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bulletIn 1995, there were an estimated 1,099,179 incidents of aggravated assault, accounting for sixty-one percent (61%) of the violent crime in the United States. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996.)

bulletDangerous weapons or blunt objects, excluding knives and firearms, were used during thirty-three percent (33%) of all aggravated assaults in 1995. (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996.)

bulletResearch estimates that fifty-two percent (52%) of assaults are committed by strangers and forty-nine percent (49%) are committed by nonstrangers (numbers do not add up to 100% because of rounding). (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997.)


Aggravated assault is classified by the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program as a violent crime. The FBI defines aggravated assault as "an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault is usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm." Attempted aggravated assaults are treated just as seriously as completed assaults "since it is not necessary that an injury result when a gun, knife, or other weapon is used which could, and probably would, result in serious personal injury if the crime were successfully completed" (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996, p.31).


In examining crime in the United States, the National Crime Prevention Council maintains that assault is the most common violent crime, by a "substantial margin" (National Crime Prevention Council, 1991).

Assault rates have steadily risen over the past several years both nationally and in cities, suburbs and rural areas. By way of example, in Washington, DC, incidents of aggravated assault increased by 63 percent (63%) between 1986 and 1990. Victims in the District of Columbia endured 6,819 incidents of assault in 1990, yet there were only 462 arrests for assaults made during that year (Office of Policy and Program Evaluation, 1991). A nationwide examination of arrests for aggravated assault indicates there were over 437,000 in 1995, representing seven out of every ten violent crime arrests that year (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996).

While no specific racial, gender, age or economic group accounts for all offenders of aggravated assault, reports by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate that a disproportionate number of those arrested were white males. In 1995, eighty-two percent (82%) of those arrested for aggravated assault were male and eighteen percent (18%) were female, while whites constituted sixty percent (60%), blacks accounted for thirty-eight percent (38%) and the remainder of offenders were represented by all other races (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996).

The threat of serious personal injury and possible death is substantial in incidents of aggravated assault. The Bureau of Census estimated that in a period of one year, 93.8 percent (93.8%) of all assaults involved some type of weaponry and 32.8 percent (32.8%) resulted in victim injury (Bureau of Census, 1991).

In 1993, firearms were used in more than twenty-three percent (23%) of all incidents of aggravated assault and twenty-six percent (26%) involved personal weapons such as hands, fists, and feet. Additional weapons utilized were blunt and other dangerous objects (33%) and knives or cutting instruments (18%) (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996).

In examining where and when incidents of aggravated assault are most likely to occur, the 1994 National Crime Victimization Survey found that fourteen percent (14%) of all assaults occur in the home; seven percent (7%) occur at a friend's, relative's or neighbor's home; and three percent (3%) occur in the street near the victim's home (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997). Additionally, this study concluded that fifty-five percent (55%) of assaults occurred during the day (6 A.M. to 6 P.M.).

Unlike other violent crimes, incidents of assault are represented almost evenly by strangers and nonstrangers. The Bureau of Justice Statistics has estimated that fifty-two percent (52%) of assaults were committed by strangers, as compared to forty-nine percent (49%) committed by nonstrangers (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1997).

Prevention Tips

While becoming a victim of crime is never the fault of the victim, the National Crime Prevention Council has established the following list of practices that may help safeguard individuals from becoming victims of assault:

bulletStand tall and walk with confidence. Watch where you are going and what is going on around you.

bulletWalk along well-lit and busy streets. Walk with friends. Avoid shortcuts, dark alleys, deserted streets and wooded areas.

bulletKnow your neighborhood. Identify police and fire stations, libraries, schools - as well as the hours of operation of local stores and restaurants.

bulletDon't carry more money than you will need for the day, but do carry emergency change for a telephone call.

bulletWhen you are out late at night, have a friend accompany you - don't go alone. Also, let someone know where you will be going and when you will return.

bulletNever hitchhike.

bulletWhen driving, always park in well-lit places and lock your doors.

bulletBefore entering your vehicle, check for offenders hiding in the back seat or on the floor.

bulletIf harassed or assaulted, scream and attempt to run to safety.

While these steps may do more to protect victims of assault by strangers, some are applicable to those assaulted by non-strangers. Finally, whether it is a stranger or non-stranger assault, it is important to report the incident to local law enforcement immediately. Crime prevention and awareness, as well as consistent reporting, may be the strongest defenses against becoming the victim of an assault.


Bureau of Census. (1991). Statistical Abstract of the United States: 1991. Washington, DC: US Department of Commerce.

Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1997). Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1994. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department of Justice.

Federal Bureau of Investigation. (1996). Crime in the United States, 1995. Washington, DC: USGPO.

National Crime Prevention Council. (1991). Crime and Crime Prevention Statistics, 1991 Edition. Washington, DC: .

National Crime Prevention Council. The Art of Street Smarts: Knowing How to Protect Yourself and Your Friends Makes Good Sense. Washington, DC: National Crime Prevention Council.

Office of Policy and Program Evaluation. (1991). INDICES: Statistical Index to District of Columbia Services. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services.

For additional information, please contact:

National Crime Prevention Council
1700 K Street, NW, 2nd Floor
Washington, DC 20006-3817
(202) 466 - 6272

Your state Attorney General, county/city prosecutor, or county/city law enforcement:
Check in the Blue Pages of your local phone book under the appropriate section heading of either "Local Governments," "County Governments," or "State Government."

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Copyright 1997 by the National Center for Victims of Crime.  This information may be freely distributed, provided that it is distributed free of charge, in its entirety and includes this copyright notice.


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