- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Reported crime in 2007 was slightly lower than the previous year, but overall numbers have remained fairly steady for most of the decade, according to FBI statistics.

The FBI annual crime report released Monday shows 1.4 million violent crimes were reported during 2007, a less than 1 percent decrease from 2006.

The decrease in violent crime - murder, rape, robbery and assault - followed a slight increase during 2006.

“There is very little change,” said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston. “That’s good news because there are a lot of forces in society that would indicate a potential for uptick in crime.”

He said those indicators include fewer resources for police, inmates returning to their communities after serving long prison terms imposed in the 1990s and a tough economy.

Mr. Fox said the report doesn’t reflect disturbing trends, such as the increase in homicides among younger black males.

From 2002 to 2006, there was a 38 percent increase in the number of younger black males who fell victim to homicide, he said. At the same time, the number of younger black males committing homicides increased 68 percent.

Mr. Fox said he didn’t yet have the raw numbers to determine whether this trend continued during 2007. But he added, “Nothing suggests this concern in many cities isn’t persisting.”

Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of the City University of New York, also sees problems on the local level that aren’t noted in the FBI report.

Mr. Travis said the minor fluctuations in reported crime numbers nationally fail to reflect the steep increases and decreases occurring in various cities throughout the country.

“This is a new phenomenon, and we do not understand it well. We don’t know what’s driving the rates of increase and decrease,” he said.

Mr. Travis testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee last week about the need for a more timely and comprehensive data collection system regarding violent crime.

In releasing the FBI report, the Justice Department noted that “some communities continue to face violent crime challenges.”

The department pointed to the $200 million called for in the President Bush’s 2009 budget to support task forces in the communities with the most need. Critics have said that amount is not enough.

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