Homicides, nationwide, continue to decline and now occur at the lowest annual rate since 1963, reports the U.S. Department of Justice.
Using data from 2011, the most recent year available from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) examined homicide trends from 1992 to 2011, with selected findings from 1960.
“The rate of homicides in the United States declined by 49 percent, from 9.3 homicides per 100,000 residents in 1992 to 4.7 in 2011,” reported BJS statisticians Erica L. Smith and Alexia Cooper.
The rate of homicides for males was 3.6 times higher than for females from 1992 to 2011. But according to the BJS report, both sexes experienced similar declines in their overall rates of homicides during the 20-year period. From 1992 to 2011, the murder rate declined by half for both males (50 percent) and females (49 percent).
The homicide rate among blacks declined by 19 percent from 21.2 per 100,000 in 2002 to 17.3 in 2011. “Persons of other races – persons identified as American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander – experienced the greatest decline (down 33 percent), from 2.7 homicides per 100,000 persons in 2002 to 1.8 in 2011,” according to the report.
Even though the homicide rate for blacks declined during this period, it was 6.3 times higher than the rate for whites. During the same period, the report found that the murder rate among whites decreased by 17 percent, down from 3.3 per 100,000 in 2002 to 2.8 in 2011.
“The peak homicide victimization rate for black males was nearly nine times higher than the peak rate for white males,” the report highlights. “The magnitude of the homicide rate for males varied by age and race, although the patterns by age among black and white males were similar.”
In the report, “The homicide victimization rate for both white and black males increased after age 14 and into the early 20s, although with dramatically different trajectories.”
White male murders peaked at age 20 (11.4 homicides per 100,000), while the homicide rate for black males peaked at age 23 (100.3 homicides per 100,000).
Another interesting statistics shown in the report: The highest murder rate for black males was nearly nine times higher than the highest rate for white males. After peaking for victims in their early 20s, the murder rate for both white and black males declined with age. The murder rate for black males 60 years or older was four times more than for white males in the same age group.
Thirty was the median age of murder victims in 2011. One section in the report shows, “Half of all murder victims were age 30 or younger and half were age 30 or older.”
From 2002 to 2011, young adults ages 18 to 24 had the highest homicide rate of any age group. “Young adults also experienced the largest homicide rate decline (down 22 percent), from 15.2 per 100,000 in 2002 to 11.9 in 2011,” according to the report.
One unique statistic reported by Smith and Cooper was “The homicide victimization rate for females was higher during the first year of life.”
During a 10-year period from 2002 to 2011, “Females younger than age one had a higher murder rate than females of any other age group.” In the report, the homicide rate for females younger than age one was four and a half homicides per 100,000 for white females and 10.3 per 100,000 for black females.
The murder rates for black and white females followed similar trends as with male homicide victims across the same age group. According to the report, “The average homicide rate for black females was over three times higher than the rate for white females.”
The report revealed that female homicides for both races increased substantially after the age of 11. The murder rate for white females age 11 or older was greatest for ages 20 to 31, with an average homicide rate of 2.8 per 100,000.
The murder rate for black females age 11 or older was highest for those aged 21 to 26 with an average homicide rate of 11.4 per 100,000. In the report of the two statisticians, the peak rate for black females age 11 or older was four times higher than the peak rate for white females age 11 or older.
The two statisticians reported, “Homicide rates among black and white females declined with age after age 30. Among victims age 60 or older, black females experienced a homicide rate that was approximately two times higher than the rate for white females.”
The murder rates among the elderly provided some interesting statistics. In the report, the rate remained stable among white females age 75 or older, while the homicide rate among black females age 75 or older increased from 2.2 homicides per 100,000 for persons age 75 to 3.6 per 100,000 for those age 83.
Both the FBI and the Centers for Disease and Prevention collected statistics on the percentage of victims killed by a firearm.
The rate of murder involving a firearm declined by half from 1992 to 2011 for both males and females. Over the same period, the percentage of male and female murders committed with a firearm changed very slightly.
In both 1992 and 2011, firearms were reportedly used in 73 percent of all murders of males and in 49 percent of females, with minor fluctuations during the time.
“Handguns were more commonly involved in homicides than other types of firearms,” according to the report. These weapons were used in an average of 57 percent of male homicides and 35 percent of female homicides.
Other types of firearms, such as rifles, shotguns and firearms of unknown types, were used to murder 16 percent of male homicide victims and 13 percent of females from 1992 to 2011.