Assault is a type of violent crime against a person, its degree classification based on the use of a weapon, the seriousness of the injury sustained, and/or the intent to cause serious injury. Whereas battery is the application of physical force, assault is the attempt or threat to commit battery. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) distinguishes between aggravated assault and nonaggravated assault, the latter of which may include simple assault and intimidation. Aggravated assault refers to the unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. Typically accompanying this type of assault is the use of a weapon or means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Attempted murder is an example of aggravated assault. Non-aggravated simple assault refers to assault that does not involve the use of a dangerous weapon and in which the victim does not suffer apparent serious injury. Intimidation is a form of assault wherein a person threatens the victim without actually using or displaying a weapon.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program tabulates aggravated assaults reported to law enforcement and provides a basis for examination of trends across time as well as across geographic areas, such as cities, states, or metropolitan areas. However, because the UCR program is voluntary and provides data on only aggravated assault, it may not reveal the true extent of assault in the United States. To gauge the incidence of assault, both reported and not reported to law enforcement, one can use the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS). The NCVS is the primary source of data on assault victimization for households in the United States.
During the late 1980s and early 1990s, the assault rate increased, and then declined sharply beginning in 1994 for both simple and aggravated assault. Historically, simple assault occurs at higher rates than aggravated assault. However, of the four types of violent crime classified by the FBI (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), aggravated assault accounts for the greatest percentage. According to UCR data, aggravated assault accounted for 60.7 percent of all violent crime in 2006. Victimization rates of assault by sex, race, and age show that in 2005, males had a higher rate than females (21.5 vs. 14.3); blacks had a slightly higher rate than whites (20.6 vs. 17.2); and young adults ages 20 to 24 had the highest rate of all age-groups (40.3), while older adults (50 to 64 and those 65 and older) had significantly lower rates (9.3 and 1.9, respectively).
- Catalano, Shannan M. 2006. Criminal Victimization, 2005. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics.
- S. Department of Justice. 1992. “Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook.” NIBRS ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- S. Department of Justice. 2004. “Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- S. Department of Justice. 2007. “Crime in the United States 2006.” Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation.
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