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Missoula Measures - Violent Crime


Why this topic?

The crime rate is a leading concern when people think about quality of life in a community. Can we leave our doors unlocked? Are the children safe walking to school? Public perception of crime rates is not always accurate. Crime makes compelling news stories, which can build community fear that is simply not justified by actual data.

Violent crime includes homicide (willful, non-negligent killing), rape (forcibly, and of a female only, including both sexual assaults and attempts by force), aggravated assault (attack with intent to inflict severe bodily injury), and any robbery involving force or threat of force. Many social and personal factors tie into any violent crime, most notably abuse of alcohol and other drugs.

Another way of looking at this topic is that being safe, within and outside one's home, is a basic need: those who aren't safe, from infants to older adults, often experience significant short and long term problems and challenges compared to those who are.

How are we doing?

The number of violent crimes in Missoula County has increased over the past few years. In 1998, our violent crime rate (265/100,000 people) was worse than the state as a whole (224/100,000) and second highest of the larger Montana counties (Crime In Montana, 1998). Still our numbers are less than half of the national rate of 566/100,000. It is worth remembering, however, that many rapes go unreported.

Anytime we use crime statistics as indicators, we are measuring both the number of crimes reported and the emphasis local law enforcement places on that particular type of crime. Many social and environmental factors influence the type and volume of crimes reported, including the community’s density, size, and demographics, the strength of law enforcement agencies, and public and judicial attitudes toward laws and their enforcement. Comparison with state rates depend on the quality of reporting which still varies from community to community.

violent crime rates, US, Montana, Missoula; 2001 & 2005

* Crime rates are based on populations as estimated by each reporting jurisdiction. If a jurisdiction does not report its crimes in a given year, the local population is omitted from that year’s comprehensive statistics.

Source: Calculated by MCCHD Health Promotion Division from data supplied by the MT Board of Crime Control.

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Healthy People 2020 Targets

  • Rape rate - 0.7 per 1,000
  • Assault rate - 14.7 per 1,000 (over age 12)

Related Data

Rape and Aggravated Assaults

* Crime rates are based on populations as estimated by each reporting jurisdiction.  If a jurisdiction does not report its crimes in a given year, the local population is omitted from that year’s comprehensive statistics.

The number of random assaults by younger offenders, age 16 - 23, is increasing. All seem to be related to alcohol and drug abuse.

Comparison of Violent Crime by Jurisdiction

More Data on Violent Crimes - a comparison of violent crimes by jurisdiction.

Brief Background

The overall crime rate counts burglary, larceny, and car theft along with the violent crimes (homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault). These crimes are used because of their serious nature, the frequency of occurrence, and the reliability of reporting. In 1998, Missoula County’s overall crime rate was 5,621 per 100,000 people, compared to 4,799 in the state (Crime in Montana) and 4,616 nationally (MT Board of Crime Control). Our rate is lower than either Cascade or Yellowstone counties. What also needs stating is that larceny, defined by Montana law as the unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of the property of another, accounts for 80 percent of Montana’s index (“serious”) crimes in 1998 (79 percent in 1997) (Crime in Montana).

While most analysis is based on the above seven crimes (“index crimes”), the majority of criminal activity affecting Missoula area residents are more likely to be offenses such as vandalism, traffic concerns, etc.  Missoula Police Dept


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For the last five years, our homicide rate has been 5/100,000. Nationally, 42% of murders take place during arguments, and 78% of murder victims are killed by someone they know. (FBI, Crime in the United States 1993)

graph homicides in missoula county

Source: Board of Crime Control


According the the Montana Board of Crime Control, in Montana in 2001, 12% of crime involved a firearm: 57% of homicides , <1% of rapes, 22% of robberies, and 12% of aggravated assaults were committed with a firearm.

A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than it is to be used in self-defense.  Guns are five times more deadly than knives. A person does not need to be intent on homicide or even particularly angry to kill with a gun. Firearm Facts, Children’s Safety Network

In Montana, between 2000-2008, there were 530 unintentional injury deaths.  1% were caused by a firearm.  That equates to a rate of 5 unintentional firearm deaths per 100,000 population.  Montana Injury Prevention Plan, 2011



Missoula County Victim Assistance Program

Montana Law provides for the fair and proper treatment of victims in the criminal justice system. Victims of crime have basic rights that are protected by law. This program is funded by grants from the Montana Board of Crime Control, the OJP Stop Violence Against Women Office, and local government.

The program provides free and confidential services to survivors of violent crime, including information, opportunities, advocacy, and support, especially in the civil criminal justice system processes.  Missoula Crime Victims Advocate Office

The graphs below show assistance for the majority of victimizations.

graph primary victims assistance provided


graph secondary victims assisted 

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Crime Victims’ Advocates are available in the City and County Attorneys’ Offices and the Rural Outreach (SSTEP) Office in Seeley Lake to advocate on behalf of victims with all facets of the criminal justice system. Advocates build relationships with victims by providing support and information, safety planning, crisis counseling, notification of victims’ rights, accompaniment to court proceedings, and helping with the process of filing for orders of protection. Advocates explain criminal justice procedures, accompany victims to make police reports and have pictures taken, and to witness statements.

There is also a community education effort to provide information to bystanders or witnesses of domestic violence about what is helpful to victims, how to intervene with perpetrators, how to keep victims safe, and how to hold offenders accountable has begun recently.

The program also does outreach to "under-served" communities to educate about domestic violence, to do community organizing against violence, and to improve access to the criminal justice system. To date, many brochures and handouts about domestic violence and child abuse have been translated into Hmong and Russian by staff of the Refugee Assistance Center.


Related Websites

National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) is one of the most extensive sources for information on criminal and juvenile justice.

Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence - University of Colorado at Boulder

Violence Research Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Division of Violence Prevention

Childrens Defense Fund Action Council

Women's Health Statistics - by state; National Institute for Health; includes domestic violence and rape.

Links to health data, statistics and information from many national sources.


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