June 12, 2012

FBI: Violent crime rates in the US drop, approach historic lows

6-12-2012 National:

Violent crime rates in the U.S. are reaching historic lows, according to new FBI data released Monday.

Instances of murder declined overall by 1.9 percent from 2010 figures, while rape, robbery and aggravated assault declined by 4 percent nationwide, according to records from more than 14,000 law-enforcement agencies around the country, FBI spokesman Bill Carter told msnbc.com.

The number of property crimes also registered a 0.8-percent drop, motor-vehicle thefts declined by 3.3 percent, and arson was down by 5 percent.

Although the findings, released in the FBI’s Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report, represent a seemingly small decline in crime overall, they aren’t just a blip. Rather, criminologists say, the decline is part of larger downward trend and the result of a series of changes that have contributed to a more peaceful society.

“This is actually a pretty significant drop, which is fascinating because we’d normally expect crime to go up when we’re in an economic downturn,” Gary LaFree, a criminology professor at the University of Maryland, told msnbc.com, adding that the U.S. is experiencing the lowest crime levels since World War II.

According to FBI analysis, the homicide drop would mean that nearly 280 fewer Americans were murdered last year, which would be the lowest homicide death toll since the mid-1950s.

LaFree said a combination of factors – from a weak economy and an aging population to increased immigration and a more robust police presence across the country – have contributed to the drop.

“One of the responses of society is to pull together when there’s a huge crisis and a feeling of great difficulty,” LaFree said, adding that the economic climate may have contributed to this peaceful trend.

Additionally, with the current U.S. median age at 37.2 years, older than ever before, the aging population is another possible cause, LaFree said. “There is some truth to the fact that younger people commit more crimes,” he said. ..For the rest of this story: by Andrew Mach, msnbc.com

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