The overarching crime rate trend for 2004 was for crime to decline, or at least grow no worse – a continuation of the steep, then gradual, drop-off that began in the 1990s, says the Christian Science Monitor. It wasn’t a banner year everywhere. Homicide numbers went up in St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, and Boston. Problems with gang- and drug-related violence and juvenile crime persist, and many violent offenders are being released on parole. The number of murders dropped in Chicago, Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Oakland, and Miami, among others, and declined 6 percent nationally, according to FBI statistics for the first six months of the year.
The steadily low rates have surprised experts. The are many reasons it should be worse, says Alfred Blumstein, a criminologist at Carnegie Mellon University: fewer job opportunities, slashed social-service budgets, added anti-terrorism duties for police officers. “All of these factors could contribute to making things worse, but they don’t seem to be,” he says. Since 2000, the crime rate “has been impressively flat.” Baltimore police, meanwhile, are following the lead of places like New York and Chicago in targeting high-crime neighborhoods and flooding them with officers. A new program focuses on repeat offenders, and the police department has created an organized-crime division to track the city’s drug trade.