WASHINGTON – Both violent and property crimes declined in 2007 from the previous year, the FBI reported Monday.
In preliminary figures for crimes reported to police, the bureau said the number of violent crimes declined by 1.4 percent from 2006, reversing two years of rising violent crime numbers. Violent crime had climbed 1.9 percent in 2006 and 2.3 percent in 2005, alarming federal and local officials.
Property crimes were down 2.1 percent last year from the previous year, the largest drop in the last four years.
"One preliminary report does not make a trend, but it's going the way we want it to go," said FBI spokesman Richard Kolko.
Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr called the report "very encouraging" though he cautioned that the final report later this year could alter the figures.
"The report suggests that violent crime is decreasing and remains near historic low levels, which is a credit to increased cooperation among federal, state and local law enforcement," Carr said. "Some communities, however, continue to face localized violent crime challenges."
The largest declines were in vehicle theft, down 8.9 percent and in rape, down 4.3 percent and murder, down 2.7 percent.
The crime trends were not uniform. Murders, for instance, were down in cities of more than 250,000, including an enormous 9.8 percent drop in cities of more than a million residents. But murders rose in some small cities — up 3.7 percent in cities of 50,000 to 100,000, up 1.9 percent in cities of 100,000 to 250,000, and up 1.8 percent in cities under 10,000. Historically, murder trends have begun in the largest cities and moved over several years to smaller ones.
The other violent crimes tracked by FBI statistics — robbery and aggravated assault — were both down 1.2 pecent.
The other property crimes in the FBI figures also declined, larceny-theft by 1.2 percent and burglary by 0.8 percent.
Arson dropped by 7.0 percent, but it is not included in the FBI's overall property crime figures, because fewer local jurisdictions provide arson statistics.
Violent crimes dropped most in the Northeast, down 5.4 percent with 1.7 percent declines in both the Midwest and West. But it rose 0.7 percent in the South.
Property crimes followed the same pattern: rising only in the South, where they were up 1.1 percent. The West recorded a 4.7 percent decline in property crimes, followed by the Midwest, down 3.6 percent and the Northeast, down 2.9 percent.
The FBI's preliminary crime report each year gives percentage changes rather than crime totals for national figures because not every jurisdiction has completed its reports yet.