Serious crime declined nationwide last year, with reports of murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson down 7 percent from 1998 the eighth consecutive year the rate has dropped, the FBI reported yesterday.
In releasing final figures from its Uniform Crime Reporting program, the FBI said the downward trend was the result of 7 percent drops in reported incidents of both violent and property crimes, compared with figures for the previous year.
In the District of Columbia, reported incidents of six of the eight major crimes showed decreases last year murder, which dropped from 260 to 238; robbery, at 3,507 from 3,606; assault, at 4,486 from 4,932; burglary, at 5,083 from 6,361; larceny, at 21,122 from 24,321; and arson, at 100 from 119. Increases were reported in the incidents of rape, from 190 to 258, and motor vehicle theft, from 6,501 to 6,526.
In Alexandria, Va., all eight major crime categories showed decreases in the total number of reported incidents. Murder dropped from seven to two; rape, from 39 to 22; robbery, from 202 to 158; assault, from 241 to 206; burglary, from 790 to 556; larceny, from 4,038 to 4,036; motor vehicle theft, from 743 to 702; and arson, from 18 to 12.
Nationwide, New York City led all others with the most reported murders, 671; rapes, 1,702; robberies, 36,100; assaults, 40,511; burglaries, 40,469; thefts, 140,377; and motor vehicle thefts, 39,693; Philadelphia had the most reported incidents of arson with 3,097.
Attorney General Janet Reno said last week during her weekly news briefing that a reduction in the nation’s crime rate in previous years had been the result of a “consistent, determined effort on the part of a vast number of people in this country” including police officers, law enforcement agencies, state and federal prosecutors, prison officials, prevention specialists and community leaders.
“I think we have shown that this nation, if it approaches crime in a sensible way, can have an impact,” she said. “I think we’ve begun to show what we can do if we spot something early on, address it in an effective way and a comprehensive way. We have tools we never dreamed of before.”
In its report, titled “Crime in the United States, 1999,” the FBI said 1.4 million violent crimes murder, rape, robbery and assault, were reported last year, along with 10.2 million property crimes burglary, larceny, vehicle theft and arson. Fifty percent of the violent crimes resulted in arrests, while the clearance rate for property crimes was 18 percent, the FBI said.
An estimated 14 million people were arrested last year for both violent and property crimes, 5 percent fewer than 1998. Forty-five percent of those arrested were under the age of 25, and 17 percent were under the age of 18.
Decreases of 8 percent were recorded overall last year for the violent crimes of murder and robbery. Aggravated assault figures fell by 6 percent and forcible rape statistics dropped by 4 percent. In 1999, the number of violent crimes was 20 percent below the 1995 figure and 21 percent less than the 1990 totals.
Among the reports of property crimes, the FBI said the number of burglaries dropped by 10 percent, motor vehicle thefts fell by 8 percent and larceny and theft declined by 6 percent. The number of property crimes reported in 1999 was 15 percent below the 1995 level and 19 percent fewer than those reported in 1990.
According to the report, the South home to 35 percent of the country’s population accounted for 41 percent of the reported incidents of crime. The West, with 23 percent of the population, accounted for 23 percent of the total. The Midwest, with 23 percent of the population, reported 22 percent of the crime; and the Northeast, with 19 percent of the population, reported 14 percent of the crime.
The 1999 figures are based on reports from 17,000 city, county and state law enforcement agencies across the country. The FBI said the reports contain the most current national crime data available.