|In 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.)|
|Dangerous weapons or blunt
objects, excluding knives and firearms, were used during thirty-three
percent (33%) of all aggravated assaults in 1995. (Federal Bureau of
|Research 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
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
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).
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:
|Stand tall and walk with
confidence. Watch where you are going and what is going on around you.|
|Walk along well-lit and
busy streets. Walk with friends. Avoid shortcuts, dark alleys, deserted
streets and wooded areas.|
|Know your neighborhood.
Identify police and fire stations, libraries, schools - as well as the hours
of operation of local stores and restaurants.|
|Don't carry more money than
you will need for the day, but do carry emergency change for a telephone
|When 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.|
|When driving, always park
in well-lit places and lock your doors.|
|Before entering your
vehicle, check for offenders hiding in the back seat or on the floor.|
|If 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
Bureau of Justice Statistics. (1997). Criminal Victimization in the United
States, 1994. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Statistics, US Department
Federal Bureau of
Investigation. (1996). Crime in the United States, 1995. Washington,
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
Check in the Blue Pages of your local phone book under the appropriate section
heading of either "Local Governments," "County Governments,"
or "State Government."
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.