Crime rates keep dropping, FBI crime statistics show
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You wouldn't know it from TV news, but crime has dropped again, continuing a four-year downward trend.
The FBI said Monday in its preliminary Uniform Crime Report that violent crimes reported in the first half of the year -- January through June -- dropped 6.4 percent compared to the first six months of 2010. Violent crime also was down 6.2 percent in the first half of last year, 4.4 percent in 2009 and 3.5 percent in 2008.
The percentage of robberies dropped the most this time, by 7.7 percent, and murders were also substantially down, by 5.7 percent.
Property crimes, including burglary and car theft, dropped 3.7 percent. Among property crimes, arson dropped 8.6 percent, the sharpest drop of any crime.
The report, based on information from more than 12,500 law enforcement agencies, showed declines in every part of the country. The Midwest saw the steepest total drop at 9.7 percent. The Northeast saw the largest drop of any single crime, recording a 12.1 percent decline in homicides.
In Pittsburgh, crime also was down substantially compared to the first half of 2010. Murders were the same at 19, but total violent crimes dropped from 1,410 in 2010 to 1,136. Rapes fell from 42 to 29; aggravated assaults dropped from 777 to 549; and robberies were down from 572 to 539.
Property crime also fell, from 5,688 to 4,395.
Crime in Pittsburgh has been dropping just as it has been almost everywhere else.
As happens every year, there were some exceptions in some cities.
In Detroit, one of the most violent cities in America, murders were up for the first half of 2011 to 173 from the previous year's 151. Phoenix saw a jump in murders, too, from 52 to 63.
But overall, most metro areas saw declines in almost every category.
Criminologists aren't sure why crime continues to drop, especially since it usually increases when the economy sours.
Crime across America began dropping in the 1990s. At the beginning of the new millennium, it started to rise during an economic downturn. It dropped off for several years but then started climbing in 2005 and 2006 as the economy tanked again.
But since 2007, it's been dropping steadily.
One theory as to why, proposed by such top criminologists as Richard Rosenfeld of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, is a decline in the kind of illegal drug markets that lend themselves to shootings. The crack cocaine trade, responsible for an epidemic of street shootings in urban America in the 1990s, is not as prevalent as it once was.
Drug trafficking has become more sophisticated, moving off the streets and behind closed doors where violence is less likely to erupt.
And newer drugs, such as methamphetamine, don't seem to generate the same type of violence as crack.
In some of the nation's largest cities, more effective police work, including flooding problem areas with officers and taking illegal guns off the street, also has been credited with reducing some violence.
New York City is the poster child for that approach.
The Big Apple once had more than 2,000 homicides a year. Its totals now are about 500, a rate similar to that of the 1950s, and the city is on track to stay near that number again.
But it's not just New York. Adjusting for population increases nationwide, crime in America is now at comparable levels to what it was in the 1960s.
• See page B-2 for a chart detailing crime stats in Pittsburgh.
First Published December 20, 2011 12:00 am