Story highlights

Assaults drive first increase in U.S. violent crime rate since 1993

Data collected in phone surveys, according to Justice Department figures

Crime rates had been dropping steadily for nearly two decades

Latest increase up slightly over record low of 2010

CNN  — 

The rate of U.S. violent crime went up last year for the first time in nearly two decades due to a jump in assaults, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.

Data collected by the Bureau of Justice Statistics in telephone surveys showed a 22 percent increase in assaults, pushing up the overall rate for violent crime for the first time since 1993.

Crime rates have been declining steadily over the period and last year’s increase compares with a record low figure for 2010.

Statistics showed that the rate of assault victims increased from 19.3 per 1,000 persons to 22.5 per 1,000 last year.

The statistics include 3.9 million simple assaults defined as crimes involving a threat but no weapon that resulted in relatively minor injuries.

A second category described as serious violent crime include rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault. An estimated 1.8 million such incidents occurred last year, but the increase from the previous year was calculated to be statistically insignificant.

The results determined that the number of victims of the more serious crime category increased among whites and Hispanics, but not blacks, and among young men, but not among young women.

The survey includes unreported crimes as well as those that were reported. Many citizens admit they didn’t tell police about incidents in which they were victims. Roughly half of violent crime is unreported, according to the survey.

The most closely watched annual crime statistics are scheduled for release on Oct. 29.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report is the most closely watched report of its kind and tabulates all reported crime nationally annually. Experts say they anticipate it will show a continued decline in overall crime. A preliminary report covering the first half of 2011 indicated total violent crime fell about 4 percent.