Aggravated Assault Content Updated 02/17/06


The Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program defines aggravated assault as an unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. The Program further specifies that this type of assault is usually accompanied by the use of a weapon or by other means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Attempted aggravated assault that involves the display of—or threat to use—a gun, knife, or other weapon is included in this crime category because serious personal injury would likely result if the assault were completed. When aggravated assault and larceny-theft occur together, the offense falls under the category of robbery.


Year Number of offenses Rate per 100,000 inhabitants
2003 859,030 295.4
2004 854,911 291.1
Percent change -0.5 -1.5

National Volume, Trends, and Rates

For 11 consecutive years, the estimated number of aggravated assaults nationwide has declined. In 2004, occurrences of this offense decreased 0.5 percent compared with the 2003 number, down to 854,911 offenses. Five- and 10-year trend data for aggravated assault showed declines of 6.2 percent and 22.2 percent, respectively.

The 2004 data also showed a decline in the frequency of aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants. The rate, estimated at 291.1 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide, decreased 1.5 percent compared with the 2003 rate, 10.1 percent from that in 2000, and 30.4 percent from the 1995 rate. (See Tables 1 and 1A.)

Among the four types of offenses classified as violent crime (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault), aggravated assault typically has the highest percentage of occurrences. The trend continued in 2004 with this offense accounting for an estimated 62.5 percent of violent crime.

Figure 2.8
Aggravated Assault
Percent Change from 2000
Figure 2.8: Aggravated Assault Percent Change from 2000

Regional Offense Trends and Rates

The UCR Program defines four regions within the United States: the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, and the West. (See Appendix III for a definition of each region.) Across three regions in 2004, both the estimated number and the estimated rate of aggravated assaults declined from the previous year; the South, however, experienced a 1.2-percent increase in the number of offenses and a slight decrease (0.2 percent) in the rate per 100,000 inhabitants. (See Table 4.)

The Northeast

The region with the smallest proportion of the population in the United States (18.6 percent), the Northeast also typically has the fewest aggravated assaults. This trend continued in 2004 as an estimated 14.1 percent of the total number of aggravated assaults took place in the Northeastern states. (See Table 3.) Occurrences of this offense fell 2.0 percent from the previous year’s number, down to an estimated 120,374. The region also had the lowest rate of this offense nationwide: estimated at 220.6 aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants, a 2.3-percent decline from the prior year’s rate. (See Table 4.)

Table 2.22

Aggravated Assault by Month
Percent Distribution, 2000-2004

Month 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
January 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5 7.5
February 7.2 6.7 6.7 6.4 7.0
March 8.3 8.1 8.0 8.3 8.4
April 8.4 8.5 8.4 8.5 8.5
May 9.3 9.0 9.0 9.2 9.4
June 8.9 8.9 9.2 9.1 8.9
July 9.5 9.6 9.6 9.4 9.4
August 9.1 9.0 9.4 9.4 9.0
September 8.6 8.8 9.4 8.7 8.6
October 8.6 8.7 8.4 8.7 8.5
November 7.3 7.7 7.3 7.7 7.4
December 7.2 7.5 7.1 7.2 7.5

The Midwest

With 22.4 percent of the Nation’s population in 2004, the Midwest had approximately 17.9 percent of the aggravated assaults. (See Table 3.) Occurrences of this offense declined 2.1 percent from the previous year’s number, down to an estimated 153,280. The rate, estimated at 233.2 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, declined 2.5 percent. (See Table 4.)

The South

Accounting for an estimated 36.1 percent of the Nation’s population in 2004, the South was the most populous region and had the highest percentage of aggravated assaults: an estimated 43.9 percent. (See Table 3.) From 2003 to 2004, the number of offenses increased 1.2 percent, to an estimated 375,413. In contrast, the frequency of this offense, estimated at 354.3 aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants, decreased 0.2 percent. (See Table 4.)

The West

In 2004, the West was home to 23.0 percent of the U.S. population and experienced an estimated 24.1 percent of the Nation’s aggravated assaults. (See Table 3.) From 2003 to 2004, the estimated number of offenses for this region declined 1.4 percent, down to 205,844. The rate, estimated at 305.4 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, declined 2.8 percent. (See Table 4.)

Table 2.23

Aggravated Assault, Types of Weapons Used
Percent Distribution by Region, 2004

Region Total all
Firearms Knives or
Other weapons
(clubs, blunt
objects, etc.)
(hands, fists,
feet, etc.)
Total 100.0 19.3 18.6 35.6 26.6
Northeast 100.0 14.7 19.8 34.3 31.1
Midwest 100.0 19.7 17.4 33.7 29.2
South 100.0 20.8 19.7 37.7 21.8
West 100.0 18.4 16.7 33.3 31.5
1 Because of rounding, the percentages may not add to 100.0

Community Types

The UCR Program aggregates crime data by three community types: Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), cities outside metropolitan statistical areas, and nonmetropolitan counties. By definition, an MSA has a principal city with at least 50,000 inhabitants. It includes the county that contains the principal city and adjacent counties that share a high degree of economic and social integration with the principal city and county as measured by commuting. Cities outside the MSAs are mostly incorporated areas, and nonmetropolitan counties are composed of unincorporated areas. (For additional information regarding community types, see Appendix III.)

In 2004, most of the Nation’s population (82.9 percent) lived in the MSAs, where the rate of aggravated assaults was an estimated 308.9 per 100,000 inhabitants. Cities outside the MSAs (with 6.8 percent of the U.S. population) had the next-highest rate of this offense (277.0 per 100,000 inhabitants). Nonmetropolitan counties (with 10.4 percent of the population) had 158.1 aggravated assaults per 100,000 inhabitants. (Based on Table 2.)

Population Groups: Trends and Rates

To calculate 2-year trend data for population groups, the UCR Program staff reviewed reports from all agencies that submitted statistics on aggravated assaults for at least 6 common months in 2003 and 2004. (For an explanation of population-group designations and the number of agencies contributing to the UCR Program, see Appendix III; for the methodology used in tabular presentations, see Appendix I.)

From 2003 to 2004, the number of aggravated assaults in four of six city population groups decreased. Cities with populations of 50,000 to 99,999 experienced the smallest decline in this offense, 0.6 percent. The greatest decline was in the Nation’s largest cities, those with populations of 250,000 and over, where the number of offenses decreased 1.7 percent. In two city groups the number of offenses increased: 0.2 percent in cities with populations under 10,000 and 1.3 percent in cities with 25,000 to 49,999 in population. Within metropolitan counties, the number of aggravated assaults decreased 1.5 percent; in nonmetropolitan counties, however, it increased 1.2 percent. (See Table 12.)

Based on reports from agencies submitting 12 months of complete data for 2004, aggravated assault occurred at an estimated rate of 302.5 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants nationwide. In cities collectively, the rate was 343.9. Among the city population groups, the rate ranged from a high of 520.2 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants (cities with populations of 250,000 and over) to a low of 201.8 offenses (cities with populations of 10,000 to 24,999). The rate was 234.9 in metropolitan counties, and 171.2 in nonmetropolitan counties. (See Table 16.)

Offense Analysis

Aggravated Assault by Weapon

The UCR Program collects data about the type of weapons used in aggravated assaults. During 2004, personal weapons (i.e., hands, fists, feet, etc.) were used in 26.6 percent of the offenses; firearms, 19.3 percent; and knives or cutting instruments, 18.6 percent. Weapons in the category of “other” were used in the remaining 35.6 percent of this offense. (Based on Table 19.)

An analysis by weapon type showed that the rate of aggravated assaults per 100,000 persons was 77.8 with personal weapons, 56.5 with firearms, 54.3 with knives or cutting instruments, and 104.1 with weapons in the “other” category. (See Table 19.)


In the UCR Program, an offense can be cleared either by arrest or by exceptional means, i.e., when conditions beyond the control of law enforcement prevent placing formal charges against the offender. (For a further explanation of clearances, see Section III.) In 2004, law enforcement agencies nationwide collectively cleared 55.6 percent of aggravated assaults. Data in Table 26, a breakdown of clearances by region, showed that the percent of offenses cleared was lowest in the Midwest (51.9 percent) and highest in the Northeast (62.9 percent). In the South, agencies cleared 54.2 percent of aggravated assaults; in the West, 57.1 percent. Law enforcement in cities collectively cleared 53.4 percent of their aggravated assaults. In a breakdown by city population group, clearances ranged from a high of 64.1 percent (cities under 10,000 in population) to a low of 48.5 percent (250,000 and over in population). Law enforcement agencies in metropolitan counties cleared 61.5 percent; those in nonmetropolitan counties cleared 64.4 percent of their aggravated assaults. (See Table 25.)

Clearances and Juveniles

In certain circumstances involving juveniles, a law enforcement agency may report that an offense is cleared by arrest even when no physical arrest is made. This type of clearance must meet the following criteria: the offender is under the age of 18 and is cited to appear in juvenile court or before other juvenile authorities. When a clearance involves both adult and juvenile offenders, it is reported as an adult clearance.

In 2004, of the clearances for aggravated assault reported nationwide, 11.8 percent involved only juveniles. A breakdown of this statistic by population group shows that law enforcement in cities collectively reported that 12.0 percent of clearances involved only juveniles. Agencies in cities with populations of 10,000 to 24,999 reported the highest percent of clearances involving only juveniles (14.2 percent), and those agencies in cities having 250,000 and over in population reported the lowest (9.7 percent). In metropolitan counties, 12.1 percent of clearances for aggravated assault involved only juveniles; in nonmetropolitan counties, 9.0 percent involved only juveniles. (See Table 28.)