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Homicide Trends in the United States

HOMICIDE TRENDS IN THE UNITED STATES

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

ADVANCE FOR RELEASE AT 4:30 P.M. EST          BJS
SATURDAY, JANUARY 2, 1999            202/307-0784
 
     
NATION'S LARGEST CITIES LEAD THE WAY
AS HOMICIDES FALL TO LOWEST RATE 
IN THREE DECADES

     WASHINGTON, D.C.   The nation's murder rate
last year fell to its lowest level in three 
decades, the Justice Department's Bureau of
Justice Statistics announced today.  Much of the
decline was in the nation's largest cities, those
with more than 1 million inhabitants, where the
rate fell from 35.5 per 100,000 population in 1991
to 20.3 per 100,000 during 1997.  The sharp
increase in homicides in the late 1980s and much
of the subsequent decline is attributable to a
rise and fall in gun violence by juveniles and
young adults.

     Murder rates for those 25 years old and older
have declined steadily during the last 20 years,
but the rates for younger groups--teenagers and
young adults--rose sharply in the late 1980s and
early 1990s before falling more recently.

     Homicide is of interest not only because of
its severity, but also because it is a fairly  
reliable barometer for all violent crime.  At the
national level no other crime is measured as
accurately.

     The 1997 murder rates, especially those
involving guns, were higher in the South and on 
the West Coast and lower than the national average
in New England, the Rocky Mountain States and in
the East North Central regions of the United
States.

     Among the report's other findings:

     --There were dramatic increases in both
homicide victimization and offending rates among 
young black males in the late 1980s and 1990s
before recent declines in both categories.

     --From 1976 through 1997, 85 percent of white
murder victims were killed by whites and 94
percent of black victims were killed by blacks.

     --During the same period,  blacks were seven
times more likely than whites to be homicide
victims and eight times more likely than whites to
commit homicides.

     --Also from 1976 through 1997, the number of
husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends 
killed in each race and gender group fell: among
black female victims by 46 percent, black males by
77 percent, white males by 55 percent and white
females by 14 percent.  

     --The number of infanticides (victims under
age five) has grown, roughly in proportion to the
number of young children in the population, with
most of the perpetrators being their parents.

     --In homicides in which the victim was killed
by an acquaintance, 1 in 10 was interracial,
whereas when the killer was a stranger, three in
10 were interracial.

     --The annual number of law enforcement
officers killed in the line of duty declined. 

     --Males are most often the victims and the
perpetrators in homicides: males were more 
than nine times more likely than women to commit
murder, and male and female offenders are more
likely to target male than female victims.

     The data are contained in a BJS Internet
report on homicide trends.  It also cites homicide
rate changes among specific racial and age groups
that do not always follow the general trends.

     The report, "Homicide Trends in the United
States," is an analysis of data the Federal Bureau
of Investigation gathers through its Uniform Crime
Reporting series.  It was prepared by James Alan
Fox, a BJS Visiting Fellow and Professor of
Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, and
BJS statistician Marianne W. Zawitz.  It is
available on the Internet at BJS's website:

           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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After hours contact:  Stu Smith at 301/983-9354

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Date Created: May 27, 2009