Although the Hampton Roads region has consistently had the highest crime rates in the state, incidence of crime has been dropping steadily in recent years.
Why is This Important?
Crime rates convey a sense of an area's safety and security and can affect the attitude of citizens about their community and government, as well as influence business and residential development. When rates are favorable or improving, citizens may feel more secure and may credit public safety organizations for the improvement, think more highly of government, and be more trusting of others. A low crime rate correlates with a secure area, may be attractive to business and residential development, and may lead to associated improvements in an area's tax base.
Citizen, business, and governmental attention to changes in crime rates can spur action to secure the safety and protection of people and property, as well as to direct law enforcement resources and priorities.
How is Hampton Roads Doing?
The vast majority of serious crime is property crime, rather than violent crime or offenses against persons. The Hampton Roads property crime rate in 2012 was 3,035 per 100,000 people, a drop from the previous year (3,289). The violent crime rate continued its steady pattern of decline and was just 301 per 100,000 people in 2012.
While these rates are improving, property and violent crime rates in the Hampton Roads region remain well above state averages (2,162 and 190, respectively) and above the national average for property crime in 2012 (2,859 per 100,000 population).
What Influences Crime?
Generally, crime rates are influenced by economic conditions, employment availability, and individual behavior. In an unfavorable or declining economy, crime typically (though not always) increases. Poor earning power, unemployment, or frustration with the resulting deprivations may lead persons to commit criminal acts.
Trends in the availability of illegal narcotics affect crime, as drug addiction is directly related to increased property crime, while the "drug trade" itself involves many criminal offenses and propagates other criminal behavior.
Trends in the severity of law enforcement for drug violations can also affect longer-term crime rates. In recent years, first-time or non-violent drug offenders have increasingly been routed to drug courts, as treatment for substance abuse is generally proving to be more effective than incarceration. As a result, fewer offenders are being labeled as felons upon release -- with the attendant and often onerous restrictions that places on individuals when they seek jobs, rental housing, education loans, and other factors that help combat recidivism.
Finally, crime rates rise or fall according to the volume of crimes actually reported. This volume may be affected by differences in how police identify or target crimes and their patrol or investigation behaviors, as well as citizen willingness to report crimes.
Data Definitions and Sources
Data on crime totals and rates for Virginia's localities were prepared by the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services Research Center. The Virginia statewide totals and rates represent the summation of locality data.
The Crime Rate is derived from the reporting on seven offenses identified by the FBI as serious crimes by nature and/or by volume: murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. Arson is also a property crime but is not included in the property crime analysis because of insufficient data. Index Crime Rates are counts of these serious offenses known to the police per 100,000 population.
Limitations of the Data
The FBI's Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) is a voluntary program in which participating law enforcement agencies report incidents of seven selected serious crimes. Estimates are used to reach a total where there is less than 100 percent reporting, and estimation methods have changed over time.
Local agencies within a state and in separate states may classify reported crimes differently, causing comparability problems at the community level and state-to-state.
Drug Courts & Treatment Alternatives to Incarceration, DrugFacts.org
Virginia Drug Court Association, 2010 Annual Report to the Virginia General Assembly
Note: The long-term consequences of a felony conviction vary by state (though certain federal-level restrictions concerning employment, federal jury duty, etc. apply to all felons). They typically include loss or restriction of a professional license, ineligibility for public funds such as welfare benefits and student loans, loss of voting rights, ineligibility for jury duty, and deportation for documented immigrants.
See the Data Sources and Updates Calendar for a detailed list of the data resources used for indicator measures on Hampton Roads Performs.