WASHINGTON -- Violent crime increased in the United States for a second consecutive year in 2016, remaining near historically low levels but pushed upward in part by an uptick in killings in some major cities, according to FBI statistics made public Monday.
The FBI's release of the figures comes as the Trump administration has warned of a dangerous crime wave. In his inaugural address, President Donald Trump described "American carnage" in U.S. cities, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions said earlier this year that he worried the crime uptick was "the beginning of a trend."
Some experts and analysts have disputed that suggestion, noting that crime levels were much higher a quarter-century ago. In some major cities, violence has surged, while in others it has declined. Chicago, a much-cited example, saw a spike in murders last year, as did Las Vegas and Louisville, Ky.; killings dropped, meanwhile, in New York, Cincinnati and Newark, N.J.
The FBI statistics for 2016 show that the estimated number of violent crimes nationwide increased 4.1 percent over the previous year. The violent crime rate was 386.3 offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, up from 373.7 a year earlier, and the highest figure since 2012. Murder and non-negligent manslaughter rose 8.6 percent over 2015, the FBI data show, and the murder rate increased to 5.3 per 100,000 people, the highest that figure has been since 2008.
In the violent crime and murder rates alike, these numbers are well below figures seen during previous decades. Going back to the mid-1980s, the violent crime and murder rates were both consistently higher, particularly in the early 1990s. In 1991, for instance, the violent crime rate was 758.2 per 100,000 people, and the murder rate was 9.8 per 100,000 people, after which both numbers began to fall, albeit with some year-over-year increases.
The FBI considers four crimes -- murder and non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- to be violent crimes involving force or the threat of force.
Looking more recently, the statistics released Monday show that the violent crime rate in 2016 was down 18 percent from 2007, while the murder rate was down 6 percent over the same period.
Sessions, who has tied some of his policy pushes to the increase in crime, said Monday that the Justice Department would fight what he described as a "rising tide of violent crime" nationwide.
"For the sake of all Americans, we must confront and turn back the rising tide of violent crime. And we must do it together," Sessions said in a statement. "The Department of Justice is committed to working with our state, local, and tribal partners across the country to deter violent crime, dismantle criminal organizations and gangs, stop the scourge of drug trafficking, and send a strong message to criminals that we will not surrender our communities to lawlessness and violence."
In a news release containing Sessions' statement, the Justice Department said that the information released Monday "reaffirms that the worrying violent crime increase that began in 2015 after many years of decline was not an isolated incident."
The Brennan Center for Justice, a New York-based law and policy institute, said Monday that the murder rate increase was fueled by an uptick in killings in some of the country's largest cities -- with Chicago accounting for more than a fifth of the nationwide increase last year.
Homicides went up last year in more than three dozen of the country's biggest cities or counties, according to data collected by the Major Cities Chiefs Association, a group of law enforcement leaders.
The group's data included cities with dramatic increases, such as Chicago, which had 762 homicides in 2016, up from 482 homicides a year earlier; Phoenix, which saw 146 homicides, up from 113 the year before; and Louisville, Ky., which had 117 homicides, up from 80 in 2015. Some other cities included in the group's data had smaller increases, including Nashville, Tenn., which reported 83 homicides, up from 79 the year before; and El Paso, Texas, which reported 21 killings, up from 19 the year before.
There were declines in other cities, including New York, which reported 335 murders last year, down from 352 a year earlier and less than half the 673 murders reported in 2000. The city is continuing that trend this year, with 192 murders reported through Sept. 17, down from 250 at the same point a year earlier. Cities including Portland, Ore., and Minneapolis reported fewer homicides last year as well.
In other categories, the FBI statistics showed positive signs. Property crimes dropped by 1.3 percent, the data show, the 14th consecutive year that figure fell. Burglary and larcenies also fell, the FBI reported. But along with murder and non-negligent manslaughter, the FBI reported that rape and aggravated assault both increased in 2016.
The FBI's data were compiled in an annual report called "Crime in the United States," which collects information reported voluntarily by law enforcement agencies to the bureau's Uniform Crime Reporting Program.
A Section on 09/26/2017
Print Headline: Nation's violent crime up 4.1% in 2016, FBI reports