U.S. crime rates have stabilized

The nation's crime rate last year held steady at the lowest levels since the government began surveying crime victims in 1973, the Justice Department reported Sunday. The study was the latest contribution to a decade-long trend in which violent crime as measured by victim surveys has fallen by 55% and property crime by 49%. That has included a 14% drop in violent crime from 2000-2001 to 2002-2003. "The rates are the lowest experienced in the last 30 years," Justice Department statistician Shannan Catalona said in the report. "Crime rates have stabilized." The 2003 violent crime rate — assault, sexual assault and armed robbery — stood at 22.6 victims for every 1,000 people age 12 and older. That amounts to about one violent crime victim for every 44 U.S. residents. By comparison, there were 23 violent crime victims per 1,000 people in 2002. In 1993, the violent crime rate was 50 per 1,000 people, or about one in every 20 people. Murder is not counted because the Bureau of Justice Statistics study is based on statements by crime victims. In a separate report based on preliminary police data, the FBI found a 1.3% increase in murders between 2002 and 2003 — from 16,200 to about 16,420. The new survey put the rate for property crimes of burglary, theft and motor vehicle theft in 2003 at 163 for every 1,000 people, compared with 159 the year before. The slight increase was not considered statistically significant, publishes USATODAY. According to Reuters, violent and property crime rates in the United States remained at their lowest levels in 30 years during 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice said on Sunday. The data covering 24.2 million violent and property crimes in 2003 showed that rates have stabilized after a decade-long decline, the department said in a report. It also said the nation's murder rate was expected to hold steady in 2003 from the previous year based on preliminary data, at levels similar to those in the late 1960s. For 2003, the violent crime rate -- covering rape, sexual assaults, robbery and other assaults -- stood at one victim for every 44 U.S. residents aged 12 or older. Property crimes, such as household burglary and theft, occurred to about 1 in every 34 U.S. households in 2003. Justice department researchers said the violent crime rates had fallen 55 percent over the last decade, while property crime rates fell 49 percent. They also said among all categories of crime, only rape and sexual assaults had a statistically meaningful decline in 2003. James Lynch, professor at American University's Department of Justice, Law and Society, said the reason that crime is down so broadly is difficult to pinpoint. Two recent possibilities, he said, are a prison population at a record 2.1 million and the terrorism fight's deterrent effect on more routine street crime. "Some of the mobilization for terrorism issues may have put a damper on crime," Lynch said. "It has a chilling effect on a whole lot of stuff." The low crime rate also has made the problem much less of an issue in national political campaigns. It is almost never mentioned in campaign speeches by President Bush or Democrat John Kerry, and fewer people than in past years now list crime as a top concern in opinion polls. The National Crime Victimization Survey is based on annual interviews by Census Bureau personnel with about 150,000 people at least 12-years-old. The FBI does a separate crime study based on reports it receives from thousands of law enforcement agencies nationwide, reports the Star.

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