Reporting from Washington —
The nation's crime rate dropped 5% last year, continuing a 20-year trend that has cut the incidence of major crimes nearly in half, according to FBI statistics.
Crime experts have cited several possible explanations for the falling crime rate, including better policing, a swelling of the prison population, the decline of the crack cocaine epidemic and an aging population. But regardless of the reason, crime fell sharply during the 1990s and has declined gradually since then.
Last year, the rate of murders and manslaughter was 5.0 per 100,000 Americans, down from 9.8 in 1991. Overall, the rate of violent crimes fell more than a third during that time, from a rate of 758 per 100,000 in 1991 to 429 last year. This number includes homicides, rapes, robberies and assaults.
Common property crimes also declined sharply over the last two decades. For example, the FBI counted 1,661,000 thefts of motor vehicles in 1991. Last year, it counted 794,616, a drop of 164,000 vehicle thefts from 2008.