WASHINGTON – Violent crime fell last year, with only a slight uptick in murders marring the overall trend of fewer crimes across the country, the FBI (search) said Monday in its annual crime report.
There were just under 1.4 million crimes of murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault in 2003, 3 percent fewer than 2002 and a decline of more than 25 percent from 1994.
The 2003 figure translates to a rate of 475 violent crimes for every 100,000 Americans, a 3.9 percent decrease from the previous year, the FBI report said. Aggravated assaults, which make up two-thirds of all violent crimes, have dropped for 10 straight years.
Murder was the only violent crime that increased in 2003, with the 16,503 slayings reported by police to the FBI representing a 1.7 percent hike from the year before. Nearly eight in 10 murder victims last year were male and 90 percent were adults.
Property crimes such as burglary, theft and theft of motor vehicles dropped slightly, with the overall total of 10.4 million crimes in 2003 representing a decline of less than 1 percent.
The property crime rate for 2003 was 3,588 crimes per 100,000 Americans, a 1.2 percent decline. Property crime is down 14 percent overall since 1994.
The FBI's annual Uniform Crime Reporting Program (search) statistics largely mirror those of other government studies that show crime at historically low levels. The Justice Department's (search) annual survey of crime victims, released in September, found the nation's crime rate at its lowest point since such studies began in 1973.
The drop in crime has made it far less of a political issue. President Bush and Democratic challenger John Kerry rarely mention it in their campaign speeches and polls indicate few voters rank crime as a top concern facing the country.
Attorney General John Ashcroft (search) said the numbers demonstrate the success of initiatives as stepped-up federal prosecution of gun crimes, arrest of more drug offenders and longer prison sentencing policies for repeat offenders. Violent crime, he said, has dropped 6 percent since 2000.
"All across our country, law-abiding Americans are enjoying unprecedented safety," Ashcroft said.
The FBI report is based on crime statistics submitted by 17,000 state and local law enforcement agencies around the country. The report also showed that:
— Violent crime in cities dropped 3.9 percent compared with 2002 and 3.7 percent in less metropolitan areas.
— Excluding traffic stops, law enforcement agencies made 13.6 million arrests in 2003, or about 4,695 arrests for every 100,000 Americans. In 2003, those agencies solved about 46 percent of violent crimes, including about 62 percent of murders.
— Nearly 71 percent of the 2003 murders involved use of a firearm, with 13 percent involving knives or other cutting instruments. Blunt objects, hands and feet also were used.
— Property crimes cost victims about $17 billion last year, including $8.6 billion in motor vehicle thefts.