Violent and property crime declined nationwide last year, including significant decreases in every violent crime category - murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault - in cities with a million or more residents, according to a preliminary FBI report Monday.
Violent crime dropped 1.4 percent overall compared with 2006, the report said, reversing a two-year uptick. That includes decreases in all four offense categories - forcible rape down 4.3 percent, murder/non-negligent manslaughter down 2.7 percent and robbery and aggravated assault, each down 1.2 percent.
Property crime, which includes burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft, declined 2.1 percent from 2006, the report said, with decreases in each city grouping. Arson, which is tracked separately from other property crimes, fell 7 percent from 2006.
The preliminary numbers are outlined in a report released by the FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division in West Virginia, in concert with city, county, tribal and state law-enforcement agencies across the country. The report includes data from more than 12,000 law-enforcement agencies.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr described the report as "very encouraging," but said a final report would be released later this year.
"The report suggests that violent crime is decreasing and remains near historic low levels, which is a credit to increased cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement," Mr. Carr said. "Some communities, however, continue to face localized violent crime challenges."
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat and a senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Justice Department, reiterated his call for Congress and the Bush administration to fully support state and local law enforcement in wake of the FBI report detailing nationwide decreases in violent and property crimes.
"After two years of rising crime in this country, hopefully today's announcement marks the start of a new downward trend in crime rates," Mr. Biden said. "Still, the decreases announced today are modest - there are nearly 1.4 million violent crimes and over 17,000 murders in America every year, and that's simply too many.
"This administration has taken the wrong approach the last several years, cutting the fiscal legs from under the state and local law-enforcement officers who have made these declines possible," he said. "Fighting crime and making our communities safer takes constant attention and a steady commitment. Now is not the time to stop investing in state and local law enforcement."
Mr. Biden said the administration has cut billions of dollars in funding for state and local law enforcement - eliminating the COPS program, which provides grants for community policing professionals and crime-fighting technology and the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants, a partnership among federal, state and local government with an emphasis on fighting violent crime - and has "decimated homeland security funding."
Among the other of the report's statistical highlights:
*Statistics for murder ranged from a nearly 10 percent drop in cities with a million people or more, the largest decline in any violent crime category, to a 3.7 percent rise in cities with 50,000 to 99,999 residents.
*The rates of violent and property crime fell in three out of four regions nationwide. The Northeast, Midwest and West experienced decreases in both categories, while the South saw slight increases in violent crime (0.7 percent) and property crime (1.1 percent), driven by a 2.9 percent rise in murder and a 3.6 percent rise in robbery.
*Despite the nationwide drop of 1.4 percent, violent crime actually increased 1.8 percent in non-metropolitan counties and 1.9 percent in cities with populations ranging from 10,000 to 24,999.
*Forcible rape was the only violent crime category experiencing declines across the board - in all city groups, in metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties and in every region.
The FBI will publish its full annual crime report using data from the United Crime Reporting (UCR) database later this summer.