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Violent Crime Fell in 2007 From Previous Year

This robbery at a bank in Philadelphia last year was among the 1.4 million violent crimes that occurred in the United States. The FBI's annual report said cities with 250,000 or more inhabitants saw the sharpest drop in violent crime.
This robbery at a bank in Philadelphia last year was among the 1.4 million violent crimes that occurred in the United States. The FBI's annual report said cities with 250,000 or more inhabitants saw the sharpest drop in violent crime. (By Joseph Kaczmarek -- Associated Press)

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By Holly Watt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Violent crime in the United States fell slightly last year, reversing the upward swing of the previous two years, according to statistics released by the FBI yesterday.

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The bureau's Crime in the United States report showed a decline in crimes in almost every category. About 1.4 million violent crimes occurred in 2007, down 0.7 percent from 2006.

The violent crime rate rose in 2005 and 2006 after years of decline, sparking concerns that a focus on homeland security under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks was drawing resources away from traditional crime fighting.

However, all four of the main violent crime indicators were down in 2007. Murder fell by 0.6 percent, rape by 2.5 percent, robbery by 0.5 percent and aggravated assault by 0.6 percent.

"The 2007 UCR shows that the rate of violent crime is near a 30-year low," Peter Carr, a Justice Department spokesman, said of the Uniform Crime Report in a prepared statement. "This is a credit to our state and local law enforcement partners, who are working in coordination with federal law enforcement to break up violent gangs and to take drug dealers and gun criminals off the streets."

Manny Diaz, the mayor of Miami and president of the United States Conference of Mayors, said the numbers were still too high. "The fact that there is a murder committed every 31 minutes somewhere in the U.S. is not something I feel good about. These are national averages, but we are seeing increases in crime for small and middle-sized cities."

Larger cities -- those with 250,000 or more inhabitants -- saw the sharpest drop in violent crime. But in smaller cities, with populations of 10,000 to 24,999, violent crime rose 2.4 percent. The number of robberies also increased by 2.7 percent in those cities.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said the nationwide fall masked problems in certain cities that are now growing worse as the economy slows.

"The good news is that we are starting to see a decrease from the spike in 2006. The bad news is that we are still significantly higher than we were in 2003 and 2004," Wexler said. "Some cities saw the rise over two years as a serious wake-up call and have got strategies in place to deal with the issues. A lot of hard work was done in the '90s, and there have been a few steps back. "

Many cities, he added, also were raising concerns about gang violence and an increase in juvenile crime. However, data collected by his organization for the first six months of 2008 appear to indicate that 2007's general downward trend is continuing, he said.

On a state level, Montana saw the biggest jump in violent crime, an increase of 14.9 percent, while in Vermont, the number of violent crimes decreased by 9.4 percent.

Violent crime fell by 5.2 percent in the District, 5.4 percent in Maryland and 3.6 percent in Virginia.

According to the FBI, property crime also fell in 2007 for the fifth year in a row, down 1.4 percent to 9.8 million offenses. These crimes, which include burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson, cost an estimated $17.6 billion in 2007.

Across America, a burglary takes place every 14.5 seconds, and a larceny or theft every 4.8 seconds. A forcible rape occurs every 5.8 minutes.

Robberies cost victims $588 million -- an average of $1,321 for each offense. Although the estimated number of robberies fell from 447,403 to 445,125 in 2007, over the last five years the number of robberies has increased by 7.5 percent.

There were significant regional variations in the crime rates. There were 549.2 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in the Southern states, but 372.4 in the Northeast. Property crime was also more prevalent in the South, the report shows.

The FBI figures represent crimes reported voluntarily by more than 17,700 city, county, college and university, state, tribal, and federal agencies. The agencies represent nearly 95 percent of the country's population.


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