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Crime Falls Slightly in 2002, FBI Reports

June 17, 2003|Richard B. Schmitt | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — A closely watched crime index was essentially unchanged last year, despite a worsening economy and a growing parolee population, the FBI reported Monday in preliminary figures. The West, however, experienced an increase in criminal activity.

Compared with the 2001 statistics, crime nationwide fell 0.2% in 2002, the bureau said in its annual Uniform Crime Report.

The 2001 figure had marked the first increase -- by 2.1% -- of crime in a decade.

The Uniform Crime Report compiles reports made to state, county and local law enforcement agencies of violent crimes, defined as murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault, and property crimes, which include burglary, larceny and automobile theft.

Experts said the results were heartening because of the presence of a number of factors normally associated with rising crime.

Some observers had feared, for instance, that the softening economy was forcing local police departments to cut back on patrols, raising the specter of more crime. Another concern was the diversion of resources to fight the war on terrorism.

But experts added that the latest figures probably do not signal a return to the trend, beginning in the 1990s, toward dramatically lower violent crime statistics -- because such crimes are already at historically low levels.

Nationwide, the number of murders, rape, burglaries and auto thefts increased in 2002, while robberies, aggravated assaults and larceny declined, according to the FBI.

The West was hardest-hit, with the number of crimes rising 2.9%, including a 5.2% increase in the number of murders.

In Los Angeles, gang-related activity drove the number of homicides to 654 from 588 a year earlier, eclipsing the number in Chicago and New York, which both showed declines in the number of homicides, the FBI found. Overall, the number of crimes in Los Angeles rose 0.9%, to 190,992 from 189,278.

This year, homicides in Los Angeles are down about 20%, said Officer Jack Richter, a spokesman for the LAPD.

The crime report surveyed 11,600 police and law enforcement agencies nationwide. Final crime data for 2002 will be published in the fall. The 2002 preliminary report is on the Web at

www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_02/02prelimannual.pdf.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Annual crime figures

Continuing a trend, the FBI's preliminary Uniform Crime Report for 2002 showed slight decreases in overall reported crime rates compared with the previous year--except in the West. Some highlights by category:

*--* CRIME WEST MIDWEST SOUTH NORTHEAST NATIONWIDE Overall crime +2.9 -2.1 -0.1 -3.3 -0.2 Murder +5.2 -2.8 +2.1 -4.8 +0.8 Rape +4.7 +5.1 +1.9 +6.2 +4.0 Robbery -0.8 -1.5 -1.3 -1.4 -1.2 Assault -1.1 -1.8 -1.6 -4.5 -2.0 Burglary +3.1 +1.6 +1.3 -1.5 +1.5 Theft +2.0 -2.8 -0.2 -3.3 0 Auto theft +9.7 -4.9 -0.4 -6.3 +1.2

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Source: Justice Department, FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2002

2002 crime index percentage change compared with 2001

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