Murder Rate Drops to 33-Year Low

ByABC News
October 15, 2000, 2:48 PM

W A S H I N G T O N, Oct. 15 -- The U.S. murder rate last year hit the lowest level since 1966 as the number of serious crimes committed nationwide fell for the eighth year in a row,the FBI said today.

In its 422-page report detailing final U.S. crimestatistics for 1999, the FBI said the murder count stood at15,533 last year, or one murder every 34 minutes.

The murder rate worked out to six murders for every 100,000 U.S.inhabitants, the lowest level since 1966 when there were 5.7murders for every 100,000 people.

The overall violent crime rate sank to a 21-year low 525murders, rapes, robberies and assaults for every 100,000 residents.The last time the figure was lower 498 in 1978 came well before an epidemic of crack cocaine sent violent crime soaring in themid-1980s.

Crime Reduction Rate Slowdown

The FBI report contained a hint that big gains against crime maybe about to slow down.

Big cities with more than 1 million residents showed thesmallest decline in murder rate of any size community, down just 4percent from 13.5 to 13 per 100,000. The largest, New York, evensaw murders rise, from 633 in 1998 to 671 in 1999.

The big cities are reaching their limit in crime reduction,said professor James Alan Fox of Northeastern University in Boston.The murder totals are considered the most reliable figures in theFBI report and a leading general indicator of crime.

The big cities were the first to go up in the 1980s, the firstto come down in the 1990s, said professor Alfred Blumstein ofCarnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. Now, having the lowestmurder rate decline suggests theyll be the first to stabilize.Murders and crime cant go down forever.

Serious Crimes Fell 20 Percent

Nationwide, the rate and the number of all seven major violentand property crimes declined, despite an increase in the U.S.population, the FBI reported.

The national total for the seven serious crimes reported to17,000 police agencies around the nation was 11,635,149 in 1999,down 20 percent since 1990. The number of reported crimes was down10 percent in the West, 7 percent in the Northeast and Midwest and5 percent in the South. The totals were down 7 percent in cites andrural areas and 8 percent in suburbs.