Serious crimes drop overall in first half of 2001, although murders, robberies up slightly

Monday, December 17th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Violent crime dropped overall in the first six months of this year, although the number of murders increased, the FBI said Monday.

A 1.3 percent drop in violent crime, continuing a nine-year trend of fewer serious crimes. The decline was less dramatic than in recent years, however.

Murders, after dropping 1.1 percent in 2000, were reported up by 0.3 percent in the first half of this year.

Robberies rose 0.8 percent, rapes declined by 1.7 percent and aggravated assaults fell 2.4 percent from January to June of this year compared to the first half of 2000. Property crimes, including burglary and car theft, fell 0.2 percent.

Crime varied by region. It fell by 4 percent in the Northeast and 2 percent in the Midwest, while it rose by 1.6 percent in the West and 0.8 percent in the South.

The semiannual report by the FBI is a preliminary snapshot of crime in America during the first half of the year.

Last year crime fell slightly and many criminologists forecast that crime rates would begin to rise this year after dropping during the 1990s, a period of vibrant economic growth.

With the economic downturn that was exacerbated by the attacks of Sept. 11, crime will likely begin to increase, they say.

``We have already begun seeing crime go up in Los Angeles, Boston and other cities,'' said James Alan Fox, a criminal justice professor at Northeastern University in Boston. ``This signals we shouldn't count on crime dropping much more.''

In its 2000 crime report released in October, the FBI said law enforcement agencies reported 11.6 million serious crimes in 2000, a 0.2 percent drop from 1999. The number of violent crimes reported was 1.4 million, a 0.1 percent drop from 1999.

Homicides in cities with over 1 million residents rose 1.6 percent, while homicides dropped by nearly 10 percent in cities with 500,000 to 1 million people.

The number of murders increased in cities with 250,000 to 499,000 residents (up by 7 percent) and in small towns with 50,000 to 99,999 residents (up nearly 10 percent).

The FBI crime report is based on data reported voluntarily from 17,000 local and state law enforcement agencies representing 94 percent of the U.S. population.