Violent crime rate
Number of reported violent crime offenses per 100,000 population.
The 2020 County Health Rankings used data from 2014&2016 for this measure.
Reason for Ranking
High levels of violent crime compromise physical safety and psychological well-being. High crime rates can also deter residents from pursuing healthy behaviors, such as exercising outdoors. Additionally, exposure to crime and violence has been shown to increase stress, which may exacerbate hypertension and other stress-related disorders and may contribute to obesity prevalence. Exposure to chronic stress also contributes to the increased prevalence of certain illnesses, such as upper respiratory illness, and asthma in neighborhoods with high levels of violence. Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) data is generally regarded as a valid and reliable index of the types of crime residents view as serious events.
Key Measure Methods
Violent Crime is a Rate
Violent Crime is the number of violent crimes reported per 100,000 population. Rates measure the number of events (i.e., deaths, births, etc.) in a given time period (generally one or more years) divided by the average number of people at risk during that period. Rates help us compare health data across counties with different population sizes.
Crimes are Counted Where they are Committed Rather than Based on the Residence of the Persons Involved
Crimes are counted in the police precinct where they occur, rather than the residence of the victim or the perpetrator.
The Method for Calculating Violent Crime has Changed
In the 2019 & 2020 County Health Rankings, only 2 years of data were used (2014 & 2016), due to non-published data in 2015. Previously 3 years of data were combined to create this measure. Prior to the 2012 Rankings, only about half of the states had reliable data on violent crimes. For the other states, homicide rates were used as a proxy measure.
Some Counties have Suppressed Data
County data are suppressed if, for both years of available data, the population reported by agencies is less than 50% of the population reported in Census or less than 80% of agencies measuring crimes reported data.
Caution Should be Used When Comparing these Estimates Across State Lines
Communities should take into consideration relevant factors in addition to an area’s crime statistics when making any valid comparisons of crime among different locales.
This measure only includes the crimes reported to police that are then reported to the FBI. Thus, UCR data may be contaminated by bias when compared across jurisdictions. Depending on willingness of victims to report crimes, the response of law enforcement, and potential barriers to FBI UCR reporting, crimes could be underreported. However, for serious crimes such as homicide and robbery, studies have found that the data appear to accurately reflect rates.
The numerator is the total number of violent crimes. Violent crimes are defined as offenses that involve face-to-face confrontation between a victim and a perpetrator, including homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. Information for this measure comes from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program.
The denominator is the total county population covered by agencies which reported crimes.
Can This Measure Be Used to Track Progress
This measure can be used to track progress with some caveats. This measure uses 2 or 3 years of combined data, but one year of reliable data is available for larger counties.
Years of Data Used
Uniform Crime Reporting - FBI
The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program was conceived in 1929 by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to meet a need for reliable, uniform crime statistics for the nation. In 1930, the FBI was tasked with collecting, publishing, and archiving those statistics. Today, several annual statistical publications, such as the comprehensive Crime in the United States, are produced from data provided by nearly 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States. The County Health Rankings use data from the County-Level Detailed Arrest and Offense Data report.
In most states, there is data on violent crime offenses reported by jurisdictions. When available, we link to these resources in our Finding More Data section.
 Ellen IG, Mijanovich T, Dillman KN. Neighborhood effects on health: Exploring the links and assessing the evidence. Journal of Urban Affairs. 2001;23:391-408.
 Johnson SL, Solomon BS, Shields WC, McDonald EM, McKenzie LB, Gielen AC. Neighborhood violence and its association with mothers' health: Assessing the relative importance of perceived safety and exposure to violence. J Urban Health. 2009;86:538-550.
 Gove WR, Hughes M, Geerken MR. Are Uniform Crime Reports a Valid Indicator of the Index Crimes? An Affirmative Answer with Minor Qualifications. Criminology. 1985;23(3):451-502.
See how this component fits into our model
When it comes to developing and implementing solutions to problems that affect communities, evidence matters. The strategies below give some ideas of ways communities can harness evidence to make a difference locally. You can learn more about these and other strategies in What Works for Health, which summarizes and rates evidence for policies, programs, and systems changes.