Violent crime nationwide dropped 6 percent in 2010, declining for the fourth straight year, while property crimes also were down for the eighth consecutive year, falling 2.7 percent, the FBI announced Monday.
The declines continued despite predictions that crime would worsen because of the recession.
"The poor economy does not drive the crimes rates," said James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University. "If a person loses his job at a bank, he does not go out and rob a bank."
Mr. Fox attributed the decline in crime to "a combination of factors" including the country's large number of inmates, the aging of the population and a greater use of technology by law enforcement and even citizens with cameras on their cellphones.
In 2010, there were an estimated 1,246,248 violent crimes reported nationwide and 9,082,887 property crimes, according to the FBI's annual report on Crime in the United States. The report is based on statistics submitted from 18,108 state, city, county, university and college, tribal and federal police agencies
Each of the four violent crime offenses decreased nationwide when compared with 2009. Murder was down 4.2 percent, forcible rape declined 5 percent, aggravated assault fell 4.1 percent and robbery dropped 10 percent.
Property crimes also decreased nationwide in 2010. The largest decline, 7.4 percent, was for motor vehicle thefts followed by a 2.4 percent decrease in larceny-thefts and a 2 percent drop in burglaries.
While they experienced declines in each of the other violent crime categories, both the District and Maryland reported increases in the number of forcible rapes from 2009 to 2010. The number of reported forcible rapes in the District went up 24.7 percent from 150 in 2009 to 187 in 2010. In Maryland, the number increased 6.1 percent from 1,156 in 2009 to 1,227 in 2010.
"Although we have seen an increase in forcible rapes between 2009 and 2010, the number of reported forcible rapes in 2010 is consistent with figures reported in 2006, 2007 and 2008," said D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump.
Maryland officials attribute the rise in the number of forcible rapes to changes in the way the city of Baltimore investigates sex crimes. Baltimore now requires all sexual assaults to be investigated by detectives who specialize in those crimes, according to police public affairs director Anthony Guglielmi. Before 2010, the cases could be handled and dismissed by patrol officers.
As a result of the new policies, the number of rapes reported to the FBI in Baltimore went from 158 in 2009 to 265 in 2010, Mr. Guglielmi said.
Maryland boasted that its overall crime rates were the lowest since the state first started reporting in 1975.
Virginia saw declines in each category of violent and property crimes.
D.C. reported an .9 percent increase in property crimes including a 14.5 percent increase in burglaries, a 1.2 percent increase in larceny-theft, but a 9 percent decline in motor vehicle theft.
"We are focusing on the burglary increase in the city, which has been a problem this year," Ms. Crump said. "Among other tactics that we cannot specify, we have increased patrols in neighborhoods."
Homicide dropped in all areas of the country except the Northeast, where it went up 8.8 percent. The Northeast includes Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
In the District, the number of homicides dropped 9 percent from 145 in 2009 to 132 in 2010.
"[T]he publication of the 2010 national crime statistics reminds us that national security is as much about keeping our streets safe from crime as it is about protecting the United States from terrorism," FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said.
But Northeastern's Mr. Fox said the U.S. should not get complacent about the crime problem, saying law enforcement is only able to control the crime problem, not solve it. "If the country starts to see budgets slashed for crime fighting, we will see an increase in crime," he said.
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