Violent Crime in Massachusetts: a 25-Year Retrospective Annual Policy Brief (1988 – 2012)



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Violent Crime in Massachusetts: A 25-Year Retrospective
Annual Policy Brief (1988 – 2012)








Issued February 2014
Report prepared by:

Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security

Office of Grants and Research

Research and Policy Analysis Division


Author:

Brittany Peters, Research Analyst


HIGHLIGHTS
The volume of violent crime (26,819 offenses) within the Commonwealth in 2012 represents an 18% decrease since 1988. This is the lowest point since the early 1980’s.
During the 25-year period from 1988 to 2012, the rate of violent crime per 100,000 persons in Massachusetts dropped 29% from 570 offenses to 404 offenses.
The statewide volume of violent crime decreased 3% from calendar years 2011 to 2012, with a decline in murder (-33%) and aggravated assault (-4%); the volume of both forcible rapes and robberies remained consistent from one year to the next with a drop of less than 1%.
The rate of violent crime per 100,000 persons in Massachusetts decreased 4% between calendar years 2011 and 2012, with a decline in three of the four major offense categories: murder (-33%), robbery

(-1%), and aggravated assault (-5%). The rate of forcible rape remained stable at 24 rapes per 100,000 persons from 2011 to 2012.


OVERVIEW
The purpose of this Annual Policy Brief is to increase public awareness of the nature and prevalence of violent crime in the Commonwealth by analyzing data over a 25-year period from 1988 to 2012. The state data presented in this report is also examined within the context of national trends during the same timeframe. The four major offense classifications that are used to measure violent crime are murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Aggravated assault includes all assault sub-categories (assault; assault by gun; assault by knife; assault by blunt object; and assault by hands/fist) except simple assault. These classifications are based upon the Massachusetts Department of State Police Crime Reporting Unit’s (CRU) Massachusetts Part I Offense Data Uniform Crime Report Codebook, modeled after the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook.
This 2013 Policy Brief will examine the volume and rates of these violent crime categories utilizing data from 363 law enforcement agencies that voluntarily submitted crime statistics during calendar 2012.1 The 363 agencies are comprised of 297 municipal police departments (representing 85% of the 351 cities and towns within Massachusetts), 36 campus police departments, 22 state police barracks, seven counties patrolled by transit police, and the Environmental Police. Of these reporting agencies, 299, or 82%, utilized the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) and the remaining 64 agencies, or 18%, provided summary data to the CRU via the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.
DATA COLLECTION, METHODOLOGY, AND INTERPRETATION
The data presented in this report comes from three primary sources – local agency and cumulative state violent crime statistics were provided by the CRU; national violent crime data was obtained through the FBI’s website; and population data (both decennial counts and annual estimates, where available) was retrieved from the United States Census Bureau’s website. Figures prior to calendar year 2012 that are presented in this document were drawn from trends reported in previous Annual Policy Briefs. The Appendix provides annual data of violent crime in Massachusetts from 1988 to 2012 by volume and rate.2
The volume of violent crime refers to the raw number or total count of offenses known to police. Rates, on the other hand, are the number of offenses divided by the population of a given jurisdiction. Rates allow for the comparison of the volume of crime within the state and nation over a period of time by controlling for population change. Examinations of crime rates also allow for the comparison of municipalities of varying sizes across a standard unit of measurement. Crime rates at the municipal agency level were calculated by dividing the number of crimes by the population of the particular jurisdiction while crime rates for the Commonwealth were calculated by dividing the number of crimes reported by participating agencies by the total state population.3 All of the crime rates presented in this Annual Policy Brief are calculated per 100,000 persons.
Crime count estimates were generated for 61 agencies that submitted at least three months of data during calendar year 2012 but reported less than 12 full months of data, utilizing the following formula: Number of Crimes/Number of Months Reporting x 12.4 This practice was followed for all classifications of violent crime except murder. This process is limited because it, “…implicitly assumes that the crime rate for non-reporting months is the same as for the reporting months.”5 In addition, 18 agencies (14 municipal departments, three campus departments, and one hospital police department) were excluded from our examination altogether as they reported fewer than three months of data, preventing a reliable estimation of crime counts over time.
HISTORY OF NATIONAL CRIME DATA COLLECTION
The UCR was established in 1930 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) as a means of quantifying national crime data within the context of periodic fluctuations in the volume of crime at the local, state and national levels. The FBI was tasked by the IACP with oversight of the UCR and began collecting crime statistics from a modest number of law enforcement agencies across the country. This process remained constant until 1958, when it was determined that there was sufficient participation by law enforcement agencies throughout the nation to aggregate the data and produce national annual crime estimates. Shortly thereafter, individual states began to collect crime data from law enforcement agencies within their jurisdiction and these numbers were then tallied and forwarded on to the FBI.6
In the 1980’s, the FBI, in conjunction with the Bureau of Justice Statistics, created NIBRS as a supplement to the UCR7 to parse out specific subsets of data related to the offense, victim and offender that are not otherwise captured within the summary datasets.8 In Massachusetts, NIBRS data, much like UCR data, is submitted on a voluntary basis and as such, the method and degree of reporting by individual law enforcement agencies varies greatly. In addition, the FBI has implemented a crime estimation system to account for data that is omitted or submitted after the deadline, which further compromises the validity of official figures.9 The CRU serves as the repository for those Massachusetts law enforcement agencies that submit monthly UCR summary data or NIBRS data and this information is then, in turn, reported to the FBI.
VOLUME OF VIOLENT CRIME IN MASSACHUSETTS
The most recent year of complete available data – 2012 – revealed that the volume of violent crime within the Commonwealth (26,819) had fallen 3% from the previous year and 18% over the course of the 25-year period examined in this Policy Brief. In addition, violent crimes declined 33% from the peak of 40,239 offenses in 1993 and are presently below levels from some four decades ago.10 These trends are displayed in Figure 1 below.
Figure 1.


The changes seen in Massachusetts are not unique. The FBI published preliminary data for 2012 that reveals a similar pattern; the total volume of national violent crime fell 22% from 1,566,220 to 1,218,007 over the 25-year period and declined 37% from the peak of 1,932,270 offenses in 1992. One-year violent crime counts from 2011 to 2012, however, increased a modest 1%.11 This information is presented in Figure 2 on the following page.
Figure 2.


Of the 26,819 violent offenses committed in Massachusetts during 2012, the overwhelming majority were aggravated assaults (18,424), followed by robberies (6,669), forcible rapes (1,603), and murders (123). These values are displayed as percentages in Figure 3 on the following page and closely resemble the proportion of offenses to the overall number of violent crimes in the nation in 2011.12 Moreover, while the numbers and percentages of each of the four offense categories have changed from one year to the next, the ranking has remained consistent over time; aggravated assaults are the most frequently occurring violent crime, followed distantly by robberies, then forcible rapes, and murders.

Figure 3.


In the one year period from 2011 to 2012, the volume of violent crime in Massachusetts decreased 3%, with a drop in two of the four crime categories; the number of murders fell by 33% and the number of aggravated assaults declined 4%.13
Figure 4.



RATE OF VIOLENT CRIME IN MASSACHUSETTS
Over the 25-year period examined in this Policy Brief, the rate of violent crime in Massachusetts dropped 29% from 570 offenses per 100,000 persons to 404 offenses. By comparison, during this same period of time, the national rate of violent crime fell 39%.14 Data released by the FBI for calendar year 2011 ranks the violent crime rate for Massachusetts (428)15 as thirty-sixth among the nation in ascending order, but as the highest among all New England States.16 The most currently available data reveals that the rate of violent crime in Massachusetts decreased 4% between calendar years 2011 and 2012, with a decline in three of the four major offense categories (murder, robbery and aggravated assault), and no change in the rate of forcible rape. Preliminary figures suggest that the national violent crime rate remained stable from 2011 to 2012. As noted in the Data Collection, Methodology, and Interpretation Section of this Report (see page 2), crime rates provide a more accurate picture of the changes in crime patterns within the state and the nation over time, as the statewide population grew 16% from 1988 to 2012 and the national population increased 28% during those same years.17
Figure 5.


In addition to illustrating the overall decline in Massachusetts violent crime rates, Figure 6 displays the changes in the rates for each of the four major violent crime offense categories. Between 1988 and 2012, the murder rate declined 33%, the rate of forcible rape dropped 17%, the robbery rate fell 39%, and the rate of aggravated assault fell 26%. From 2011 to 2012, the rates for those same offense categories decreased 33%, 0%, 1%, and 5%, respectively. While there does not appear to be any correlation between changes in the murder rate and the overall violent crime rate, rate changes for the other three offense categories are directly related.18 Rate changes for both forcible rape and robbery reveal a positive linear relationship and aggravated assault rate changes demonstrate a strong positive linear relationship with overall fluctuations in the violent crime rate examined during the twenty-five year period.19 Thus, annual changes in the rate of aggravated assault, forcible rape, or robbery will directly impact the overall rate of violent crime in the Commonwealth.
Figure 6.


LOCATION OF VIOLENT CRIME
The ten Massachusetts communities with the highest volume of violent crime in 2012 (in declining order) are: Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Brockton, New Bedford, Fall River, Lawrence, Lynn, Chelsea, and Lowell. The majority of these communities are the most populous cities within the Commonwealth and also have poverty levels that exceed both the state and national averages (10.7% and 14.3%, respectively).20 An overview of the population ranking for each municipality is presented in Table 1 on page 8 of this Brief, along with the volume of violent crime. In addition, Map 1 on the subsequent page provides a visual display of these ten communities and thus, an illustration of the concentration of violent crime, by volume, throughout the Commonwealth.


Table 1: Top Ten Communities in Massachusetts by Volume of Violent Crime

City

2012 Violent Crime Count

2010 Population

Population Ranking

(out of 297 reporting municipalities)



Boston

5,266

617,594

1

Worcester

1,751

181,045

2

Springfield

1,604

153,060

3

Brockton

1,088

93,810

7

New Bedford

1,030

95,072

6

Fall River

954

88,857

10

Lawrence

785

76,377

12

Lynn

754

90,329

9

Chelsea

667

35,177

43

Lowell

585

106,519

4


Map 1.


When the rates of violent crime are further explored, taking into account the population of the community, it becomes evident that an analysis based solely upon the volume of crime, as conducted in Table 1, is insufficient to fully understand the extent of the problem. Consider, for example, that the cities of Lynn and Lowell are listed in Table 1 but no longer appear in Table 2, whereas two new communities – Holyoke and Provincetown – now appear in the analysis.21 In addition, the city of Chelsea appears in both lists, but jumped considerably from the ninth community with the highest violent crime count (Table 1) to the community with the highest violent crime rate (Table 2) in the state. Map 2, therefore, provides another depiction of the distribution of violent crime, by rate, for these ten communities that are located across the state.


Table 2: Top Ten Communities in Massachusetts by Rate of Violent Crime

City

2012 Violent Crime Rate

2010 Population

Population Ranking (out of 297 reporting municipalities)

Chelsea

1,896

35,177

43

Brockton

1,160

93,810

7

New Bedford

1,083

95,072

6

Fall River

1,074

88,857

10

Springfield

1,048

153,060

3

Lawrence

1,028

76,377

12

Worcester

967

181,045

2

Holyoke

953

39,880

36

Provincetown22

918

2,942

271

Boston

853

617,594

1


Map 2.

Where the two preceding maps displayed information for only the ten most violent communities, by volume and rate, respectively, Map 3 illustrates the distribution of the volume of all reported violent crime in the Commonwealth during 2012.


Map 3.



CONCLUSION
Violent crime in the Commonwealth, as measured by the cumulative number of murders, forcible rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults, has followed a pattern consistent with the national figures; most notably, violent crime declined over the one-year period from 2011 to 2012, reflecting an overall downward trend during the past quarter century. This reduction is reflected in the volume, or raw counts of crimes, as well as the rates of crime, which accounts for population adjustments over time.


This document was prepared by the Research and Policy Analysis Division of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security (EOPSS).  This project was supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs federal grant number 2011-DJ-BX-2235 as awarded by EOPSS.
The opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the state or the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance.




SOURCES
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 2011. Data Accessed June 12, 2013.

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/violent-crime/violent-crime and http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-1 and http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-5
Federal Bureau of Investigation, Crime in the United States, 2012. Data Accessed June 12, 2013.

http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2012/preliminary-annual-uniform-crime-report-january-december-2012
Maltz, Michael D., Bridging Gaps in Police Crime Data. Bureau of Justice Statistics, A Discussion Paper from the BJS Fellow Program, September 1999, 1 – 41.
Massachusetts Department of State Police, Crime Reporting Unit. NIBRS and UCR Summary Data, 2012. Data received June 12, 2013.
Town of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Data accessed October 25, 2013. http://www.provincetown-ma.gov/index.aspx?NID=6
U.S. Census Bureau, State & County QuickFacts. Massachusetts. Data Accessed June 12, 2013 and June 20, 2013. http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/25000.html and http://factfinder2.census.gov/bkmk/table/1.0/en/ACS/11_5YR/S1701/0600000US2500155500




Please visit the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security’s website (http://www.mass.gov/eopss) research for additional research publications, including the companion report to this Policy Brief, entitled

Property Crime in the Commonwealth.


APPENDIX A

APPENDIX: Massachusetts Violent Crime Data, 1988 – 2012

Volume Rate (per 100,000 persons)




Year

Census Population

Violent Crime

Murder

Forcible Rape

Robbery

Aggravated Assault

Violent Crime

Murder

Forcible Rape

Robbery

Aggravated Assault

1988

5,737,037

32,674

184

1,687

9,424

21,376

570

3

29

164

373

1989

5,737,037

34,062

182

1,560

10,750

21,561

594

3

27

187

376

1990

6,016,425

34,132

212

1,500

10,502

21,914

567

4

25

175

364

1991

6,016,425

33,440

213

1,444

9,172

22,606

556

4

24

152

376

1992

6,016,425

38,692

171

1,794

9,443

27,284

643

3

30

157

453

1993

6,016,425

40,239

209

1,705

9,090

29,232

669

3

28

151

486

1994

6,016,425

37,394

199

1,621

9,326

26,247

622

3

27

155

436

1995

6,016,425

37,594

207

1,625

8,321

27,441

625

3

27

138

456

1996

6,016,425

38,449

161

1,753

7,541

28,994

639

3

29

125

482

1997

6,016,425

38,974

126

1,689

6,450

30,706

648

2

28

107

510

1998

6,016,425

37,355

113

1,640

5,883

29,714

621

2

27

98

494

1999

6,016,425

32,038

119

1,559

5,606

24,755

533

2

26

93

411

2000

6,349,097

32,642

122

1,675

5,738

25,106

514

2

26

90

395

2001

6,395,585

30,785

167

1,780

6,178

22,657

481

3

28

97

354

2002

6,412,549

31,543

171

1,814

7,116

22,440

492

3

28

111

350

2003

6,420,289

30,783

136

1,778

7,692

21,177

479

2

28

120

330

2004

6,416,553

29,838

166

1,731

7,126

20,815

465

3

27

111

324

2005

6,398,743

31,145

175

1,676

7,492

21,802

487

3

26

117

341

2006

6,437,193

30,998

185

1,671

7,705

21,437

482

3

26

120

333

2007

6,449,755

28,992

184

1,583

6,755

20,470

450

3

25

105

317

2008

6,497,967

29,204

162

1,665

6,785

20,592

449

2

26

104

317

2009

6,593,587

29,522

172

1,657

7,167

20,526

448

3

25

109

311

2010

6,547,629

30,696

204

1,784

6,881

21,827

469

3

27

105

333

2011

6,587,536

27,748

183

1,605

6,674

19,286

421

3

24

101

293

2012

6,646,144

26,819

123

1,603

6,669

18,424

404

2

24

100

277



1 This figure represents an increase of one agency over the 362 law enforcement agencies that reported crime data during calendar year 2011.

2 State and municipal crime data was provided by Daniel Bibel, Director of the CRU, and the maps presented in this Policy Brief were created by Robert Kearney, Program Coordinator within the Office of Grants and Research. Please note that the Massachusetts data was obtained from the CRU in June 2013 and as such, figures may have changed since that time and the FBI may report varying figures for the same time period due to their estimation and reporting methodologies.

3 Increased or full participation in crime reporting by municipal police departments would impact the overall violent crime rate in the Commonwealth, as the total state population figure would remain static even as the volume of reported crimes continued to rise.

4 When estimating crime counts for agencies that did not report 12 full months of data, rounding became necessary to arrive at whole numbers. As such, decimals that were ≥ 5 were rounded up to the nearest whole number and decimals that were ≤ 4 were rounded down to the nearest whole number.

5 Maltz, Bridging Gaps in Police Crime Data, 11.

6 Ibid, 4.

7 Ibid, IV.

8 Ibid, 12.

9 Ibid, 1.

10 The lowest level of violent crime in Massachusetts to date since 1980 occurred in 1984 (27,595 offenses).

11 The 2012 national violent crime count has not yet been published by the FBI nor has the breakdown of offenses by category, but preliminary data indicates a 1.2% increase over the 2011 figure. The 2012 violent crime figure presented in this Brief – 1,218,007 – was therefore calculated by increasing the 2011 figure by 1.2%.

12 The volume of violent crime in the nation in 2011, the most recent year of data available, was 1,203,564. Aggravated assaults = 751,131 (62.4%); robberies = 354,396 (29.4%); forcible rapes = 83,425 (6.9%); and murders = 14,612 (1.2%).

13 The number of forcible rapes and the number of robberies both decreased slightly from 2011 to 2012, but not enough to impact the percentage change from one year to the next.

14 The rate of violent crime in the nation in 1988 was 637 offenses per 100,000 persons; that number fell to 388 offenses per 100,000 persons in 2012, based on preliminary figures.

15 The 2011 figure published by the FBI differs from the violent crime rate provided by the CRU (421) and presented in the Appendix of this Brief, likely due to late submissions by departments to the CRU and/or variations in the estimation methodology utilized by the FBI and the author.

16 ME = 123; VT = 135; NH = 188; RI = 248; and CT = 273.

17 The national population figures climbed during those same years from 245,807,000 to 313,914,040 persons.

18 Murder r = .32.

19 Aggravated assault r = .94; forcible rape r = .60; and robbery r = .57.

20 Percentage of Persons below the Poverty Level (2007 – 2011), as reported on the Census Bureau’s website: Boston = 21.4%; Worcester = 19.0%; Springfield = 27.0%; Brockton = 15.6%; New Bedford = 21.7%; Fall River = 21.4%; Lawrence = 28.6%; Lynn = 19.2%; Chelsea = 23.3%; and Lowell = 17.6%.

21 Percentage of Persons below the Poverty Level (2007 – 2011), as reported on the Census Bureau’s website: Holyoke = 31.3%; and Provincetown = 21.1%.

22 The population of Provincetown swells to 60,000 persons during the summer months due to an influx of tourists.



2013 Violent Crime Policy Brief


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