining three regions. While households in the midwest and west had similar rates for simple assault - 3.2 per cent and 3.7 per cent - these percentages were higher than the 2.6 per cent of households in the south that were affected by this crime.
Robberies were more frequently committed against members of households in the northeast than in the midwest. Motor vehicle theft rates did not vary significantly among households in the northeast, midwest, or south. The percentage of western households that was a victim of motor vehicle thefts was higher than those for midwestern and southern households and similar to the proportion of northeastern households victimized by this crime.
This article was based on the Bureau of Justice Statistics report "Crime and the Nation's Households, 1991," NCJ- 136950. Copies of the complete report are available through the Alaska Justice Statistical Analysis Unit of the Justice Center.