U.S. violent crime down for 5th year in 2011: FBI

NEW YORK Mon Jun 11, 2012 6:02pm EDT

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Violent crime in the United States fell for a fifth straight year in 2011 and the number of murders dropped to the lowest in more than four decades, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said on Monday.

U.S. violent crime rates, which include murder, rape, robbery and assault, dropped 4 percent in 2011 from the previous year, according to the FBI's Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report.

In addition, property crime, covering burglary, larceny and motor vehicle theft, edged down by just 0.8 percent, the smallest decrease in three years. Nevertheless, that marked the ninth consecutive annual drop in property crimes.

Both violent crime and property crime peaked in the early 1990s, FBI records show. U.S. property crime has fallen steadily since then, falling by 30.6 percent from its 1991 peak through last year, while violent crime has dropped by 38 percent from its 1992 high.

The number of violent crimes has fallen about 12 percent since 2006, the last year that category showed an increase, the records show. Property crime has dropped about 14 percent since 2002, when property crimes rates last grew.

The FBI did not provide a specific count for the number of murders and non-negligent manslaughters, but said the 2011 figure declined by 1.9 percent from the 14,748 recorded across the country in 2010. That would put the number of murders at the lowest since 1968, when 13,800 were committed, according to FBI records.

Analysis of the data by city size showed that cities with between 50,000 and 100,000 residents saw murder rates fall more than others - by 14.4 percent, the fourth straight yearly drop for that group. Meanwhile, cities with fewer than 10,000 residents saw murder rates swell - jumping 18.3 percent in 2011 after the previous year's 23.1 percent decline.

Separately, among all crime categories tracked in the report, arson saw the largest nationwide decline: recording a 5 percent drop. Rape, robbery and assault each dropped 4 percent.

Motor vehicle theft fell by 3.3 percent, while larceny rates slipped 0.9 percent. However, burglary offenses increased by a slight 0.3 percent.

Robbery, assault, and motor vehicle theft offenses tumbled across the board nationwide.

The FBI said the final report will be released in the fall. The data is aggregated from statistics provided voluntarily to the FBI by police agencies across the country.

(Reporting by Joseph O'Leary; Editing by Dan Burns and Eric Walsh)

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