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Aging baby boomers help lower crime rates

Crime scene

FBI: '96 murder rate lowest in more than 25 years

October 4, 1997
Web posted at: 12:46 p.m. EDT (1646 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An aging baby boom generation and a tougher judicial system helped push serious crime down in 1996 for the fifth year in a row, according to the FBI.

There were 19,645 murders in the United States last year, down 9 percent from the year before, the agency's annual report said. The murder rate was 7.4 offenses per 100,000 people, the lowest since 7.3 in 1969.

The number of murders last year also reflected a 17 percent decline from 1992.

About half of the murder victims knew their assailants in 1996, 15 percent were killed by strangers and the relationship was unknown in the rest of the cases, according to the report.


As in the past, firearms were murder weapon of choice, accounting for seven of every 10 murders.

Besides murder, other violent crimes also posted declines in 1996, with robbery down 7 percent, assaults down 6 percent and rape down 2 percent.

"Part of this is demographic: Many baby boomers are now in their 40s and have mellowed out. They are not committing the high-risk violent and property offenses they did 10 years ago," said professor Jack Levin, director of the Program for the Study of Violence at Northeastern University in Boston.

Experts also point to better policing strategies, more police on the streets, a record U.S. prison population, tougher gun-control laws and improved economic conditions.

The FBI's final crime statistics mirrored preliminary numbers released in June.

Drug business may have become just that

The overall numbers illustrate how crime in the United States has fallen for five years, after a surge since the mid-1980s following the spread of crack cocaine and the culture of guns and gangs it fostered.

Daniel Rosenblatt of the International Association of Chiefs of Police, believes there is less violence today among drug dealers.

"Today, they recognize that the work they do is a business and they're less likely to engage in some of the turf battles and some of the violence that went along with the turf battles, and I think that's part of the reason why our crime rates have come down."

But even with the crime decrease, the FBI said there was one murder committed in the United States every 27 minutes, one rape every six minutes, one assault every 31 seconds and a burglary every 13 seconds.

The FBI said violent crime fell 7 percent in the nation's 64 largest cities with populations over 250,000.

Even violent crimes nationwide by juveniles, which skyrocketed in the late 1980s and early 1990s, has slowed. The arrest rate for those 17 and under slid by 9 percent between 1995 and 1996.

The FBI said an estimated $15.5 billion in property was stolen last year, with the greatest losses due to thefts of motor vehicles, then televisions, radios and stereos, and finally jewelry and precious metals.


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