Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Criminal Victimization or Am I in Danger?

We are constantly reminded by newspapers and television news programs about the prevalence of violent crime. And it seems that this fact has not been lost on the producers of television shows. With three CSI shows, Bones, NCIS, Cold Case, Criminal Minds, Justice, Shark, several Law & Order(s), 48 Hours, Forensic Files—and other investigative primetime shows of this ilk commandeering the crime drama slots, it’s no wonder crime and criminals are on our minds.

In fact, you probably imagine violent crime to be more widespread that it actually is. Is this constant exposure having an effect on your thinking? To the point of badgering? Are your fears exaggerating your actual danger?

In 2004, the year in which the most recent comprehensive data are available, the FBI reported a total of 16,140 murders or nonnegligent manslaughters. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, this total actually represents a 2.4% decrease from the 16,530 murders recorded in 2003. Now granted, if your family had to bury someone because of violent crime, that number is most meaningful and I am truly sorry. But in reality, from 1993 to 2005, the violent crime rate was down 58%—from 50 to 21 victimizations per 1,000 persons aged 12 or older. And, hey, our population is reaching 300 million, with about 244,493,430 ages 12 or older.

Now I’m well aware that USA TODAY ran a piece from Washington that said violent crime rose in the first half of the year—that last year violent crime rose 2.2% nationally, and this year is it showing 3.7% when compared to the first six months of 2005. On the wing of this, the Bush administration is asking for $1.2 billion in crime-fighting grants, so there is a heavy political game on-going.

And don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see this trend. It’s just that, as a whole, homicides are not on every street corner. One very important statistic, (yes, I know they are a pain to read and easily manipulated according to its viewpoint,) but, based on the preliminary data, the homicide rate for 2005 is an estimated 5.7 per 100,000 individuals. That means folks, if you lined up 100,000 people, five of them are getting whacked. Odds are, it won’t be you.

Who is getting killed? Well, most murder victims are male (78%). Half are white (49.8%), almost half were black (47.6%) and 2.6% is someone else (not much value here). 77% of the victims knew their offender and firearms were used in the majority (70%). Offenders were most often male (90%) and age 18 or older (92%). Homicide is generally intraracial and most often incited by an argument (44%). We have some angry and sick people, don't argue with them.

Females are victimized by someone they know (18% intimates), and males are more likely to be hurt by a stranger (54%). Now there are many more things to talk about, but suffice it to say, the fear numbers in your head and on bad box screen, are markedly worse than reality.

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