Crime rates have fallen steadily across the country for most of the past decade. They fell so much and for so long that criminologists asked "How low can they go?"
But those declines came to an abrupt halt last year, according to the FBI's comprehensive tally known as the "Uniform Crime Report" for 2005. The benchmark measure — violent crime — rose 2.3 percent, due to a 3.4 percent spike in murders. Also, police departments reported a 20-percent increase in the number of juveniles arrested for murder.
However, there were a few bright spots, such as a 1.2 percent decrease in forcible rape. Also, property crime fell 1.5 percent (even though property crime victims lost approximately $16.5 billion to burglars, car thieves and arsonists).
The final 2005 murder numbers actually are lower than the 4.8 percent rise that the FBI projected at midyear, but are troubling to police chiefs and mayors in many parts of the country, especially those in small and midsized cities unaccustomed to big-city crime waves. In Charlotte, N.C., for instance, murders rose from 98 in 2004 to 118 in 2005; in Albuquerque, N.M., the increase was from 65 to 74.
Many police chiefs and mayors believe the war on crime has taken a back seat to the war on terrorism. At a gathering in Washington last month, local officials forcefully complained to Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty that they needed more federal help to get their crime problems under control.
The FBI report is based on statistics provided by 17,000 law enforcement agencies. The bureau, which has been criticized for lags in technology, has published the 2005 report only in one place — its Web site — saying good-bye to the paper version, which was filled with so many numbers that it resembled a phone book.
FBI Director Robert Mueller says the new format will reach the largest audience possible.
The report can be found here.