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The Amazing Twenty-Year Drop in American Violent Crime Continues: December 2010 Update

Gavel on American flag

Crime in America.Net staff.

Dear Readers: The FBI today released data for the first six months of 2010. The numbers reveal a continuing decrease in all categories of violent and property crime. We’re not quite sure we can add anything to the discussion that’s not already on Crime in America.Net.

It’s simply amazing when crime continues a 20-year decline regardless as to the massive budget cuts affecting the criminal justice system and the overall economy (noting that there was never any proof that declining economies contributed to rising crime). The debate will continue as to the reasons for less crime but there’s no one who can provide a definitive answer. See links at the bottom of this article for discussions.

Violent crime continues to drop in America according to the latest statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Of the last 20 years, violent crime rose only during 1991, 2005 and 2006. See or below for the latest data

For those of us who lived and worked through the dramatic rises in crime in the 1960’s and 1970’s and the crack-cocaine era of the 1980’s, the drop in violent crime in America is nothing short of astounding.

Violent crime numbers are at historical lows as to crimes reported to law enforcement agencies through the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The National Crime Survey also indicates record low numbers for crime. For a comparison of the two different methods of measuring crime, see

Yes, there are cities and metropolitan areas with significant crime problems and readers of this article from those locations must certainly be confused by what they see here. Never-the-less, the drops in violent and property crime are significant.

Overall violent crime has been in an almost continual decline for the last 20 years. It was 758.2 per 100,000 populations in 1991. It increased slightly (compared to 2004) in 2005 to 469.0 and 2006 to 473.6 but decreased in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The recorded 100,000 rate was 454.5 in 2008 with final 2009 figures at 429.4.

Murder was 9.5 per 100,000 populations in 1991. Between 2000 and 2006 it ranged between 5.5 and 5.7 before declining to 5.4 in 2008. 2009 data is 5.0.

Robbery has gone from 272.7 per 100,000 population in 1991 to 145.3 in 2008 and 133 in 2009 with a couple years of slight increases in 2001 and 2006. Rape went from 42.8 in 1992 to 29.3 in 2008 and 28.7 in 2009. Aggravated Assault went from 441.9 per 100,000 population to 274.6 in 2008 and 268.8 in 2009.

2009 data indicates continued drops for all three violent crimes. Again, all of this is documented in

A comparison of crimes in American cities, states and crime rates for countries can be found at

Why the Drop?

It’s disconcerting to many when we say that no one really knows why crime in America has dropped to record lows. We were told by the criminological community that crime was supposed to increase due to crack babies or the failing economy or the increase in the most crime-prone age groups but all failed to live up to expectations.

One major correlate is the vast increase in prison population, but some criminologists cannot bring themselves to the conclusion that prisons significantly reduce crime.

We strongly support programs for offenders within and outside of prison; the best (not all) studies indicate drops between 10 and 20 percent.

Law enforcement’s emphasis on concentrating on high-crime places and people is having an impact and will be the subject of a future article.

For a discussion of possible reasons for falling crime, see:

Data from the FBI–The Latest Stats Show a Continuing Decline in Crime


We’ve just released our first peek into crime in 2010—with a snapshot of the first six months of the year.

The early returns are encouraging. According to the Preliminary Semiannual Uniform Crime Report, January-June, 2010, the nation saw a 6.2 percent decrease in the number of reported violent crimes and a 2.8 percent decrease in the number of reported property crimes compared to data for the same time frame during 2009.

The report specifically covers the violent crimes of murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault…and the property crimes of burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft. It also includes arson, which is considered a property crime but is tracked separately for this report.

Some of the preliminary findings:

  • Reported incidents of violent crime as a whole decreased in all four regions of the country—falling 0.2 percent in the Northeast, 7.2 percent in the Midwest, 7.8 percent in the South, and 7.2 percent in the West.
  • In the Northeast, reported incidents of murder were up 5.7 percent, forcible rapes were up 1.1 percent, and aggravated assaults were up 2.4 percent.
  • Reported incidents of property crime as a whole declined in all four regions of the country—dropping 0.2 percent in the Northeast, 2.5 percent in the Midwest, 3.6 percent in the South, and 3.1 percent in the West.
  • In the Northeast, however, reported incidents of burglary rose 3.9 percent.
  • Population-wise, cities with 500,000 to 999,999 residents saw the greatest decline in reported violent crimes (8.3 percent) and in property crimes (4.8 percent).

Since 1930, the FBI has been tasked with collecting, publishing, and archiving reliable uniform crime statistics for the nation. Our hope is that this report will continue to assist community leaders and law enforcement managers with formulating crime-fighting and crime prevention strategies.

Last month, we released a new tool to help these leaders and others analyze crime statistics over the past half-century. The UCR Data Tool, as it’s called, enables users to perform queries on custom variables like year, agency, and type of offense. Until now, making comparisons of our crime data required searching the annual reports and then manually crunching the numbers. The data from the just-released report is not included in the new tool, since it is preliminary and represents only a partial year.

Although many of the crimes reported in our UCR statistics fall primarily under state and local jurisdiction, the FBI continues to work closely with our law enforcement partners on numerous joint task forces around the country and to offer a range of services and support. A few examples include:

Information services like the National Crime Information Center, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and the Law Enforcement National Data Exchange (N-DEx);- Fingerprint and other types of forensic identification services, such as our Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System and the Combined DNA Index System.

As always, we caution against drawing conclusions about specific locations by making direct comparisons between cities. Valid assessments are only possible by carefully analyzing the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.

The full-year Crime in the United States, 2010 report will be released next year.


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