WASHINGTON- Murders across the United States fell for the first time in five years, while rapes increased slightly last year, the FBI reported Monday.
Overall, the number of violent crimes, which also include aggravated assaults and robberies, fell by 1.2 percent last year. Property crimes _ burglaries, larceny/theft and car theft _ dropped 1.1 percent in 2004, compared to 2003.
There were 16,137 murders in the United States in 2004, the last full year for which statistics are available. That was about 350 fewer than in 2003, according to the FBI data. The decrease is the first since 1999, although smaller than what the FBI reported in June. Chicago was largely responsible for the drop, recording 150 fewer murders in 2004 than in 2003.
The number of rapes, however, has increased in three of the past four years, according to the FBI data. In all, rapes increased by .8 percent to 94,635 rapes, or about 750 more than in 2003.
Rapes are up nearly 5 percent since 2000, while murders have increased by 3.5 percent, FBI data show.
At the same time, the rates of all violent crimes, measured as the number of crimes for every 100,000 people, have dropped over that same period. Indeed, the crime rate is at a 30-year low, government data have shown.
Despite the historical trend, the FBI included a "crime clock" in its report that shows a violent crime is committed every 23.1 seconds. A murder occurs roughly every half-hour, according to the clock.