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Crime rates continue historic plunge

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Preliminary data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation show both violent and property crime rates fell during the first half of last year, continuing a long-term trend that began more than three decades ago.

The report shows the violent crime rate decreased by just under a percentage point over the first six months of 2017, compared with the same time in 2016. Property crimes declined by nearly 3 full percentage points over the same period. 

Violent crime rates fell most in the nation’s largest cities, the new FBI data show. Rates of violent crime in cities with more than a million residents fell by 3.3 percentage points. Property crime rates fell most in smaller cities with populations below 50,000. 

President Trump took office promising to end what in his inaugural address he called “this American carnage.” Last month, in an address to FBI cadets, Trump pointed to an increase in murder rates in the past two years. 

The FBI data show the murder rate actually rose, by 1.5 percentage points, in the first half of 2017, led by increases in cities with populations between 100,000 and 1 million residents. 

But even with recent jumps, driven mostly by gang-related violence in Midwestern and Rust Belt cities such as Chicago and Baltimore, overall crime rates are well below historic highs reached in the early 1990s.

As recently as 2007, law enforcement agencies reported 1.4 million violent crimes across the country. The most recent yearly report from the FBI found an estimated 1.2 million violent crimes committed in 2015. 

Experts who study crime trends say the small spike in crimes, especially violent crimes, is no indication of a longer-term reversal. 

“Concerns about a national crime wave are premature,” the Brennan Center for Justice analysts Ames Grawert and James Cullen wrote in a September report analyzing the 2016 data.

The overall crime rate peaked in 1991, when about 5,850 crimes were committed per 100,000 Americans. In 2015, the overall crime rate stood at 2,857 per 100,000 residents — less than half the 1991 levels.

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