WASHINGTON – Violent crime rose 2.3 percent last year, the first increase since 2001, the FBI reported Monday.
The agency found there were 1.39 million violent crimes — which include rape, murder, robbery and aggravated assault — reported in the United States in 2005, up from 1.36 million the previous year.
The figures from the FBI's 2005 annual report largely track preliminary results from earlier this year.
The percentage jump was violent crime's largest increase since 1991, with only rape showing a decline in the past year.
The report comes as mayors and police chiefs at a recent crime conference said they were seeing spikes in violent crime for 2006. They have called for greater support from federal law enforcement, expressing concern that the Bush administration might be too complacent as it devotes time and attention to the war on terror.
In a briefing with reporters, Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty said it was still too soon to tell whether the numbers reflect ordinary year-to-year fluctuations. The figures are good news in the sense that violent crime has dropped 3.4 percent since 2001 and declined 17.6 percent since 1996, he said.
"It's certainly caused us to remain vigilant especially considering the anecdotal information in 2006 indicates there might be a rise in violent crime in several jurisdictions," McNulty said. "I'm anxious to spend more time with the police chiefs."
But he reiterated comments by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales earlier this month that additional crime-fighting funds for cities were not in the offing, noting that the war on terror remains the greater priority. "We have a problem of limited resources," McNulty said.
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, which organized the recent conference on violent crime, said his group is looking forward to additional meetings with McNulty to find ways to combat the problem.
Property crime, including car theft, larceny and burglary, fell 1.5 percent in 2005.