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FBI says serious crime down again, though decreases are smallest in years

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Serious crime in America fell slightly in 2000, marking the nation's ninth straight year of lower crime, the FBI reported Monday. The murder rate fell to its lowest point in 35 years.

But the overall dip in crime reported to police in 2000 was also the smallest year-to-year decline in nine years, suggesting that long-term declines in the number of murders, robberies and other crimes may be bottoming out.

The number of forcible rapes increased from the first time in eight years.

The FBI reported 11.6 million serious crimes in 2000, a 0.2 percent drop in the number of such crimes from 1999. That translated to a rate of 4,124 offenses per 100,000 residents in 2000, a 3.3 percent decline from the previous year and the lowest rate since 1972.

The number of violent crimes fell 3 percent in 2000 to 506 per 100,000 residents, the lowest level in 22 years.

The overall murder rate _ 5.5 murders per 100,000 residents _ was down 3 percent from 1999, though there were increases in some sub-groups.

Murder rates in cities rose 0.7 percent; the increase was more pronounced in small cities with populations of between 10,000 and 25,000 residents, where murders rose 11.7 percent compared to 1999.

Small cities also recorded the highest rape rates in the nation, with 69 rapes per 100,000 female residents, a 3 percent increase over 1999.

Overall, the number of robberies, aggravated assaults and murders fell, as did property crime and burglary. Car thefts rose 1.2 percent.

The FBI crime report is based on data from 17,000 law enforcement agencies.
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