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The Prevalence of Crime

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 1981
This bulletin explores a new way of looking at persons affected by crimes by using a measure of how many Americans -- victims and people living with them -- are touched each year by crime.

The new statistical indicator, households touched by crime, was developed from preliminary estimates obtained from the National Crime Survey (NCS). The crimes on which the indicator is based are those used to derive NCS victimization rates: rape, robbery, assault, personal and household larceny, burglary, and motor vehicle theft. These crimes -- together with murder and arson -- are also the crimes that constitute the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) Crime Index. More than 24 million households -- almost a third of the households in the Nation -- were touched by crime in 1980. A similar proportion of households has been victimized by crime in each of the 6 years, 1975-1980, for which the measure has been calculated. Most households touched by crime experienced it in the form of larceny (theft). In almost all households touched by personal theft, the theft was personal larceny without contact. Relatively more black households than white were victimized by crime during the 6-year period, but the differences were very small. Although the income of households appears to have very little to do with their exposure to violent crime or to burglary, the higher the income, the more likely households are to experience crimes of theft, especially personal theft without contact. Finally, households in standard metropolitan statistical areas (SMSA's) are more likely to be touched by crime than those in small towns and rural areas. The bulletin also discusses the statistical significance of the indicator, households touched by crime for future research and presents some methodological considerations such as the use of the term 'households' and sampling error. Five footnotes, four figures, and one table are included. (Author abstract modified)

Date Published: March 1, 1981