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Reporting Crime to the Police, 1992-2000

SUNDAY, MARCH 9, 2003 202/307-0784


WASHINGTON, D.C.- About one-half of all violent crimes committed against U.S. residents 12 years old and older during 2000 were reported to law enforcement authorities, the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reported today. During the same year, approximately one-third of all personal and household property crimes were brought to police attention.

BJS estimated there were 6.2 million violent crimes, rapes, sexual assaults, robberies and simple and aggravated assaults, in the U.S. during 2000, as well as about 276,000 personal thefts, purse snatches and picked pockets and 18.9 million property crimes, burglaries, stolen household property and motor vehicle thefts. According to BJS' National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 60 percent of robberies and 58 percent of aggravated assaults were reported to police.

Motor vehicle theft (81 percent) was the crime most likely to be reported to law enforcement authorities, whereas household theft (29 percent) was the least likely.

On average from 1992 through 2000, 57 percent of robberies, 55 percent of aggravated assaults, and 31 percent of rapes and sexual assaults were reported to the police. For some specific crimes, reporting rates varied significantly between 1992 and 2000. Rapes and sexual assaults, simple assaults, and serious violent crimes (that is violent crimes other than simple assaults) were reported to the police in higher percentages during 2000 than during earlier years.

Victims themselves reported about half of the violent crimes that were brought to police attention, whereas other people, including relatives, bystanders and officials, reported about 40 percent. Law enforcement officers were on the scene in about 6 percent of the incidents.

Violent crime was most often reported because the victim wanted to "prevent future violence," "stop the offender" or "protect others," whereas it was most often not reported when the victim felt the crime was a "private or personal matter," or "not important enough."

Violence against females was more likely to be reported than when the victim was a male. Violence against the elderly was more likely to be brought to police attention than that against younger people. Crimes involving an armed offender, an offender perceived to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol or an offender who injured the victim were also more likely to be reported. Ninety percent of the violence in which the victim was shot were reported to police.

Overall, police were more likely to be notified in violent crimes committed by strangers compared to crime committed by non-strangers, although assaults by strangers and non-strangers were about equally likely to be reported.

A robbery was less likely to be reported to the police when the victim believed the offender was a gang member (46 percent) compared to when a victim thought the offender was not a member of a gang (59 percent).

The victim survey asks a representative sample of residents about their personal experience with criminal incidents and whether the matter was brought to the attention of law enforcement agencies.

The special report, "Reporting Crime to the Police, 1992-2000" (NCJ-195710), was written by BJS statisticians Timothy C. Hart and Callie Rennison. Single copies may be obtained by calling the BJS Clearinghouse at 1-800-851-3420. In addition, this document can be accessed at:


For further information about the Bureau of Justice Statistics and other OJP programs, please see the OJP website at: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov

Media calls should be directed to Stu Smith in OJP's Office of Communications at or 202-307-0784. After hours: 301-983-9354.

Date Published: March 9, 2003