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Elderly Less Likely to be Victims of Violence, Property Crime

Nonfatal violent crime rates have dropped sharply in the past two decades.

By University Alliance on January 13, 2015
Elderly Victimized at Lower Rates than Younger Age Groups

People age 65 or older are less likely to be the victims of violence and property crime compared with younger age groups, according to new research by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Although they represented about 12% of the U.S. population age 12 or older, the elderly accounted for just 2% of the victims in violent crimes committed between 2003 and 2013, researchers found.

In most cases, the researchers’ findings mirrored the larger trend of decreasing crimes rates for all age groups. For example, between 1994 and 2013, the nonfatal violent crime rate for victims 65 or older declined by 41%, from 7.4 victimizations per 1,000 residents to 4.4 victimizations per 1,000. For purposes of the study, nonfatal violent crimes included robbery, aggravated assault and simple assault, among other offenses.

Even though the rate of nonfatal violent crime against the elderly has increased in the past decade or so – from 3.4 victimizations per 1,000 to 4.4 per 1,000 – those individuals were victimized by such crimes at a much lower rate than their younger counterparts.

Likewise, elderly people were the victims of homicides at a far lower rate than any other age group, according to the study. Elderly homicide rates decreased from 3.7 homicides per 100,000 in 1993 to 2.1 homicides per 100,000 in 2011, a 44% drop.

Roughly 93% of crimes against the elderly between 2003 and 2013 were property crimes, such as burglaries, car thefts and other larcenies. The rate of property crimes against the elderly declined 50% between 2003 and 2013, and 48% between 1994 and 2013.

As with violent crimes, the elderly were victimized by property crimes at a far lower rate than younger people. For example, households headed by people 65 or older experienced property crime at a rate of 72.3 victimizations per 1,000 households during the decade ending in 2013. That’s about one-fourth the rate experienced by households headed by individuals 24 or younger, according to the study.

The study, released in November 2014, collected and analyzed data from the National Crime Victimization Survey, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics noted that members of the baby boom generation will continue to swell the ranks of the nation’s elderly in the coming years. By 2020, nearly 17% of the total U.S. population will be at least 65 years old.

Among the other findings of the study, the elderly experienced theft (51.8 per 1,000 households) at a higher rate than any other property crime.

Between 2003 and 2013, the elderly experienced roughly 1.8 million property crimes per year compared to 136,720 violent crimes. The 13-to-1 ratio of property crimes to violent crimes far outpaces the 3-to-1 ratio experienced by people between the ages of 25 and 49, and the 5-to-1 ratio of those 50 to 64 years old.

Elderly people living in urban environments were more likely than their suburban and rural counterparts to be the victims of violent crimes and property crimes. The urban elderly experienced violent crime at a rate of 5.1 victimizations per 1,000, while suburban elderly were victimized at a rate of 3.2 per 1,000 and rural elderly at 2.8 per 1,000.

Urban elderly were the victims of property crimes at the higher rate of 88.7 per 1,000 households compared to the elderly in suburbia (65.2 per 1,000) and in rural areas (66.6 per 1,000). 

Category: 2015 Headlines