By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, May 25, 2010; A23
For the third consecutive year, violent crime has declined in the United States, including a 7.2 percent reduction in homicides, preliminary FBI figures for 2009 released Monday show.
The trend extended to the District, where violent crime was down 7.2 percent, from 8,135 incidents to 7,586, and the number of homicides fell from 186 to 143, according to data from the FBI's Preliminary Uniform Crime Report. Final statistics will be released in the fall. The national violent crime rate had risen 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 draining resources away from traditional crime fighting.
But crimes of violence began going down again in 2007, falling 0.7 percent that year and then an additional 1.9 percent in 2008. The trend accelerated last year with a 5.5 percent reduction in overall violent crime and a decrease of 8.1 percent in robberies, 4.2 percent in aggravated assaults and 3.1 percent in rapes.
The FBI, which collects the data from more than 13,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide, on Monday called last year's decline "fairly significant." Some law enforcement officials said they had expected the rate of decline to slow, or violent crime to even increase, because of the nation's economic troubles.
Property crimes also fell last year, for the seventh consecutive year, the FBI said. By far the largest decrease was in auto thefts, by 17.2 percent. Burglaries dropped 1.7 percent.