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Risk of Violence Highest for 18- to 24-Year-Olds, Says Urban Institute Study of D.C. Crime

Document date: March 08, 2001
Released online: March 08, 2001
CONTACT: Renu Shukla, (202) 261-5278, [email protected]

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 8, 2001—In spite of the recent drop in violent crime in the District of Columbia, some people still face a higher risk of violence than others, according to a new Urban Institute study released today. Most violent crimes—65 percent—were committed by and against adults 25 and older, and adults ages 25 through 34 were most often victims of violent crime in 1999. But as a share of the population, young adults ages 18 to 24 faced a higher risk of violent crime arrest or victimization than any other age group.

The study, the most recent snapshot of violent crime in the District, focuses on homicide, sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault. Violent crime patterns vary by a host of factors, including age and gender of victim and place, time, and type of crime. "The findings show that intervention efforts need to be age-appropriate, place-based, and time-specific," says study co-author Caterina Gouvis.

"Violence in the District of Columbia: Patterns from 1999," by Urban Institute researchers Gouvis, Calvin Johnson, Christine Depies DeStefano, Amy Solomon, and Michelle Waul, is based on 1999 violent crime data from the Metropolitan Police Department. The data include more categories of crime than data reported by the Metropolitan Police Department to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The study was commissioned by the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, a group of local and federal justice agency leaders that seeks to reduce crime and violence through systemic improvements.

Key Findings

Violent Crime Overall. There were 14,871 violent incidents and 16,393 victims of violence in 1999. This included 241 homicide victims, 507 sexual assault victims, 3, 880 robbery victims, 4,799 aggravated assault victims, and 6,945 simple assault victims. For every 1,000 residents, there were 32 victims-the majority of whom were victims of simple or aggravated assault.

Age of Victim. Adults age 25 to 34 experienced the greatest number of victimizations, and made up 31 percent of all victims of violence. But adults age 18 to 24 were more than twice as likely to be victims of homicide than those ages 25 to 34, and two and one-half times as likely as youth age 12 to 17.

Race of Victim. The majority of violent crime victims (79 percent) were African American, though only 60 percent of the District population are African American. Over 92 percent of all homicide victims were African American. African Americans were more than twice as likely to be a victim of violent crime than all other racial or ethnic groups combined.

Gender of Victim. Men and women were equally likely to be a victim of violent crime, but men were the majority of homicide victims (86 percent) and women were the majority of sexual assault victims (92 percent). Of all reported violent crimes, women were more likely to experience a simple assault, and men were more likely to experience an aggravated assault.

Location of Crime. Violence is not evenly distributed across the city, nor does it generally occur in clusters. But when violent crime does occur in clusters, it tends to span multiple police service area (PSA) boundaries. Seven of 83 PSAs accounted for a disproportionate share of violent crimes, and 6 of those are located south and east of the Anacostia River.

Time of Crime. Violent crime occurs throughout the day, depending on the age of the victim and the type of crime. Youth under age 17 faced the highest-risk of violent crime victimization between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. during the school year, but in the summer months high-risk times were in the evenings. While adults over age 35 faced the highest risk in the early morning, older teens and young adults faced the highest risk in the late evenings on weekends.

Perpetrators of Violent Crime. Adults between the ages of 25 and 34 experienced the greatest number of arrests compared to other age groups (32 percent), while adults between the ages of 18 and 24 were the most likely to be arrested for violent crime. The majority of people arrested for violent crime were African American. Men were nearly four times more likely than women to be arrested for a violent crime, and arrest rates for homicide and robbery were roughly 20 times greater for men than for women.

Perpetrator-Victim Relationship. Most violent crimes are between people in the same age range, except for juveniles under age 18. Juveniles were just as likely to assault an older person as another juvenile. Juvenile victims were most likely to be assaulted by person age 18 to 24. While most violent crime occurs between people of the same race, men were more likely to be arrested for a violent crime against a woman. Women, however, were equally likely to be arrested for a violent crime against a man or a woman.

Next Steps

The Metropolitan Police Department plans to put the study to immediate use. "We will be analyzing all of the study's findings in great detail, to ensure that our policing strategies are effectively targeting our most serious violence problems," stated Chief Charles Ramsey. "For example, the study confirms that youth crime prevention efforts must continue to include young adults in their early 20s."

Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Margret Kellems added, "We now know which age groups are most vulnerable to violence in the District. We have to break that cycle with a combination of law enforcement, jobs, training, social services, and other supports in our neighborhoods and communities."

For a copy of this report, please call the Urban Institute at (202) 261-5709 or visit www.urban.org. The Urban Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan policy research and education organization that examines the social, economic, and governance challenges facing the nation.

Topics/Tags: | Crime/Justice | Washington D.C. Region

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