Violent crime is down and the US murder rate is plunging, FBI statistics show

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By Josh Campbell and Devan Cole

(CNN) — Violent crime dropped by more than 15% in the United States during the first three months of 2024, according to statistics released Monday by the FBI.

The new numbers show violent crime from January to March dropped 15.2% compared to the same period in 2023, while murders fell 26.4% and reported rapes decreased by 25.7%. Aggravated assaults decreased during that period when compared to last year by 12.5%, according to the data, while robberies fell 17.8%.

The numbers released Monday were gathered from 13,719 of the just over 19,000 law enforcement agencies from across the country, according to the bureau.

Meanwhile, property crime went down 15.1% in the first three months of this year. Burglaries dropped 16.7%, while motor vehicle theft decreased by 17.3%. The declines in violent and property crimes were seen in every region of the US.

In a statement Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland stressed the new data “makes clear that last year’s historic decline in violent crime is continuing.”

“This continued historic decline in homicides does not represent abstract statistics. It represents people whose lives were saved — people who are still here to see their children grow up, to work toward fulfilling their dreams, and to contribute to their communities,” Garland said.

US murder rate plunges

The new FBI figures validate a trend identified by some national crime experts: The US murder rate continues to drop at a high rate and could be headed for its largest annual decline ever.

Compared to the first five months of 2023, murders this year have dropped more than 40% in cities including New Orleans, Seattle, Boston, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, according to the research firm AH Datalytics, which analyzes crime figures reported by law enforcement agencies across the nation.

Although more than six months still remain in 2024, “it’s plausible that this will be, by far, the largest one-year decline in American history,” said Jeff Asher, criminal justice analyst and co-founder of consulting firm AH Datalytics.

The firm’s real-time review of 265 cities currently shows a 19% drop in murders nationwide compared to 2023.

Data limitations

The preliminary figures in the FBI’s Quarterly Uniform Crime Report do come with important limitations. For one, the bureau relies upon data voluntarily submitted by policing agencies.

Crime analysts also say quarterly data are imprecise, as law enforcement agencies have the remainder of the year to audit and correct any reporting errors before final annual figures are published by the FBI.

“We have other data sources that point to the same trends, but the degree of those declines is probably being overstated due to the methodology being employed by the FBI,” said Asher.

‘Interrupting cycles of violence’

The US murder rate has declined since 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it a surge in homicides across the country. FBI figures showed the number of homicides increased nearly 30% from 2019 to 2020 – the largest single-year increase the agency had recorded since it began tracking these crimes in the 1960s – and violent crime during the same period increased by 5%.

Criminal justice experts say crime trends are complex, but generally blame the cause in the 2020 surge on vast societal disruptions, including the closure of schools, businesses, childcare and community programs. Others pointed to more stress and more guns along with less policing, less public trust and disruption of social support services.

“These are some of the tools that we would expect to have an effect on reversing or interrupting cycles of violence,” said Asher. “In a normal year these tools would have been available to us in 2020 or 2021, but they weren’t. It’s only now, several years later, that we’re starting to see the level of gun violence, the level of murder fall back to where it was pre-pandemic.”

CNN’s Eric Levenson and Mark Morales contributed to this report.

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