The Age Distributions of Homicide Offenders and Victims: What Do We Know About Their Accuracy and Relationships to One Other?

Robert M. O'Brien, University of Oregon

ABSTRACT
Data on age distribution of homicide victims in the United States are available from two different sources since 1961: Uniform Crime Reports and Vital Statistics. One source is based on "crimes known to the police" and the other on death certificates. We examine how closely these two series correspond and shifts in their degree of correspondence over time. More recently (beginning in 1991), Crime in the United States has broken down the age of offenders and the age of victims for the total population and for race and sex groups. It has also supplied arrest statistics broken down by age for males and females. We compare these distributions. We attempt to evaluate how representative the age distribution of those arrested for homicide is of those who commit this crime. We do not produce a definitive evaluation but we address the problems of incomplete arrest reporting by agencies, incomplete information on the ages of those who commit crimes known to the police, the absence of UCR imputation for data used to calculate the age distribution of homicide arrests, and similarities and differences in the distributions of those committing, and those who are the victims of, homicide.

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Updated 05/20/2006