FBI: Crime Down Again In 1998

The FBI is reporting that serious crime in America fell for the seventh year in a row in 1998. And according to the report, it's not just big cities in the Northeast where crime rates have plummeted. Life is safer all over the country, reports CBS News Correspondent Stephanie Lambidakis.

In the last year, there was an 11 percent drop in the number of robberies, an 8 percent reduction in the number of murders and a 10 percent cut in the number of cars stolen - a category where crime has remained stubbornly high.

Attorney General Janet Reno, appearing Monday on CBS This Morning attributed the lower rates to "community policing, with enough jails to house people for the length of time judges are sentencing them, good prevention programs and getting guns out of the hands of people who don't legally have the right to use them."

"I think everybody is interested in common-sense approaches to crime," she said. "I think that's what's helped achieve the results that we're seeing today - Republicans and Democrats working together in communities across this nation. I think we can do it in Washington. I think we can truly make a difference and end this culture of violence in this nation."

Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder credits more police on the job.

"You have more police officers on the street who are policing in a fundamentally different way," says Holder. "They're interacting with people and people get to know them, and they're more effective. I think that has had a dramatic impact on the crime drop."

But civil rights activists say the dramatic results come at too high a price -like alleged incidents of police brutality in New York City. These cases are not commonplace, argues criminologist Eli Silverman, but the distrust they create does have lasting effects.

"There's a great need, a perennial need for the public and the police to trust one another," says Silverman. "Not only does the public need to trust the police, but if they don't trust the police, the police will be less effective."

That's a fact that hasn't escaped many police departments. Faced with federal investigations into police brutality, some have relaxed their tactics. They want the public to start focusing again on what they've been doing well: making America's streets safer.

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