Despite Economy, FBI Says U.S. Property Crime Rate Is Down Again

WASHINGTON

Contrary to conventional wisdom about how criminal activity rises when unemployment spikes, especially during a down economy, the FBI’s latest report on nationwide crime statistics for 2009 shows property crimes decreased 4.9 percent compared to 2008.

Property crimes – like larcenies, burglaries and auto thefts – fell last year for the seventh consecutive year, according to data from the FBI’s Preliminary Uniform Crime Report . Burglaries dropped 1.7 percent. By far the largest decrease was in auto thefts, which fell 17.2 percent, while larceny-thefts fell 4.2 percent.

Cities with a population of a million or more inhabitants reported the largest decline in property crime, with a drop of 7.9 percent overall – including a 21.1 percent reduction in reported motor vehicle thefts. While property crimes were down generally in rural counties, by 6.7 percent, burglaries were up slightly, rising 0.5 percent compared to 2008.

The FBI said that arson reports, which it tracks separately from other property crimes, dropped 10.4 percent nationally in 2009, with declines across all population groups and regions.

For the third consecutive year, violent crime declined in the U.S. in 2009. The steepest decline was in robbery reports – 8.1 percent – followed by murder with a 7.2-percent decline overall. Still, there were some exceptions: murders rose by 1.8 percent in rural areas, and by 5.3 percent in cities with populations between 25,000 and 50,000 inhabitants.

The FBI’s figures are compiled from data voluntarily submitted by more than 13,000 local and state law enforcement agencies across the country, and measure the number of offenses reported to the authorities.

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