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Crime and Justice in the United States and in England and Wales

Crime in the United States and in England 
and Wales, 1981-96: Press release

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M.EDT          BJS
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4, 1998             202/307-0784
         
NEW REPORT COMPARES CRIME RATES IN THE UNITED
STATES WITH RATES IN ENGLAND AND WALES

     WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Robbery, assault,
burglary and motor vehicle theft rates are lower
in the United States than they are in England and
Wales, national crime victim surveys conducted in
these countries reveal.  However, police
statistics show murder and rape rates higher in
the United States than in England and Wales,
according to a new report by the Bureau of Justice
Statistics (BJS) in the United States Department
of Justice.  

     In 1995, the latest year for which comparable
data are available, the English and Welsh crime
survey rates exceeded those in the United States
by 1.4 times for robbery, 2.3 times for assault,
1.7 times for burglary and 2.2 times for motor
vehicle theft.

     In crime victim surveys, the general public
is asked to describe any recent crime
victimization experiences.  The surveys ask about
all crimes, whether or not reported to police.

     Comparing the crime victim survey rates from
1981 through 1995, robbery rose 81 percent in
England and Wales but fell 28 percent in the
United States, assault increased 53 percent in
England and Wales but declined 27 percent in the
United States, burglary doubled in England and
Wales but fell by half in the United States and
motor vehicle theft rose 51 percent in England and
Wales but stayed virtually unchanged in the United
States.

     The latest police statistics (1996) show that
the rates of murder, rape and robbery reported to
law enforcement agencies were all higher in the
United States than in England and Wales, whereas
law enforcement data showed that assault, burglary
and motor vehicle theft rates were all higher in
England and Wales than in America.  During 1996,
English and Welsh police recorded twice as many
burglaries and motor vehicle thefts on a per
capita basis as recorded by law enforcement
agencies in the United States.    
     
     Police statistics for 1996 showed that
compared to England and Wales the murder rate here
was 5.7 times higher and the rape rate was about 3
times higher.  These differences had narrowed
after 1981, when the murder rate here was 8.7
times higher and the rape rate 17 times higher.

     Firearms were involved in crime far more
often in the United States than in England and
Wales:
     --homicides, 68 percent in the United States
and 7 percent in England and Wales.
     --robberies, 41 percent in the United States
and 5 percent in England and Wales.
      
     The report pointed out numerous other
differences.  For example, prison sentences are
longer in the United States than in England and
Wales--3 years longer for murder, 4 years for 
rape, 4 years for robbery, almost 3 years for
assault, more than 2 years for burglary and more
than one year longer for motor vehicle theft.
      
     An offender's risk of being caught and
convicted has been rising in the United States
since 1981 but falling in England and Wales. 
Except for murder, a person who commits a crime in
the United States now is more likely to be caught
and convicted than in England and Wales.
      
     Although the United States has substantially
higher incarceration rates than England and Wales,
the black incarceration rate is about six times
higher than the white incarceration rate in both
countries.  In 1991 (the latest year for which
comparable data were published for both countries)
there were in the United States 396 adult whites
in a local jail or a state or federal prison per
100,000 white adult residents, 2,563 adult blacks
and 643 adults of other races per 100,000 adults
in each group.  In England and Wales during the
same year there were 102 incarcerated adult whites
per 100,000 population, compared to 667
incarcerated adult blacks and 233 incarcerated
adults of other races. 
       
     Since 1973 BJS has been surveying a
representative sample of the United States
population to learn about criminal victimizations. 
England initiated a national survey in 1981. 
Although there are some differences, the types of
crime measured by the two surveys are quite
comparable.  
       
     Many other nations, including France,
Germany, Sweden, Canada, Israel and New Zealand,
are now also using national crime victim surveys
to supplement police crime reports, and the United
Nations also now sponsors an International Crime
Victimization Survey. 
      
     The report, "Crime and Justice in the United
States and in England and Wales, 1981-96" 
(NCJ 169284), was written by BJS statistician
Patrick A. Langan and BJS visiting fellow David P.
Farrington, of the University of Cambridge,
England.  Single copies may be obtained by calling
the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800-732-3277.
        
     Other reports on comparable justice
statistics in different countries are also
available.  The BJS Internet site is:
           http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/
        
     Additional criminal justice materials can be
obtained from the Office of Justice Programs
Internet homepage at:
           http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov
                            
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BJS98193
After hours contact:  Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

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Date Created: May 27, 2009