Every type of violent crime in the United States fell last year with one notable exception: Murders were up for the fourth straight year, according to an annual FBI report released Monday.
The number of homicides in the East Valley fell slightly last year to 35 from 41 the year prior, but law enforcement agencies in most of those communities saw mixed results in other crime categories.
While Mesa saw a decrease in every major crime category — murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft and arson —
Scottsdale saw increases in every category except rape and robbery, which stayed roughly the same.
Gilbert was down in violent crimes, but saw a surge in burglaries and motor vehicle thefts. Tempe, too, saw an increase in burglaries. Tempe reported roughly the same number of rapes, but saw decreases in every other category.
Chandler experienced slight decreases in the number of robberies, burglaries and arsons, but saw increases in the other categories, particularly motor vehicle thefts and aggravated assaults.
After reaching a low point in 1999 of about 15,500 homicides across the nation, the number has steadily crept up since then to more than 16,500 in 2003 — or almost six murders for every 100,000 U.S. residents.
That was a 1.7 percent increase from 2002 and a jump of more than 6 percent since 1999. Still, the latest figure was 29 percent lower than the homicides in 1994.
James Alan Fox, criminal justice professor at Northeastern University, said the recent rise in murders is partly traceable to an upsurge in urban youth gang violence. The FBI report indicates there were 819 juvenile gang killings last year, compared with 580 in 1999.
The 1.4 million total violent crimes reported to law enforcement agencies in 2003 — murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault — marked a 3 percent drop from the year before. Aggravated assaults, which make up two-thirds of all violent crimes, have dropped for 10 straight years.
The Bush administration seized on the more positive numbers — overall violent crime is down 3.1 percent since 1999 — as evidence that its law enforcement policies are working.
Attorney General John Ashcroft said factors in the reduction include stepped-up federal prosecution of gun crimes, arrests of more drug offenders and longer prison sentencing policies for repeat offenders.
Democrats, however, said the uptick in murders and the increase in juvenile gang slayings show more must be done.
- Tribune writer Kim Smith contributed to this report.