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New FBI Report Shows U.S. Crime Down in 2009

Laura DeKoven Waxman
September 20, 2010

During 2009, violent crime declined for the third year in a row, with an estimated 5.3 percent drop from 2008 figures, according to Crime in the United States, 2009, released by the FBI September 13. The report also indicated that property crime fell for the seventh straight year, with an estimated decrease of 4.6 percent below the 2008 level.

The FBI compiles the information through the Uniform Crime Reporting program based on data received from city, county, university and college, state, tribal, and federal agencies, which participate in the Uniform Crime Reporting program. For 2009, 17,985 such agencies representing 96.3 percent of the nation's population provided data. The report is available at

Among the report's findings on crimes reported to the police in 2009:

  • Each of the violent crime categories decreased from 2008—murder (7.3 percent), robbery (8.0 percent), aggravated assault (4.2 percent), and forcible rape (2.6 percent).
  • Each of the property crime categories also dropped from 2008—motor vehicle theft (17.1 percent), larceny-theft (4.0 percent), and burglary (1.3 percent).
  • Among the 1,318,398 violent crimes were 15,241 murders; 88,097 forcible rapes; 408,217 robberies; and 806,843 aggravated assaults.
  • Among the 9,320,971 property crimes were an estimated 2,199,125 burglaries; 6,327,230 larceny-thefts; 794,616 thefts of motor vehicles; and 58,871 arsons.
  • When cities are grouped by size and type, all types of crimes declined in all sizes and types of cities during 2009.
  • During 2009, the South accounted for 42.5 percent of all violent crime in the nation, followed by the West (22.9 percent), the Midwest (19.6 percent), and the Northeast (15.0 percent).
  • During 2009, 43.9 percent of all property crimes in the U.S. were recorded in the South, with 22.7 percent in the West, 20.8 percent in the Midwest, and 12.6 percent in the Northeast.

According to the FBI report, firearms were used in 67.1 percent of the nation's murders, 42.6 percent of robberies and 20.9 percent of aggravated assaults. Weapons data are not collected for forcible rapes.

The FBI now collects data on hate crimes. Hate crime data for 2009 are not included in this report. A separate report on hate crime statistics is scheduled for release in November.

Caution Against Comparing Cities Based on Report Data

In recent years, private interests have taken the city'specific data contained in the report and used it to publish city rankings based on their crime data. Under the leadership of St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Rochester (NY) Mayor Robert Duffy, the Conference of Mayors has worked closely with the FBI to discourage this misuse of the crime data and to condemn it when it occurs.

In both its press release and in the report itself the FBI cautions against drawing conclusions of the data by making direct comparisons between cities and says that valid assessments are possible only with careful study and analysis of the range of unique conditions affecting each local law enforcement jurisdiction.