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Crime Lingo #1: What Makes Assault so Aggravating?

If you watch your local news, you’ve probably heard certain terms thrown about without really understanding what they meant. Murder seems easy enough to comprehend. But then there’s assault. Aggravated assault. Manslaughter. And a litany of other crime jargon.

In updating the “Crime” chapter for The World Almanac 2007, I learned just how detailed crime definitions can be. According to the FBI, which maintains the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program for the U.S., assault is defined as “an unlawful attack by one person upon another.” Assaults are considered aggravated when the intent is “severe or aggravated bodily injury.”

Aggravated assaults are further subcategorized by weapons involved—by firearm (e.g., revolvers, automatic pistols, shotguns, zip guns, rifles), by knife or cutting instrument (e.g., knives, razors, hatchets, axes, cleavers, scissors, glass, broken bottles, ice picks), by some other dangerous weapon (e.g., Mace, pepper spray, clubs, bricks, jack handles, tire irons, bottles), or by “hands, fists, feet, etc.” If an incident involves different kinds of weapons, then multiple offenses are reported.

Hit the link below for comprehensive statistics on aggravated assaults from the FBI's most recent Crime in the United States report. But first, a few highlights:

  • Nationwide, an estimated 862,947 aggravated assaults were reported during 2005.
  • An examination of the 10-year trend data for the rate of aggravated assaults revealed that rate in 2005 declined 25.5 percent when compared with the rate for 1996.
  • In 2005, 25.0 percent of aggravated assaults for which law enforcement agencies submitted expanded data involved a physical (hands, fists, feet, etc.) confrontation. Twenty-one percent of aggravated assaults involved offenders with a firearm.

Aggravated Assault (FBI, Crime in the United States 2005)


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