US crime rate stays near historic lows

Violent crime in the United States remained close to two-decade lows last year but the murder rate was higher than in virtually all other developed countries, official figures showed Monday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that violent crime inched up 0.7 percent in 2012 from the previous year, while property crime fell by 0.9 percent.

The figures were broadly in line with a decline in crime since 1993. While the annual report did not assess reasons for the trend, experts point to the end of the country's epidemic of crack use in the early 1990s.

The survey said 14,827 people were murdered last year in the United States, well down from 24,526 in 1993, when the country's population was smaller.

But the 2012 murder rate -- 4.7 murders per 100,000 people -- was significantly higher than in most other wealthy nations.

The comparable rate is 0.4 in Japan, 0.8 in Germany, 1.0 in Australia 1.1 in France and 1.2 in Britain, according to figures compiled by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Among nations assessed by the Paris-based club of market economies, only Brazil, Estonia, Mexico and Russia had higher murder rates.

However, when looking only at the rate of people assaulted or mugged, the United States had a lower rate than any country except Canada and Japan, according to the same OECD index.

The United States is one of the world's most heavily-armed nations, with between one-third and one-half of Americans owning guns and strong political resistance to regulations on ownership.

The survey showed that violent crime rates tended to be higher in the historic South and lower in the Northeast and Midwest.

However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation cautioned against ranking areas by crime, saying that the rough statistics do not account for variables in communities.

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