Violent and property crimes reported to police last year decreased 2.1 percent, but the death toll from homicides grew by 3.2 percent to 24,530, the FBI said in a weekend report.
Even though criminologists warn of a likely spurt in slayings in the next decade, the FBI also said the total number of crimes reported to law enforcement during the first six months of 1994 declined 3 percent compared with the first half of 1993. Decreases were registered in all crime categories.Violent crime in this year's first half was down 4 percent - with murders dropping 2 percent, forcible rape 6 percent, robbery 4 percent and aggravated assault 3 percent. Overall property crime, meanwhile, was down 3 percent, reflecting a 6 percent drop in burglaries, and 2 percent declines in both larceny thefts and motor vehicle thefts.
The FBI, in a report dated Sunday, issued both the preliminary findings for the first half of 1994 - given as percentage changes only - and the final figures for 1993 in its Uniform Crime Reports, a compilation of information from law enforcement agencies nationwide.
Last year, the FBI said, 14.1 million violent and property crimes were reported to law enforcement officials, a decrease of 2.1 percent. That included 1.9 million violent crimes, down 0.4 percent, and 12.2 million property crimes, down 2.3 percent.
The overall crime rate, meanwhile, was 5,482.9 serious crimes per 100,000 population, a 3.1 percent decrease and the lowest level since 1986. The violent crime rate was 746.1, down 1.5 percent to the lowest level since 1990, and the property crime rate was 4,736.9, the lowest level since 1985.
But criminologists said the country should not get complacent because the coming decade could bring a sharp rise in crime, particularly violent crime, because of an increasing number of violent teenagers and their access to guns.
"We haven't even begun to see the problem with teenagers that we will see in the next 10 years," said Jack Levin, sociology and criminology professor at Northeastern University in Boston. "There will be a 23 percent increase in the teenage population over the next decade, and as a result, we're going to see the murder rate rise precipitously."
Young people age 19 and under known to have committed homicide last year represented 29.2 percent of all the known assailants.
Aside from homicide, the only other crime category that showed an increase in incidents was aggravated assaults, which were up 0.7 percent. As for crime rates, only homicide rose. Rates per 100,000 population for aggravated assaults and all the other crime categories - from forcible rape to auto theft - all declined.
"One piece of bad news in this report is the gun murders," said Rep. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's crime panel. "For the first time, it crossed 16,000. I hope that's a shot across the bow for NRA types that want to repeal some of the gun laws," Schumer said.
Congress in the past two years passed the Brady handgun control law and a ban on assault-style firearms over National Rifle Association opposition.