2018: Murders Fall, Assaults and Sex Crimes Nudge Higher


Virginia media gave scant attention to the publication of the 2018 Crime in Virginia report — perhaps because there were no dramatic headlines to be dredged from the statistics. The most encouraging news is that the murder rate declined measurably — from 5.37 murders per 100,000 population in 2017 to 4.59 murders in 2018 — thus continuing a reversal of a five-year upswing earlier in the decade.

The numbers for aggravated assault (assaults resulting in an injury) aren’t as reassuring. The rate per 100,000 nudged up to 120 in 2018 from 119 the previous year. Taking a longer-term perspective: After an encouraging decline in the late 2000s, the rate of aggravated assaults has leveled off, showing no improvement since 2011. In some ways this number is more meaningful than the murder rate — Virginians are about 25 times more likely to be assaulted than murdered.

One other major category of violence crime, forcible sex offenses, has shown little improvement over the past 15 years, as can be seen below.

Aggregating statewide numbers tell us only so much. It would be useful to take a deep dive into the data to see if patterns very by geography. For example, is crime in inner-city jurisdictions (which garners the most attention) doing better or worse than the statewide trends?

Even more valuable would be to examine localities where prosecutors and police have made reforms to the criminal justice system to address the phenomenon of “mass incarceration.” Have reforms reduced jail and prison populations without contributing to an increase in the crime rate? Inquiring minds want to know.

If any reader is willing to undertake that analysis, please contact me at [email protected]

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