More than half of violent crimes in the U.S. never reported to police

October has been recognized for years as National Crime Prevention Month, but statistics from the Department of Justice show the best way for Americans to prevent criminal activity may be to simply start picking up their phone.

The DOJ's Bureau of Justice Statistics says in its most recent National Criminal Victimization Survey (NCVS) that in 2016, "U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced 5.7 million violent victimizations." A majority of those crimes, some 58 percent the DOJ says, were never reported to police.

Serious violent crimes, which are analyzed as a subset of "violent crime," are reported just 49 percent of the time, according to the survey. The definition includes "rape or sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault."

"In 2016, U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced 5.7 million violent victimizations—a rate of 21.1 victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older... Fewer than half (42%) of violent victimizations were reported to police."

— U.S. Dept. of Justice Bureau of Justice Statistics

According to DOJ data provided to Fox News, victims in the past have cited a variety of reasons for failing to report their experiences to authorities. Primary drivers include the fear of reprisal, or the feeling that the incident was a private or personal matter.

Another common refrain, according to BJS data, is the idea that police wouldn't bother to investigate, they would be ineffective, or they could cause trouble for the victim.

Statistics from the FBI indicate those concerns may run counter to the successes that U.S. law enforcement agencies have in solving crimes – at least the ones that are brought to their attention. According to the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR), which also details law enforcement actions across the country, U.S. agencies were able to bring nearly half (45.6 percent) of every violent crime brought to their attention to some kind of close in 2016.

And when it comes specifically to murder, U.S. law enforcement officials are apparently even more efficient - clearing some 59.4 percent of cases brought to their attention in 2016.

The FBI says that "in 2016, 45.6% of violent crimes and 18.3% of property crimes were cleared by arrest or exceptional means."

The FBI says that "in 2016, 45.6% of violent crimes and 18.3% of property crimes were cleared by arrest or exceptional means." (FILE/Getty Images)

The idea that victims don’t report their experiences to police because they believe police can’t or won’t help them, despite the evidence showing that nearly half of all cases brought to their attention are typically solved, is a theme the DOJ hopes to explore further by expanding the way it collects information from victims.

Lynn Langton, the Chief of Victimization Statistics at the Bureau of Justice Statistics, told Fox News that one of her agency's primary goals in redesigning the methodology behind the NCVS "is to really expand on what we capture in terms of... victim experiences with police when they contact the police."

"When residents have contact with police, the vast majority of them feel like the police treated them fairly and were respectful."

— Lynn Langton, Chief of Victimization Statistics, DoJ Bureau of Justice Statistics

"The question of respondent victim satisfaction with police is an important one that we're not currently measuring," Langton said.

Still, she wishes more victims would contact authorities when they experience any type of victimization.

"When residents have contact with police, the vast majority of them feel like the police treated them fairly and were respectful," Langton said. "But to be able to look at variety and variation in terms of how respondents feel about the police and how that's related to their likelihood to respond and contact the police is an important topic."