WORCESTER – On Monday, Sept. 25, the FBI released their violent crimes data from the 2016 Uniform Crime Reporting [UCR] Program — a collection of the number of offenses that come to the attention of law enforcement for violent crime and property crime across each town, city, state and region in the United States.
The number of violent crimes in Worcester last year went up slightly to 1,642 in comparison to 2015 [1,627], with an increase in population of more than 200 residents [184,595].
However, the number of reported incidents of rape in that same time period more than doubled. There were 63 incidents of rape in 2016 in Worcester [fifth highest in Massachusetts], compared to 26 incidents in 2015.
The FBI”s UCR Program records one offense for each victim of a rape, attempted rape, or assault with intent to rape, regardless of the victim’s age and sexual relations without the victim’s consent which involves a familial offender is counted as a rape and not an act of incest.
According to the data, in 2016, the city of Worcester witnessed eight murders and nonnegligent manslaughters [third highest in the state], 394 cases of robbery [third in MA] and 1,177 aggravated assaults [second in MA].
Since 1930, the FBI has utilized their UCR program to assess and monitor the trends in crime across the United States. The primary objective of the program, according to the FBI, is to gather reliable information to be used by law enforcement agencies, criminologists, sociologists, legislators, municipal planners, media, and students of criminal justice.
In the UCR’s 2016 Crime in the United States report, FBI Director Chris Wray said, “In law enforcement, we must be accountable to the people we serve. To be accountable, we must be transparent. We are transparent when we share data and the circumstances surrounding crime rates, and incidents involving law enforcement’s use of force.”
“Information that is accurate, accessible, and complete enhances and informs conversations about policing. It helps us learn how and why crimes occur and what we can do to prevent them from happening in the first place. It helps law enforcement to be more proactive, helps communities use resources more strategically, and it improves the safety of our nation’s citizens and law enforcement officers,” Wray continued.
According to the FBI, violent crime is composed of four offenses: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Violent crimes are defined in the UCR Program as those offenses that involve force or threat of force.
Crime in the U.S.
The new FBI data shows more than an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes occurred in the United States in 2016 — an increase of 4.1 percent from 2015.
Additionally, there were an estimated 386.3 violent crimes per 100k U.S. inhabitants in 2016 — an increase of 3.4 percent when compared with the 2015 estimated violent crime rate.
Aggravated assaults accounted for 64.3 percent of violent crimes reported to law enforcement in 2016. Robbery offenses accounted for 26.6 percent of violent crime offenses; rape accounted for 7.7 percent; and murder accounted for 1.4 percent.
Worcester’s Violent Crimes In Perspective
Dr. Alison Cares, Chair & Associate Professor of Sociology & Criminology at Assumption College in Worcester, told ThisWeekinWorcester that she just finished teaching her criminology class about the UCR, including its strengths and weaknesses. Dr. Cares’ students use the data as part of a semester long project looking at crime in different cities over a five-year period.
“The UCR is particularly helpful for looking at patterns of crime over long periods of time. For example, we use patterns of UCR data as a launching point to discuss why crime started going up in the 1960s and entered a period of extended and remarkable decline starting in the early 1990s. That said, the UCR is just one measure of crime and victimization and it only includes crimes reported to the police and the numbers they emphasize with the public…are only those for the most serious violent crimes. This is all important, but not the full picture of crime and victimization, particularly since the less serious crimes [like simple assault] are far more common,” Dr. Cares said in an email on Tuesday, Sept. 26.
Dr. Cares stressed that residents of Worcester be aware of the numbers from the FBI, but also be aware that they are limited in scope.
“I hope the annual UCR numbers present an opportunity for residents to be able to have conversations with law enforcement about how Worcester as community, with partnership across residents, elected officials, law enforcement, courts, probation, schools, faith communities, community programs, and others, can continue to work for residents to feel safe and be able to thrive,” Dr. Cares said.