For decades, the crime rate in the US has trended downward, and the latest data is no different. In 2020, the overall crime rate for the nation was 6.2% lower than in 2019. However, violent crime rose 4.7% in 2020. And while crime is down over time nationally, at the state level, the reality can be different.
Crime in 2020 was 60% lower than in 1980. The crime rate began consistently declining in the early 1990s and fell every year between 2001 and 2020.
Both property and violent crimes reflect this long-term trend of decreasing crime. Property crime is down 63% since 1980, and violent crime is down 33%.
Property crime includes burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson, with larceny making up about 80% of property crimes. Violent crime includes homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assaults, with aggravated assaults making up 66% of violent crimes.
In 2020, the lower overall crime rate was driven by fewer property crimes, which were down 8.1% from 2019. Violent crime, on the other hand, was 4.7% higher over the same time period. This increase was primarily due to more aggravated assaults, but the homicide rate also increased by about 25%.
The Northeast is the region with the lowest crime rates. The property crime rate in the Northeast was 34% lower than in the rest of the country, and the violent crime rate was 26% lower than in other states.
Four of the bottom five states by property crime rate in 2020 were in the Northeast, as well as all five of the lowest states by violent crime rate. New Hampshire and New Jersey were in the bottom five states for both property and violent crime.
States in the South and West had the highest crime rates in 2020. Washington, DC, which is in the South, and New Mexico, which is in the West, were in the top five states for both property and violent crimes.
The Census Bureau defines more specific areas within each region, called districts. The West South Central District – part of the South region and composed of Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas – had the highest crime rates of any district. Both property crime and violent crime were 22% higher in these states than the national average.
Washington, DC had the highest property crime rate in 2020, at 3,493 crimes per 100,000 residents. This was 21% higher than Louisiana, the state with the next-highest property crime rate. Massachusetts had the lowest property crime rate, at 1,053 crimes per 100,000 residents.
Washington, DC also had the highest violent crime rate, at 1,000 crimes per 100,000 residents. This was 19% higher than Alaska, the state with the next-highest violent crime rate. Maine had the lowest violent crime rate, at 109 per 100,000 residents.
Although Washington, DC had higher crime rates than every state, comparing its crime rate to those of other large cities is likely a more fitting comparison. In 2019, seven cities had a higher violent crime rate than Washington, DC and eight had a higher property crime rate. Among large cities, violent crime per 100,000 people ranged from 271 in Honolulu to 1,965 in Detroit. Property crime per 100,000 people ranged from 1,460 in New York City to 6,128 in Memphis.
Since 1991, which marked the beginning of the national decline in crime rates, New Jersey and Florida have had the largest long-term decreases in crime, while North Dakota had the smallest decrease in property crime and the largest increase in violent crime.
Every state’s property crime rate was lower in 2020 than in 1991. The property crime rate declined by more than 75% in Massachusetts, Florida, and New Jersey. North Dakota’s property crime rate had the smallest decrease, at 22%.
From 2019 to 2020, the property crime rate declined in 39 states and Washington, DC. Georgia’s property crime rate declined the most with a 28% decline, while Pennsylvania had the largest increase of 17% in its property crime rate.
Violent crime decreased since 1991 in 39 states and Washington, DC. It declined by more than 60% in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Connecticut. Meanwhile, the violent crime rate more than doubled in North Dakota, Montana, and South Dakota. These three states were all in the bottom six states by violent crime rate in 1991. The increase in Montana and South Dakota’s violent crime rate pushed them into the top 12 states by violent crime rate by 2020. North Dakota’s violent crime rate in 2020 was more than five times higher than in 1991, and its rank by violent crime moved from last in 1991 to 31st in 2020.
Between 2019 and 2020, violent crime increased in 33 states. It increased by more than 20% in Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Georgia. Vermont, Maryland, and Alabama saw decreases in violent crime of more than 10%.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the main government source of data about crime in the US. Since 1929, it has collected crime data from local law enforcement agencies through the Summary Reporting System (SRS). This article uses data from the SRS because the data includes state and national crime estimates that are calculated after accounting for the fact that not all local law enforcement agencies report information to the FBI.
The SRS program was phased out in 2021, in favor of a more detailed system called the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). The latest data available from the SRS is from 2020, while the NIBRS has data through 2021.
In contrast with the SRS, the NIBRS collects data on single incidents, instead of aggregated summaries of crimes. This allows the data to capture more specific information about crimes. However, the NIBRS does not currently provide crime estimates that account for non-response by law enforcement agencies. Due to the number of law enforcement agencies that do not yet report data through the NIBRS, the data is not representative of larger areas, such as states or the country.
|Location||Property Crime Rate (2020)||Violent Crime Rate (2020)|
|District of Columbia||3,493.0||999.8|
For full definitions of each type of property crime, see the FBI Crime in the United States page for each property crime under “Browse by Offense”
For full definitions of each type of violent crime, see the FBI Crime in the United States page for each violent crime under “Browse by Offense”
With a population of at least 500,000 people
Detroit, Memphis, Baltimore, Albuquerque, Milwaukee, Nashville, and Houston
Memphis, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, San Antonio, Houston, Baltimore, and Detroit
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