America (With Some Exceptions) Is Safer

Crime is down nationwide, but several cities bucked the trend

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation released its national crime statistics for 2010 yesterday, and nearly every city's newspaper ran the story today with a local focus. The result: A whole bunch of exceptions that together support the rule. And that rule is hopeful. The preliminary FBI figures show the lowest violent crime rate in nearly 40 years, following a steady decline since a nationwide peak in the early 1990s. But plenty of localities buck that nationwide trend, meaning others have dropped far more than the national average.

As The New York Times points out, the trend toward less violent crime has baffled experts who analyze this kind of thing. Recent tough economic times should have made for more robberies, for example, but they were down 9.5 percent after falling 8 percent in 2009. Murder dropped 4.4 percent nationwide, rape and sex offenses dropped 4.2 percent, aggravated assault was down 3.6 percent, and property crimes like burglary, arson, and vehicle theft fell 2.8 percent. Not bad, but of course, there are some very glaring exceptions. Here are some cities with notable numbers:

New York: One of the biggest exceptions to the nationwide rule is New York City, where the murder rate climbed some 14 percent. "The number of rapes in New York City jumped 24.5 percent; robberies, 5.4 percent, and aggravated assaults, 3.2 percent," The Times reported. The only other city with more than a milion people to see its murder rate climb was Philadelphia, which had a rise of 1.4 percent, from 302 homicides in 2009 to 306 in 2010.

Boston: An extremely sharp rise in the murder rate in Boston likely contributed, along with New York's numbers, to the overall uptick in murders in the Northeast region, where murders were up by 8.3 percent. Rapes, assaults, and burglaries were also up. But Boston's murder total was relatively high for a city of its size (about 600,000). It went from 50 in 2009 to 73 in 2010. By comparison, Denver's dropped from 35 to 22, and Portland, Oregon's rose from 19 to 22.

San Antonio: The only city with a million or more people, other than New York, to have its overall crime numbers go up, was San Antonio, Texas. Overall violent crime there rose by 7.5 percent, but murder fell sharply, by about 20 percent. The major rise there was aggravated assault, which jumped nearly 25 percent from 2009. Still, the overall crime rate there dropped 2.9 percent from the year before.

Minneapolis: Overall violent crime fell in Minneapolis by 4.12 percent, but murders jumped sharply, from 18 to 37--a rise of 105 percent. A drop in the total number of aggravated assaults, from 2,148 to 1,993 helped push the overall rate back down.

Detroit: The troubled Motor City and nearby industrial Flint, Michigan topped the FBI's list with the highest per-capita crime rates. But both cities saw significant drops in their levels of violent crime per capita. The Detroit News explains the numbers: "The FBI estimates Detroit's population at 899,447, while the 2010 census put the city's population at 713,777. If the latter figure is used, Detroit's per capita rate exceeds Flint's, with 2,378 violent crimes per 100,000 residents." Detroit's murder rate fell 14.6 percent, from 363 to 310, while Flint's jumped 32 percent, from 36 to 53.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.