Debunking Myths About Violent Crime
While we often think violent crime consists of random acts of
violence perpetrated by a stranger against an innocent victim,
criminologists have debunked many of these myths.
▼ The age of the typical violent crime offender is between 12 and
24, with a peak in violence rates occurring around the age of 18.
▼ The age of the typical violent crime victim is between 12 and
24, with a peak in victimization rates occurring around the
age of 18.
▼ Teenagers are more likely to be robbed than any other age
group. Persons aged 16 to 19 were twice as likely to be robbed
than those 25 to 34 and 10 times more likely to be robbed
than those over 65.
▼ In 1999, 63 percent of homicide victims were under age 35;
12 percent were under age 18.
▼ Males are victimized at rates approximately 40 percent higher
than those of females (with the exception of sexual assault).
▼ Between 1993 and 1998, Native Americans experienced
violence at rates more than two times that of Blacks, 2.5
times that of Whites and 4.5 times that of Asians.
▼ Increases in annual income are associated with decreases in
violent victimization. The income category with the highest
rates of victimization is comprised of those who earn less
than $7,500 a year.
Violent crime rates have declined steadily since the early 1990s when they reached 20-year highs on both the national and
local levels. This decline is promising; however, violence remains an important problem in Arizona. As of 1999, the state of
Arizona ranked sixteenth highest in the United States for violent crime rates with the seventh highest murder rate, fifteenth
highest robbery rate, sixteenth highest aggravated assault rate and twenty-ninth highest forcible rape rate.
Fact Book on Violence
Executive Summary 2002
It is difficult to determine what factors have caused the
changes in rates of violence seen in Arizona and its cities over
the last 25 years. There is a substantial body of literature to
draw upon, but the strength of the large majority of this
research is limited due to weak research designs. The
relationship between factors influencing violent crime and
rates of violence is best described as probabilistic. Rather than
causing rates of violence, these factors influence the
probability that violent acts will occur.
It is likely that there are many different factors that influence
overall rates of violent crime. Consequently, it may be
beneficial to consider the joint influence of a number of
factors rather than attributing change in rates of violence to a
single specific cause. For example, it is likely that the
decreases in violence that occurred during the mid- to late
1990s were due to the confluence of several factors including
the robust economy, the changing age structure of the
population, changes in drug markets, community collective
efficacy, family structure and criminal justice system policy.
Despite this complicated picture, there is an emerging
structure to accumulating evidence on the predictors of
changes in rates of violence. With this emerging structure
comes the promise of more effective violence prevention.
Evidence continues to demonstrate that changes in the char-acteristics
of the community, changes in the criminal justice
system and individual changes all can have an impact on
overall rates of violence. Efforts to change overall rates of
violence should consider carefully each of these different
Prevention programs that result in meaningful change at the
community, criminal justice system and individual levels are
more likely to have a measurable impact on rates of violence
than those that do not. While the causal structure of violence
is indeed complicated, evidence regarding the causes of
violence and the characteristics of effective violence
prevention programs is accumulating. The potential of
violence prevention efforts that translate this evidence into
effective practice present an important opportunity to
improve the quality of life among individuals, families and
communities in the state of Arizona.
Despite recent decreases, violent crime remains a serious
problem in Arizona. Addressing this problem requires a
solution that integrates government, business and community
resources in a comprehensive effort. Any discussion of the
causes of violence immediately demonstrates the complexities
of the problems of violent crime. Nonetheless, the following
key elements can be identified:
In order to reduce violent crime significantly, prevention
programs must identify key processes in each of these
elements and construct a multimodal solution that targets
each of these areas simultaneously. Just as it is important that
a solution be multimodal, it is also important that any
solution be based on methodologically rigorous evaluations.
The scope of a comprehensive violent crime prevention effort
demonstrates the need to integrate the efforts of various
governmental agencies along with those of business leaders
and community organizations. In Phoenix, the Violence
Prevention Initiative (VPI) has attempted to bring
governmental, business and community leaders to the table to
increase community awareness and to develop ideas to
address the violence problem. These efforts are important
because they create a catalyst for meaningful change and
result in the implementation of multimodal violence
prevention programs that are based on sound research.
Influences on Violent Crime Rates
School Criminal Justice
Figure 1 presents trends in violent crime rates (per 100,000 people) over the past 25 years, beginning in 1975 and
continuing through 2000. It is based on Uniform Crime Report data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation
in conjunction with the U.S. Census Bureau. The violent crime index is comprised of murder and non-negligent
manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault. Figure 2 presents the distribution of violent crime across
Crime rate (per 100,000)
1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000
Violent Crime Rates in Arizona
Figure 1: Comparison of Violent Crime Rates: 1975-2000
Figure 2: Distribution of Violent Crimes in Arizona, 2000
For further information contact:
Gaylene Armstrong, Ph.D. or Todd Armstrong, Ph.D.
Administration of Justice Department, Arizona State University West
P.O. Box 37100, Phoenix, AZ 85069
Produced by Arizona State University West College of Human Services’
Partnership for Community Development in collaboration with the Violence Prevention Initiative.
Violence Prevention Resources
A number of government agencies and private organizations provide, via the Internet, information
on effective violence prevention practices. The following are some examples:
National Institute of Justice — http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/nij/
Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention — http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org/
Violence Against Women Office — http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/vawo/
Office of Justice Programs — American Indian and Alaskan Native Affairs Office
Executive Office for Weed and Seed — http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/eows/
U.S. Department of Education — Safe and Drug Free Schools Program -
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Center for Substance Abuse
Prevention (CSAP) Model Programs — http://modelprograms.samhsa.gov/
Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence — http://www.colorado.edu/cspv/
Arizona Prevention Resource Center (APRC) — http://www.azprevention.org
Arizona Criminal Justice Commission (ACJC) — http://www.acjc.state.az.us
Governor's Community Policy Office — http://www.governor.state.az.us/cfpo/cfpo.cfm
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