Collaboration in Civic Spheres

Violent crime, murder rates at historic lows in Washington

by Matt Rosenberg January 2nd, 2013

The murder rate in Washington state reached a 45-year low of 2.3 per 100,000 population in 2010, and bumped up a scant tenth of a percent in 2011, according to information retrieved from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting database covering 1960 to 2010, and a recently-issued state-by-state update from the bureau. The last year in which the Evergreen State’s murder rate was lower than 2010 was 1965. The rate of total violent crime has also continued to plunge in the state, dropping to a 37-year low of 313.8 per 100,000 in 2010 and then descending further in 2011 to 294.6, according to FBI data. The trend has held in other states and nationwide, even as federal estimates of firearms owned in the U.S. and yearly background checks for new gun purchases have grown markedly from the 1990s through 2012.

FBI data from the database covering 1960-2010 and new 2011 national data show that the U.S. murder rate hit a 47-year low in 2010, of 4.8 per 100,000, and then declined slightly again in 2011 by a tenth of a percent; while the U.S. violent crime rate hit a 38-year low of 403.6 in 2010 and then declined further to 386.3 per 100,000.

In Oregon, the 2010 violent crime rate of 252 per 100,000 was a 41-year low and the murder rate of 2.4 a 46- year low, according to the FBI database. Each of the rates dropped slightly further from 2010 to 2011. In Idaho, the 2010 violent crime rate of 221 per 100,000 population was a 23-year low and the murder rate of 1.3 a 10-year low. In 2011 the former dropped to 200.9 but the murder rate increased to 2.3. In California, the 2010 violent crime rate of 440.6 was a 42-year-low and the murder rate of 4.9 a 44-year-low. In 2011 the former dropped to 411.1 and the latter to 4.8.


Murder rate per 100K pop. – Source: FBI
WA OR ID CA US
Previous Low/Yr. 2.2 (‘65) 1.8 (‘64) 1.2 (‘00) 4.6 (‘66) 4.6 (‘63)
2010 2.3 2.4 1.3 4.9 4.8
2011 2.4 2.1 2.3 4.8 4.7

As we recently reported, according a November 2012 paper from the Congressional Research Service, while crime and murder rates have continued to plunge, the civilian stock of firearms in the United States has continued to grow robustly – there were 192 million in 1994, 294 million in 2007, and an estimated 310 million in 2009. New 2012 data just released by the FBI shows that from 1999 through 2012 federal background checks for new gun purchases grew 114 percent nationally and 288 percent in Washington state.


Violent crime rate per 100K pop. – Source: FBI
WA OR ID CA US
Previous Low/Yr. 271.5 (‘73) 222 (‘69) 214.2 (‘87) 422.9 (‘68) 363.5 (‘70)
2010 313.8 252 221 440.6 403.6
2011 294.6 247.6 200.9 411.1 386.3

Another measure reported by the FBI is firearms murders as a percentage of all murders. In that category Washington had one of the lowest rates among U.S. states in 2011; with 49 percent of its murders involving firearms, according to a summary of the FBI data published at the Data Blog of The Guardian newspaper in the U.K. This was the sixth lowest percentage out of 48 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Nationally, 68 percent of all murders involved firearms. Per 100,000 residents, FBI data show that 1.25 Washingtonians were murdered with firearms in 2011 versus a national rate of 2.75 per 100,000, the Guardian reported. In Oregon the 2011 data were that 52 percent of murders were committed with firearms for a rate of 1.05 firearms murders per 100,000 population. In Idaho the respective 2011 numbers were 53 percent and 1.14; and in California 68 percent and 3.25.

The rate of U.S. robberies and assaults committed with firearms in 2011 were considerably higher than for murders, at 39.25 and 43.77 per 100,000 residents, respectively.

On the whole, murders represented 1.2 percent of violent crimes in the U.S. in 2011, according to a a violent crime overview in the FBI’s 2011 Uniform Crime Reporting results.


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