The FBI reports that preliminary figures show that violent and property crime fell in 2007. Officials, however, warn that one year of good news doesn't make a trend, noting that in the prior two years crime increased.
Violent crime—murder, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault—declined by 1.4 percent in 2007 over 2006. Property crime—burglary, larceny-theft, and motor vehicle theft—also fell but by a much wider margin of 2.1 percent in 2007, according to the FBI's numbers.
Of the violent crimes, murder dropped by 2.7 percent, rape fell 4.3 percent, robbery dipped 1.2 percent, and aggravated assault also decreased by 1.2 percent. ABC News reports the fall in violent crime is attributable to the big cities.
Cities with more than one million residents showed a 9.8 percent drop in murders, according to the FBI.
New York City, for example, reported 494 homicides in 2007, a 17 percent drop from 596 killings a year before. Philadelphia reported 392 killings in 2007 compared to 406 in 2006, down 3.4 percent. Houston reported 376 murders in 2006 and 351 homicides for 2007, down 6.6 percent.
Nevertheless, smaller cities have experienced an uptick in some violent crimes. Cities with a population between 50,000 and 99,000 saw murders jump by 3.7 percent, while cities with a population between 10,000 and 24,999 had overall crime notch up 1.9 percent.
"Historically," the Associated Press reports, "national murder trends have begun in the largest cities and moved over several years to smaller ones."
Another concern with the preliminary report is that it doesn't include the detailed demographic breakdowns that the final report, which will be released later this year, does.
Due to this, James Alan Fox, professor of criminal justice at Northeastern University, told the AP that the initial numbers may obscure a rising trend of murder between black males. He pointed out that between 2002 and 2006 murders by black males against black males lept up 52 percent.
Despite a dip in the crime numbers, government officials curbed their enthusiasm when speaking about the future.
"One preliminary report does not make a trend," FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said, "but it's going the way we want it to go."
Department of Justice spokesman Peter Carr said "The latest numbers from the FBI are very encouraging, though still preliminary and could change when the final numbers are released later this year."
Already criminalogists worry about 2008, ABC News reports, as crime numbers typically follow economic patterns.
On Friday, unemployment hit 5.5 percent, a monthly spike of half a percentage point, the largest monthly gain in 22 years.