06/12/2006

Violent crime rises for first time in five years, FBI reports

By MARK SHERMAN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON- Murders, robberies and aggravated assaults in the United States increased last year, spurring an overall rise in violent crime for the first time since 2001, according to data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Murders rose 4.8 percent, meaning there were more than 16,900 victims in 2005. That would be the most since 1998 and the largest percentage increase in 15 years.

Murders jumped from 272 to 334 in Houston, a 23 percent spike; from 330 to 377 in Philadelphia, a 14 percent rise; and from 131 to 144 in Las Vegas, a 10 percent increase.

Despite the national numbers, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York were among several large cities that saw the number of murders drop.

The overall increase in violent crime was modest, 2.5 percent, which equates to more than 1.4 million crimes. Nevertheless, that was the largest percentage increase since 1991.

Criminal justice experts said the statistics reflect U.S. complacency in fighting crime, a product of dramatic declines in the 1990s and the abandonment of effective programs that emphasized prevention, putting more police officers on the street and controlling the spread of guns.

"We see that budgets for policing are being slashed and the federal government has gotten out of that business," said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston. "Funding for prevention at the federal level and many localities are down and the (National Rifle Association) has renewed strength."

Still, Fox said, "We're still far better off than we were during the double-digit crime inflation we saw in the 1970s."

Robberies were up 4.5 percent and aggravated assaults 1.9 percent, according to preliminary data. Alone among violent crime categories, the number of rapes fell 1.9 percent.

Violent crimes peaked at 1.9 million in 1992 and fell steadily through the end of that decade. The number has been relatively stable for the past six years.

Crime last year increased in all regions, although the 5.7 percent rise in the Midwest was at least three times any other region's.

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