WASHINGTON — The number of violent crimes reported to police decreased 3.8 percent last year to 1.2 million, the fifth straight year of declines, the FBI announced Monday.
Meanwhile, the total number of property crime reported to law enforcement agencies went down by 0.5 percent to 9 million, the ninth consecutive year that figure has fallen. Property crimes resulted in estimated losses of $156.6 billion.
The South accounted for 41.3 percent of violent crime, while the West had 22.9 percent of it. The Midwest claimed 19.5 percent of the cases and the Northeast, 16.2 percent.
In 2011, authorities solved nearly 64 percent of murders, over 40 percent of forcible rapes, nearly 29 percent of robberies and nearly 57 percent of aggravated assaults.
The FBI said firearms were used in two-thirds of the nation's murders last year, and in two out of every five robberies and in one out of five aggravated assaults.
The FBI's crime reporting program is one of two statistical measures of crime levels issued by the Justice Department. The FBI program captures crimes that are reported to police. Historically, less than half of all crimes, including violent crimes, are reported to police. The other measure, the national crime victimization survey, is designed to capture crime data whether it is reported to police or not. That survey is based on interviews of crime victims.
Two weeks ago, the victimization survey reported that violent crimes jumped 18 percent last year, the first rise in nearly 20 years, while property crimes rose for the first time in a decade. Academic experts say the new government data fall short of signaling a reversal of the longterm decline in crime.
The survey found that the increase in the number of violent crimes was the result of an upward swing in simple assaults, which rose 22 percent, from 4 million in 2010 to 5 million last year. The incidence of rape, sexual assault and robbery remained largely unchanged, as did serious violent crime involving weapons or injury.
The experts said the percentage increases last year were so large primarily because the 2011 crime totals were compared to historically low levels of crime in 2010. Violent crime has fallen by 65 percent since 1993, according to the victimization survey.