WASHINGTON — Overall violent crime and property offenses declined slightly last year across much of the country, continuing a downward trajectory even as some communities battled disparate surges in violence, according to a new FBI report.
Robbery recorded the largest decline at 5.6%, and murder was down 0.5% in 2014, but rape and aggravated assault ticked up 2.4% and 2%, respectively, the report found. Property offenses dropped in each category: Burglary was down 10.5%, larceny-theft declined by nearly 3% and vehicle thefts declined by 1.5%.
The FBI report comes as some cities confront troubling increases in violence, prompting the Justice Department to call a meeting next month of law enforcement authorities “to explore what measures are working,” Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates said Monday.
“We have witnessed a remarkable drop in crime since the 1980s, both violent crime and crime overall,” Yates said. “Entire cities have been transformed, unlocking tremendous potential and releasing a wave of prosperity. But despite these successes, we know it’s not true everywhere. There are still neighborhoods — far too many neighborhoods — where bloodshed has become a fact of life.”
Yates’ remarks in Detroit came while announcing an expansion of the federal Violence Reduction Network to include five more cities where violent crime has increased at a rate above the national average: Compton, Calif.; Flint, Mich.; Little Rock; West Memphis, Ark.; and Newark, N.J. The program, launched last year in Camden, N.J.; Wilmington, Del.; Detroit; Chicago; and the Oakland-Richmond, Calif., area, provides communities with access to federal law enforcement resources to assist local agencies.
In Flint, Mich., where homicide is up nearly 70% this year, Police Chief James W. Tolbert said the rash of violence is commonly related to domestic abuse, drugs and robbery.
“We don’t always know why violence descends on one place but not another,” Yates said. “But we know that many of the neighborhoods hardest hit by violence are also grappling with other social ills, like poverty, unemployment and widespread lack of opportunity.”
Overall, the crime rate has declined 15% in the past five years, according to an analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts. During the same time, according to the report, the rate of imprisonment declined by 7%. And 31 states have recorded drops in both crime and rates of imprisonment since 2009.
“Crime rates are now about half of their 1991 peaks and have fallen to levels not seen since the late 1960s,” according to the Pew report.
Long one of the most contentious parts of the annual FBI crime report has been its count of civilians killed by police. That count, averaging about 400 per year, has been criticized as inaccurate as it is drawn only from police agencies that elect to provide the information to the FBI and includes only those killings deemed “justifiable.”
Late last year, the Senate passed legislation that would require states to report the deaths of all people in law enforcement custody or during arrest to the federal government.
Included in Monday’s crime report was a plea from FBI Director James Comey for local agency compliance on reporting both civilian deaths and officers killed in the line of the duty.
Once received, Comey said, the information will be published separately and “will outline facts about what happened, who was involved, the nature of injuries or deaths and the circumstances behind these incidents.”
“Most worthwhile changes involve growing pains,” Comey said. “Though we are taking steps to minimize the anticipated bumps and bruises, this undertaking will require tremendous effort and resources by our law enforcement and government partners, as well as the understanding of the media and the public. But to continue in our current system without comprehensive data only stalls meaningful conversation and fuels empty debates, both within law enforcement and in the communities we serve.”
Read or Share this story: http://usat.ly/1FwDgQj