After rising for three years, the nation’s murder total dropped 3.6 percent last year, says the FBI’s preliminary count. The largest cities and rural areas showed the sharpest declines, says USA Today. Murders dropped 7.1 percent in cities with populations over 1 million, and 12.2 percent in towns with 10,000 or fewer people. “This suggests that something fresh and positive is happening,” said David Kennedy of the Center for Crime Prevention and Control at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. “That’s really striking.” Murder rates across the nation have been slowly climbing since 2000, when the 15,517 murders were the lowest since 1965.
Contributing heavily to the decline in big city murder tolls is Chicago, where 448 people were slain last year, nearly 25 perecent under the 598 in 2003. Violent crime fell 1.7 percent in 2004 compared with 2003. Lawrence Sherman, director of the Jerry Lee Center of Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania, said “murder is the clearest signal in any set of crime data, and this is a very clear signal: it’s broken the upward climb of the last three years.”