The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced Wednesday that both violent crime and property crime rates increased from 2010 to 2011 [report, PDF; press release]. This is the first time the DOJ has reported an increase in crime rates since 1993. Overall violent crime, which the DOJ defines as rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated and simple assault, increased by 17 percent. Property crime, which the DOJ defines as burglary, theft, and motor vehicle theft, increased by 11 percent. The DOJ attributed the increase in violent crime to an increase in reported assaults, emphasizing that rates for the other areas stayed steady or dropped. In the press release, the DOJ explained that overall violent crime is still trending downward:
While the percentage change in violent crime from 2010 to 2011 is relatively large, the actual difference between the rates for those years (3.3 victimizations per 1,000) is below the average annual change in violent crime (4.3 victimizations per 1,000) over the past two decades. The low rates make the percentage change large, but crime still remains at historically low levels. Since 1993, the rate of violent victimization declined 72 percent.The full report was released by the Bureau of Justice Statistics and is based on estimates of data from the National Crime Victimization Survey [official websites].
Overall crime rates in the US have been on the decline in recent years. In June the FBI [official website] announced that the violent crime rate had decreased [JURIST report] for the fifth year in a row. This seeming disparity between agencies is due to a broader definition of violent crime utilized by the FBI that is inclusive of murder and other crimes not included in the DOJ report. Crime rates have descended in other North American nations as well. In July Canada reported the lowest crime rates [JURIST report] since 1972. Last year USA Today issued a report showing a decrease in violent crimes [JURIST report] along the US-Mexico border.