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Homicide Trends in the United States

NCJ Number
Date Published
January 1999
4 pages
Publication Series
Topics covered in this examination of homicide trends in the United States include, demographic trends, multiple victims and offenders, infanticide, homicide by intimates, law enforcement officers killed, weapon trends, regional trends, trends by city size, and long-term trends.
Data for the statistical analysis were obtained from the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program, particularly the Supplementary Homicide Reports. Findings revealed that the murder rate in 1997 fell to its lowest level in three decades. Much of the decline was in cities with more than 1 million inhabitants, whereas the murder rate fell from 35.5 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 20.3 per 100,000 population in 1998. The sharp increase in homicides in the late 1980s and much of the subsequent decline were attributed to a rise and fall in gun violence by juveniles and young adults. Despite encouraging improvements since 1993, levels of gun homicide by juveniles and young adults in the early 1990s were well above those of the mid-1980s. The number of intimate victims of homicide declined between 1976 and 1997. Males were most often the victims and the perpetrators in homicide cases. Blacks were seven times more likely than whites to be homicide victims and eight times more likely than whites to commit homicide. The number of infanticides rose over time, while the annual number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty declined. Few homicides involved multiple offenders and even fewer involved multiple victims. Cities with a population of 250,000 to 499,999 had homicide rates equivalent to rates in the largest cities. Long-term trend data showed the murder rate increased from 4.6 per 100,000 population 1950 to 6.8 per 100,000 population in 1997. The authors point out that homicide is of interest not only because of its severity but also because it is a fairly reliable barometer of all violent crime. 5 figures

Date Published: January 1, 1999