Drop in Violence Is Good News for America's Workers

Assaults and threats of violence against Americans at work declined by 21 percent during the mid-1990s. The three riskiest jobs were police officer, security guard and taxi driver.

The US Justice Department reported that workplace violence touches 1.7 million Americans a year but has been dropping since 1994 - even faster than the overall decline in crime in America.

Retail-sales workers were the most numerous victims, because they far outnumber police officers, guards, or taxi drivers. On average, 330,000 retail salespeople were attacked each year. They were followed by police, with an average of 234,200 officers victimized each year.

Three of every 5 assailants was a stranger to the victim, and intimate relatives and friends were far less involved in workplace violence than in overall attacks.

"About 37 percent of the victims of workplace violence said they knew their offenders," says Jan Chaiken, director of the department's Bureau of Justice Statistics.

"But very few - only about 1 percent - were victimized by a current or former spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend, in contrast to other violent incidents," he says.

Nationally, 21 percent of all violence against women and 2 percent of violence against men are committed by intimates.

The bureau found that workplace violence had declined more than 21 percent from a 1994 peak of about 2.2 million to about 1.7 million in 1996. That was even larger than the nationwide decline of 17 percent in violent crimes during that period, from 11 million to 9.1 million.

Using victim interviews, the bureau studied workplace violence in 1992 through 1996.

The annual average during that period was 2 million incidents. These were overwhelming concentrated in the annual average of 1.48 million simple assaults, which lumps together both unarmed attacks and threats of violence. There were no separate figures for threats and for unarmed attacks.

Homicides averaged 1,023 a year; rapes, 50,500 annually; robberies, 83,700; and aggravated assaults, 395,500.

Police officers faced the greatest risk; 306 of every 1,000 officers were attacked or threatened during the study period.

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