There were 2,487 property crimes — larceny, burglary, and motor vehicle theft — reported per 100,000 Americans in 2015, an 11.6% decline from five years prior. The FBI estimates that property crime resulted in $14.3 billion in losses in 2015, down from $15.6 billion in 2011. For several centuries, crime has been more common in large, urban areas than in rural parts of the country. In the Washington-Arlington-Alexandria metro area, 1,929 property crimes were reported per 100,000 residents, less than the national property crime rate.
Property crime is most common in cities with high poverty and unemployment. In the Washington metro area, an estimated 8.3% of residents live in poverty, a smaller share than the 14.7% national poverty rate. Poverty tends to be more prevalent in areas with high unemployment. The unemployment rate in Washington of 4.4% in 2015 was lower than the national unemployment rate of 5.3% that year.
While a city’s police force is an effective top-down approach to stopping property crime, the level of crime in a city often depends on other municipal services and conditions. Areas with good schools and high graduation rates are less likely to have a high incidence of crime. Nationwide, 87.1% of American adults have at least a high school diploma. In Washington 90.2% of adults have graduated high school, a larger share than the national figure.
While criminals have different motivations for committing property crimes and violent crimes — murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault — there tends to be roughly seven times more property crime than violent crime in metropolitan areas across the country. There were an estimated 324 violent crimes in Washington per 100,000 residents in 2015, approximately one-fifth of the number of property crimes reported that year per 100,000.