FBI Stats Show Spike in Violent Crime

ByABC News
December 18, 2006, 5:23 PM

Dec. 18, 2006— -- FBI data for the first six months of 2006 show that violent crime in the United States has increased 3.7 percent.

The most significant jump was in robberies, which rose to 9.7 percent. There was a 1.4 percent increase in the murder rate and a 1.2 percent increase in the rate of aggravated assault. FBI figures for 2005 showed that violent crime had increased 2.5 percent overall, one of the largest percentage increases in 15 years.

Criminologists and law enforcement officials said the crime wave has been triggered by a rise in gang activity, violent offenders who returned from prison and kids who have easy access to guns.

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told ABC News recently, "What we began to pick up in 2005, which was the single highest percentage increase in violent crime in 13 years, has continued into 2006 in three areas -- aggravated assault, robbery and homicide."

Midsize cities, such as Sacramento, Memphis and Cincinnati, have been hit the hardest. Robberies are up in almost all cities, but most troubling is an 8.4 percent increase in homicide in cities with populations of 500,000 to just under a million.

A disturbing factor for 2006 is that even communities with relatively low crime in recent years have seen dramatic increases, some in part because of drug traffickers exploiting areas they have not been known to operate in before and the emergence of gangs in new communities and cities.

A 2005 FBI threat assessment on gangs noted, "Violent street gangs now affect public safety, community image and quality of life in communities of all sizes in urban, suburban and rural areas. No region of the United States is untouched by gangs. Gangs affect society at all levels, causing heightened fears for safety, violence. ..."

The FBI, which established the National Gang Intelligence Center to learn about the threat and movement of gangs, has found that gangs -- especially Latino gangs like the notoriously violent MS-13, Latin Kings and Los Sureños --