By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The Associated Press
Tuesday, December 19, 2006; 1:24 AM
WASHINGTON -- Murders and robberies continued to rise across the country during the first six months of 2006, preliminary FBI data released Monday show, indicating that the lull in crime between 2001 and 2004 appears to be over.
Violent crime figures are on pace for a second straight annual increase. Based on statistics for all of 2005, violent crime rose 2.2 percent nationally _ the first increase since 2001.
"This is a concern we've been focused on," said Gene Voegtlin, legislative counsel for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents an estimated 20,000 law enforcement officials and has been pushing for more crime-fighting funding. "A lot of (police) agencies are really stretched thin when it comes to the budget and their ability to aggressively combat crime."
From megapolises to small cities, violent crime rose 3.7 percent between January and June compared to the first six months of 2005. Twenty-eight more people were murdered during that period 2006 in New York City, for example, while the college town Norman, Okla., saw its total number of homicides jump from zero to three.
The early data show:
_Murders rose by 1.4 percent, felony assaults by 1.2 percent and robberies by a whopping 9.7 percent in 2006, compared to the first six months of 2005. The number of rapes decreased by less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
_Burglaries increased by 1.2 percent. But car thefts dropped by 2.3 percent and other stealing incidents by 3.8 percent.
_Arsons rose by 6.8 percent.
The FBI's twice-yearly report comes as the Justice Department studies 18 cities and suburban regions for clues on why the national violent crime rate is increasing. Justice researchers have not yet visited all of the cities, and it is not clear whether the government will make more federal funding available to the worst-hit.
The Bush administration has asked for $1.2 billion in crime-fighting grants and assistance programs this year _ what Voegtlin described as at least a $1 billion hit from funding levels a decade ago.
Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department is encouraged by a 2.6 percent drop in property crimes _ such as auto theft and other larcenies _ as outlined in the FBI report. But "we are again concerned about the increase in violent crime in some cities and towns," he said.
The data is based on crime reports from 11,535 police and other law enforcement agencies nationwide. The total number of actual crimes reported was not immediately available.
On the Net:
The FBI's Semiannual Uniform Crime Report can be found at: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/prelim06/index.html